The time change gave fans of Alabama, Auburn and Jacksonville State an extra hour to come down from the rush that was Saturday’s college football action, and we all needed it.
Top-ranked Alabama flirted ever so close with a season-wrecking loss at No. 5 LSU, but AJ McCarron led a signature, 43-second drive that gave the Crimson Tide its 21-17 victory.
Lowly Auburn won its homecoming game, beating more-lowly New Mexico State 42-7, but any victory is a rush for Tiger fans in this brutal season.
Jacksonville State fell 49-47 at Tennessee-Martin, missing an extra point and a two-point conversion late in a game that saw two quarterbacks throw a combined 13 touchdown passes.
All of this came on a day when No. 3 Notre Dame needed three overtimes to survive Pitt, and Tennessee needed Marlin Lane’s touchdown run with 1:25 to play plus all of Tyler Bray’s 530 passing yards to survive against Troy, 55-48.
Meanwhile, Heisman Trophy favorite Collin Klein left No. 2 Kansas State’s 44-30 victory over Oklahoma State with an apparent arm injury, reminding everyone who still needed reminding just how quickly the picture can change from one week to the next in college football.
Alabama: What a rush!
AJ McCarron earned lots of gush and glow for his accuracy on Alabama’s game-winning drive against LSU, but how about some for offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier.
It was no accident that McCarron passed four straight times to Kevin Norwood, completing three on the sideline. Of Norwood’s team-high five catches on the night, all came on two-minute drives resulting in touchdowns.
Norwood caught two passes on Alabama’s scoring drive at the end of the first half, both on first-down plays.
On the game-winning drive, McCarron threw four times at Norwood, all on first down.
Then, on the game-winning touchdown, Nussmeier went back to something else that worked previously. Following a recommendation from senior center Barrett Jones, he went to the opposite side of the field for a screen pass to running back T.J. Yeldon on Alabama’s left side.
The same thing happened on Alabama’s drive just before halftime, with McCarron screening left to running back Eddie Lacy for 19 yards.
On both screens, LSU was clearly befuddled. Lacy and Yeldon had a lot more green grass than white jerseys around them.
Auburn: Way to rush
Much of the attention going into Auburn’s game against New Mexico State surrounded freshman quarterback Jonathan Wallace’s first college start, but did anyone notice the rushing attack?
It looked very Gus Malzahn-ish.
It looked very Michael-Dyer-and-Onterio-McCalebb-ish.
Yes, it happened against a team that Auburn’s worst team in years could dominate, but McCalebb and Tre Mason combined for 265 yards. Both crossed the 100-yard mark.
It’s the first time during Scot Loeffler’s first season as Auburn’s offensive coordinator that Auburn’s offense came close to resembling the look it had under his predecessor, who always found a way to get the running game going with McCalebb and Dyer.
Mason got 20-something carries (22) for the second time this season. Auburn (2-7) won both games.
Who knows whether Auburn can do anything like that against Georgia or Alabama, but it’s a reminder of what once worked for Auburn. Two running backs recruited to a Malzahn system looked right at home.
JSU: Where’s the rush?
JSU’s loss at UT-Martin came down to a missed extra point that forced a 2-point conversion attempt, which failed, but where was the JSU defense?
The same defense played relatively well, considering the opponent, a week prior, in a 38-35 victory over Murray State. JSU held Casey Brockman to 255 yards passing and intercepted three of his passes.
Murray State has the OVC’s top scoring offense.
Fast-forward a week, and Tennessee-Martin’s Derek Carr threw for 402 yards and seven touchdown passes against JSU. Carr threw 44 passes, and JSU didn’t get its hands on one.
UT-Martin entered the game first in the OVC in pass efficiency but a distant third in passing yards per game. JSU came in third in pass defense but managed not to play like it.
The missed extra points were decisive, but a little defense would have gone a long way in a game that saw senior quarterback Marques Ivory throw for 323 yards and six touchdown passes.
Sports Columnist Joe Medley: 256-235-3576. On Twitter @jmedley_star.