TUSCALOOSA | Greg McElroy couldn't have played with the Million Dollar Band at Saturday's homecoming game. The University of Alabama's quarterback was like an out-of-tune instrument against South Carolina at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
McElroy turned the ball over fourth times, including three in the first half, and had his worst outing since taking over as the Crimson Tide's starter this season, finishing 10-of-20 for 92 yards.
"The absence of explosive plays in the passing game, the inability of us to throw the ball effectively in the last two games, is something that we definitely need to get corrected," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "We've got to get back and build our confidence in what we're doing and where we're going with the ball and be comfortable in the pocket and get the timing back in terms of what has been very successful for us in the past and something we're going to need in the future." McElroy's first throw of the game was an indication of things to come. His pass went behind running back Roy Upchurch into the hands of the Gamecocks' Shaq Wilson for the first of his two interceptions.
McElroy was intercepted again on Alabama's next drive, this time by C.C. Whitlock, who promptly fumbled it back to the Tide on his return.
By the end of the opening period, McElroy was a miserable 1-for-4 passing for one yard with a pair of interceptions.
The next turnover came early in the second quarter, when McElroy made a huge error of trying to hand off the ball while he was still bobbling a high shotgun snap, resulting in a fumble and a South Carolina recovery.
The turnovers didn't tell the full story. McElroy was off-target much of the night.
"They really kind of messed my snaps up - pre-snap they'd start out in one cover and post-snap they'd be in another one," McElroy said of the South Carolina defense. "You're in the shotgun, you're looking the ball in and when you look up it's a different defense. It's difficult."
Some of that difficulty was McElroy's own off-rhythm play.
"One slipped right out of my hands that would have been a touchdown, and that's disappointing," the quarterback said. "It was a screen to Roy (Upchurch), just slipped right out of my hands.
"It was terrible. A (junior varsity) high school quarterback can make that throw."
At halftime, McElroy was a miserable 5-of-12 for 33 yards and UA was clinging to a 13-6 lead. By comparison, McElroy was 6-of-18 for 94 yards with one interception in the opener against Virginia Tech in the season opener in his first game as Alabama's primary quarterback.
The third quarter was a little better for McElroy, who got away with a couple of dangerous throws but went 4-for-7 for 53 yards, but he also coughed up another lost fumble when he was sacked to stall a drive into South Carolina territory.
The end of the third quarter also marked the completion of eight straight quarters of football - the equivalent of two complete games - with only one offensive touchdown for Alabama.
"Guys have ups and downs," McElroy said. "That's why we play 12 games. That's why we have another game next week.
"I can remember (Dallas Cowboys quarterback) Tony Romo a couple of years ago, one of my heroes and idols, went out and threw four interceptions against the Buffalo Bills and they got a win. He came back the next week and threw for like 400 yards, 300 yards, something like that.
"This game will be over in 24 hours. The fact that we have been effective in the past gives me confidence. It will come back, it will."