For the first time
He was no stranger to pressure. In high school, he had to fill the shoes of future Missouri quarterback
After Virginia Tech's
"I started doubting myself a little bit," McElroy said. "That wasn't a situation I'm used to ... I can't say I've ever doubted myself as a starting quarterback."
But the redshirt junior and the Tide would overcome a shaky start behind its defense and a powerful running game, to beat the Hokies 34-24 and, at least for now, answer the nagging questions surrounding
The defense was never in doubt. 'Bama's
But as the final moments wound down, McElroy jumped into the arms of
With 498 total yards, it seems there's no lack of offense in Tuscaloosa. The Tide still have a punishing ground game and an offensive line that can open up holes for the deep running back corps. On the surface, this year's Tide don't look like they've lost much of what made them the nation's No. 1 for five weeks last season. But like McElroy admits, questions swirled around the quarterback position, both from the QB himself and anyone watching his starting debut.
His first two series were his first as a starter since his final year at Southlake Carroll in 2005 as he polished off a 63-1 record -- and it showed. The touch just wasn't there on his deep ball, as he overthrew both
McElroy wasn't expected to be much more than a caretaker; simply get the ball into the hands of playmakers like Jones and
But McElroy showed he can be both caretaker and playmaker at the same time because of those playmakers around him. While he allowed the Ingram and
"Greg was a leader for us," lineman
Still, for all the positives that came out of Alabama's offense as it tried to pick up the pieces from last season's late collapse in the SEC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl, this isn't a team without its pimples.
The Tide held a 498-155 edge in total offense, yet when the fourth quarter began, they trailed the Hokies 17-16. It was 'Bama's mistakes and a touch of Beamer Ball that kept Virginia Tech in the game as the Tide allowed the special teams TD, committed three penalties -- including a personal foul by their all-SEC linebacker
"It was self-inflicted wounds and mental mistakes," said tight end
But Peek and the rest of the Tide can take solace in the fact that when Virginia Tech threatened late, the 'Bama offense did exactly that. When Virginia Tech made it 27-24, McElroy led the Tide on a five-play, 74-yard drive punctuated by an 18-yard TD pass to Ingram, the first of his career, to seize a 10-point lead.
"Tonight is the first step in creating an identity for this team," Saban said.
That identity revolves around roles. As
"I've never been so happy in my entire life after a game," McElroy said. "The fans were ecstatic. I was ecstatic."
The truth is, McElroy did what he needed to do in his debut. He eased his own doubts and answered the critics. And on this night, that was enough.