McElroy: Solid numbers don't tell whole story

Greg McElroy figures sometimes a quarterback just has to be a pessimist in critiquing his own performance.

If he went solely by the statistics, McElroy would feel better about the way he has played the past two weeks against South Carolina and Mississippi: Completing two-thirds of his passes for 534 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.

Solid numbers, certainly.

"There are some times when the stats don't tell the whole story," McElroy said Monday. "I've played OK, but I'm a perfectionist. That's just the way I've been. I just demand a lot of myself and I know I can play better than the way I've played the last couple of weeks.

"In order to be successful in the long run, you have to kind of look at the glass as half-empty as opposed to half-full."

And there's the half-empty perspective.

McElroy has been sacked 11 times the past two games, either because of coverage, poor protection or simply holding onto the ball too long. The Gamecocks and Rebels successfully contained tailbacks Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson by putting extra defenders near the line of scrimmage. And the passing game hasn't been able to make them pay consistently.

"Every player on offense can't have a couple of plays where they don't do it exactly like it's supposed to be done," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "On many occasions, (perception is) it's always the quarterback's fault, but the quarterback position is hard to play when the people around you aren't doing exactly what they're supposed to do. Everybody on our offensive team would say they need to get better, probably including the quarterback.

"We know we can be better. We've got to go practice with the expectations that we can be better."

Seventh-ranked Alabama (6-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) visits Tennessee (2-4, 0-3) hoping to get well against a defense that's giving up a league-high 381 yards a game and has produced an SEC-low seven sacks. The Tide has allowed 21 sacks already, one more than in 14 games last season.

Volunteers coach Derek Dooley doesn't take much solace in facing an offense that hasn't been quite clicking lately.

"Our matchup against any passing attack has not been good," Dooley said. "As long as they're running routes and throwing the ball it's a bad matchup. They've got a solid pass game. They've got all the parts, so I think we've got to continue to try to put pressure on the quarterback.

"We've made some progress the last couple of weeks at that. That's the key to any good pass defense, is quick pressure on the quarterback and then we've got to play aggressive on the back end. We'll get better at it."

McElroy has remained mostly steady and avoided costly mistakes. He's third in the SEC and sixth nationally in passing efficiency, and hasn't thrown an interception in the past three games.

One handicap for the passing offense has been an injury to leading receiver Julio Jones. Jones is playing with a broken hand and sat out the second half against Mississippi after a ball hit his index finger and "stretched the stitches," Saban said. He said Jones shouldn't be limited in practice this week.

Saban doesn't want the offense to rein things in and stop attacking when the defense wins some early battles.

"When things don't go well, you get a little defensive in how you attack and that's not a good way to be," Saban said. "It's hard to say 'giddyup, whoa,' and the horse really know what to do. You send a mixed message there. We want to be aggressive, we want to be attacking. We have to do those things.

"We can't get defensive in terms of how we're doing things and continue to use all the skill players that we have and try to make explosive plays. I don't think we've done a good enough job of that in the last couple of weeks."

Against Mississippi, Alabama's longest run was 12 yards and only five passes went for double-digit gains, including a screen that Richardson took for an 85-yard touchdown.

"(The offense) hasn't been explosive," McElroy said. "We're just capable of more. We demand a lot more of ourselves as an offense, and I know we're capable of a lot more."

He said his confidence level hasn't changed in the last couple of weeks, but wants his teammates to develop more faith in him and each other again.

"I think we just lack the trust in each other right now," McElroy said. "We just need to get that back."


AP Sports Writer Beth Rucker in Knoxville, Tenn., contributed to this report.