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September 18, 2009

Tide's McElroy ready for Texas-style reunion

When his former high school coach is not in his office or at the football facilities, University of Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy pretty much knows where he can find Todd Dodge, now the head coach at North Texas.

It's a Copeland restaurant, Dodge's home away from home where he's been known to sit and watch other games, or just relax a little with some good food.

It's one of McElroy's favorite places to eat too and the two have been known to have dinner there, most recently during one of his offseason trips home just outside of Dallas. There they've talked football and about how Alabama and North Texas will play this Saturday, but never about the Mean Green's record since Dodge took over two years ago. It's 3-21.

"I imagine it's probably a pretty sore subject," McElroy said.


Nevertheless, both are looking forward to their reunion at Bryant-Denny Stadium, although disappointed that Dodge son, Riley, won't be able to start for the Mean Green at quarterback due to a separated shoulder in his non-throwing arm. It's been the biggest thing they've talked about other than their successes at Southlake Carroll High School in Texas, where the coach compiled an amazing 79-1 record over this final five seasons and closed with a 48-game winning streak.

That included the one season McElroy was his starting quarterback -- sandwiched between the Chase Daniel and Riley Dodge years, when the Dragons won four state titles in five years -- and racked up 4,687 passing yards with a state-record 56 touchdowns and only nine interceptions.

That's right, McElroy has never lost as a starting quarterback.

"It means a lot," McElroy said about Saturday. "Coach Dodge was such a special part of my career."

Perhaps it's only fitting then that his former teacher be on hand for McElroy's emergence at the collegiate level, with the No. 4 Crimson Tide off to a 2-0 start having accumulated 1,014 offensive yards for its best back-to-back showing since it compiled 1,104 yards against South Carolina (516) and UTEP (588) in 2001.

McElroy has completed 61.1 percent (33-of-54) of his passes for 235.5 yards per game and two touchdowns with one interception. That's also despite a shaky start against No. 7 Virginia Tech, when he took a physical pounding and nine consecutive passes failed to hit their mark.

"I was forcing things and not trusting my reads, getting the ball out as fast as I could," McElroy said.

That was in sharp contrast to last Saturday, when he McElroy completed 14 straight passes to set a new Alabama record for consecutive completions (12 by John Parker Wilson in 2008 at Tennessee and vs. Arkansas State, and Andrew Zow vs. Ole Miss on Oct. 14, 2000). What's more, since the nine-straight incompletions, McElroy's has completed 31 of 42 passes (73.8 percent) for 422 yards.

That works out to a staging quarterback rating of 271.12. Still, his overall rating of 235.5 is second in the SEC only to Ryan Mallett of Arkansas.

"We are not going to ask Greg to help us coach defense this week, we'll just go ahead and let him be the quarterback," Coach Nick Saban joked. "I'm sure he'd be helpful as smart as he is.

"He's played extremely well for us. "His consistency has been very good. His decision-making has been very good. I think he's maybe had one poor decision in each game and has been pretty accurate with the ball. I think he is spreading the ball around. He's done a good job of executing the run-checks that we have in the game. So his leadership has been good and his decision-making has been good. He is throwing the ball effectively for us. We're very pleased with the progress that he has made and we're hopeful that we'll be able to continue to improve so we can continue to develop efficiency in our passing game."

McElroy's effectiveness may be best demonstrated by his passing streak, in how he moved the ball around and even went deep, even though the three completions on third downs failed move the markers:

Down, Yard, Route, Receiver, Yards gained
1-10, A20, crossing, TE Colin Peek, 13
2-8, A35, slant, WR Mike McCoy, 7
1-10, A43, slant, McCoy, 14
1-10, F43, crossing, TE Preston Dial, 19
1-10, F24, crossing, McCoy, 24, touchdown
1-10, A38, crossing, McCoy, 20
2-13, F45, middle, RB Mark Ingram, 31
3-15, F19, middle, Ingram, 7
1-5, A36, deep, McCoy, 35
2-8, F11, slant, WR Earl Alexander, 9
3-20, A10, screen, Ingram, 3
2-7, A25, left flat, Ingram, 6
3-1, A31, right flat, TE Brad Smelley, minus-1
2-9, F41, right flat, RB Trent Richardson, 12

Seven different players made receptions, many over the middle, but when FIU made adjustments McElroy changed as well and start throwing into the flats. He passed for 199 yards, 116 coming after the catch, and the score went from 3-0 in the first quarter to 20-14 in the third.

Overall, McElroy completed 18 of 24 passes for 241 yards.

"When he throws to nine different receivers that speaks volumes," McCoy said. "He just has so much emotion and plays with passion. Even on the sideline, you can just tell that loves the game."

Maybe Dodge doesn't want to see his former pupil after all except for the postgame handshake, but certainly understands. A former starting quarterback at Texas (1982-85), he's still listed among the Longhorns' career passing leaders with 2,791 yards and 18 touchdowns.

"Other than this game, I will be pulling for them the rest of the year," McElroy said.


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