NEW ORLEANS — In every season, there are a handful of plays that stand out.
Here’s a look at the five plays that got Alabama to Monday night’s Allstate BCS National Championship Game:
1. Maze’s punt return: One of the most electrifying plays of the year in the SEC, Marquis Maze weaved his way 83 yards through Arkansas defenders early in the third quarter to break the game wide open and send the Crimson Tide on their way to a 38-14 beatdown of the Hogs. Maze showed his speed, open-field running ability and knack for breaking tackles all on one dazzling return.
2. Upshaw’s interception return: With the game tied at 10 early in the second quarter, Alabama’s Nick Gentry came free up the middle and hurried Florida quarterback John Brantley, whose dump pass over the middle was intercepted by Courtney Upshaw and returned 45 yards for a touchdown. The Gators were never the same, and the Crimson Tide won easily, 38-10 at the Swamp.
3. The fourth-down stop: Tennessee had played Alabama to a 6-6 tie at the half, and the Crimson Tide looked sluggish. They answered with a long touchdown drive coming out of the break to go up 13-6 and then sent the Vols packing for good after Tennessee elected to go for it on fourth-and-inches at their own 39. Josh Chapman and Dont’a Hightower stuffed Tennessee quarterback Matt Simms for no gain. The Vols challenged the spot, but the call on the field was upheld, and Alabama scored a touchdown on its next play en route to a 37-6 romp.
4. McCarron’s lazor: It wasn’t AJ McCarron’s longest pass of the season, but it was one of his most impressive and came at a time in the Penn State game when Beaver Stadium was rocking. McCarron threw a bullet between two defenders on a 5-yard touchdown pass to tight end Michael Williams to silence the crowd and give the Crimson Tide a first-quarter lead they would never relinquish in a 27-11 victory over the Nittany Lions.
5. Going for a ride: Alabama running back Trent Richardson had so many spectacular runs this season that it’s impossible to pick just one. But a 16-yard run he had against Auburn says everything you need to know about him as a competitor. Auburn had just pulled within 24-14 on a kickoff return for a touchdown to open the second half, and Alabama needed to answer. Richardson exploded up the middle on a third-and-4 play and was met by a cluster of Auburn defenders at the 20. He dragged four of them with him for 7 more yards before they finally got him on the ground, setting up a Jeremy Shelley 28-yard field goal. The Crimson Tide never looked back in cruising to a 42-14 win.