Austin Peay's Drae McCray was 'that guy' against Alabama football, and it showed | Goodbread
Don't try to tell Terrion Arnold what easy work the Alabama football team had in throttling Austin Peay on Saturday in a 34-0 win at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
He won't want to hear it.
Drae McCray, you see, was the guy. They've all got a guy, these weaker non-conference opponents who come to Bryant-Denny Stadium for a paycheck (Austin Peay took home $600,000), and a sound beating. The guy who belongs on an SEC field but for some reason isn't. The guy who will be drafted by the NFL. Or, at least, the guy who can hold his own against a powerhouse program like none of his teammates can.
Arnold, a freshman cornerback, was almost exclusively responsible for matching up against McCray for the Crimson Tide (9-2, 5-2 SEC). And keeping up with the 5-foot-9 dynamo of a wide receiver was a full day's work.
Austin Peay quarterback Mike DiLiello targeted McCray 15 times, seven of them in the first quarter alone, resulting in 12 catches for 92 yards. And Austin Peay (7-4 Atlantic-Sun) did everything in its power to get him open, hiding him off the ball in stack formations or sliding him into the slot, where nickelback Brian Branch got an occasional turn on him − and even targeting him with a double pass on their opening drive. The football came his way both short and long, and probably once too many when Branch picked off an underthrown deep ball intended for McCray in the fourth quarter.
Who can blame the Governors?
McCray, a sophomore from Tallahassee, Florida, entered play needing just 71 yards for 1,000 on the season. He got there on his first catch of the second half.
He's the guy.
You could probably outfit a team of such players who've led an outmanned team in a futile effort to beat Alabama over the years. Former Indianapolis Colts receiver T.Y. Hilton smoked the Crimson Tide on a 96-yard kickoff return in 2009 while with Florida International. Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard, then with Middle Tennessee State, picked off an Alabama pass in 2015. A year later, former Alabama linebacker Ryan Anderson said at season's end that the toughest offensive lineman he faced all year was Western Kentucky's Forrest Lamp, who was a second-round draft pick the following spring.
Former Alabama All-American defensive end John Copeland, with whom I've co-hosted Crimson Cover TV on WVUA23 for 12 years, will tell you the toughest offensive tackle he ever faced at Alabama was from Louisiana Tech: Willie Roaf, who ended up in 11 Pro Bowls.
McCray might not have 11 Pro Bowls in his future, but he was that guy for Austin Peay.
If you saw Crimson Tide running back Jase McClellan use a stiff-arm to flatten a defender as easily as he would a 10-year-old child, as he did on a 35-yard run in the second quarter, you wouldn't think Austin Peay would have a talent like McCray. If you noticed Alabama's offensive line give Bryce Young enough time in the pocket have a cup of coffee to go with Saturday's 11 a.m. kickoff, you wondered if there's an SEC-level player on the Governors' entire roster.
Arnold doesn't wonder.
Reach Chase Goodbread at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @chasegoodbread