December 31, 2007

BOL notebook: No-pain McClain

SHREVEPORT, La. - Rolando McClain's 15-tackle performance in the Iron Bowl a month ago was well-described as warrior-like in a 17-10 loss to the archrival Tigers. But Sunday night in the Independence Bowl, a five-tackle performance might have fit the description even better.

According to coach Nick Saban, the freshman linebacker from Decatur broke his thumb early in the game. He emerged from the halftime break with his hand heavily wrapped. Then later in the second half, he separated his shoulder while breaking up a pass.

Yet, he still wasn't done.

McClain missed some action with the separation but later returned, finishing with five tackles, an interception and two pass break-ups.

"He played well," said Saban. "To be a freshman, to be a signal caller, especially with some of the things this [Colorado] team did. All that motion and all those shifts and stuff. … He showed a lot of mental and physical toughness in the game, and it never affected his performance at all. He certainly did a great job tonight."

The interception - his second career pick-off and second in as many games, came on the Buffaloes' opening offensive play. It set up a field goal for Alabama and an early 6-0 lead.

Senior linebacker Darren Mustin said McClain can't be called a freshman any more.

"We call him Baby Ro, but he's a man," Mustin said. "He's a man-child. And he proved it tonight."

McClain, per staff policy for true freshmen, was not made available to the media.

CALDWELL REMAINS ON NFL FENCE - Offensive lineman Antoine Caldwell reiterated his position on early NFL Draft entry after the game, and it was no different than his first remark on the subject a couple of weeks ago.

"It's 50/50 right now," Caldwell said. "I love Alabama, and there's still a lot I want to accomplish here."

ETC. - John Parker Wilson broke his own school records for yardage and touchdowns in a season Sunday night, finishing with 2,846 and 18 in those categories, respectively. … Receiver DJ Hall also got into the record-breaking act, making his school-record 66th reception of the season. He fell three yards short of reaching 1,000 for the season. Javier Arenas posted 76 kickoff return yards, passing Arvin Richard for the school's single-season record, now Arenas' at 657 yards. … UA kicker Leigh Tiffin broke a school record for made field goals and points scored by a kicker in the first half. Tiffin close the year with 25 field goals and 111 points. … Senior offensive guard Justin Britt left the game in the first quarter with an injury and did not return. He was replaced by center Evan Cardwell, whose entry bumped starting center Antoine Caldwell into Britt's spot at left guard. … Linebacker Keith Saunders made a heads-up play on Colorado's failed fake punt attempt in the first quarter, staying at home when he saw the snap went to an upback. Byron Ellis got by him, but Saunders forced him into help and short of the first down. … It can't be said Colorado didn't have a little bit of luck Sunday night. Punt returner Chase McBride allowed a P.J. Fitzgerald offering to bounce off his head just before the half, but Eric Gray was unable to come up with the carom and the ball rolled out of bounds to maintain the Buffaloes' possession. … The Jimmy Johns linebacker sighting some Alabama fans were hoping for never materialized. The former running back was switched to linebacker during bowl practices.

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