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 TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -Once again, John Parker Wilson was kicking himself for a poor decision in a big game.
A costly interception? An untimely fumble? Nope, that was the old Wilson.
This time the quarterback for No. 1 Alabama was mad that he celebrated a touchdown by putting his hand to his ear as if he were talking on the phone, a gesture directed at LSU fans who had gotten his cell phone number before the game.
The move, mimicking what Florida's Tim Tebow and Georgia's Knowshon Moreno had done in recent weeks to LSU fans, drew an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty call for the first time.
``It was a bad decision,'' Wilson said, ``something I shouldn't have done.''
But the once mistake-prone quarterback hasn't made all that many bad choices this season. Certainly none like the backbreaking interception that Mississippi State's Anthony Johnson returned 100 yards for a touchdown just before halftime last year in a 17-12 loss.
tch with the Bulldogs, guiding Alabama into the Southeastern Conference championship game and national title contention with a 10-0 start.
Last season, his fumble deep in Alabama territory helped set up LSU's game-winning touchdown. Then a week later, the Mississippi State interception return - and another pick that led to a touchdown - contributed to another loss. Wilson said he didn't dwell on that 100-yarder or replay it in his mind or in the film room during the offseason.
``Not really at all,'' he said. ``It was just a bad play among many that game.''
Wilson has already found redemption against LSU, scoring two touchdowns on sneaks and passing for 215 yards. With the game on the line in overtime, he opened with a long pass to Julio Jones to set up the winning touchdown.
With wins and leadership more than stats, Wilson has also put himself in the mix for national awards.
He is a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award and one of five finalists for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award given to the top senior passer. With eight touchdown passes and 1,627 yards, he can't match the numbers of the other finalists - Chase Daniel (Missouri), Graham Harrell (Texas Tech), Brian Johnson (Utah) and Pat White (West Virginia).
ory. Wilson has also cut way down on another significant number: Interceptions. He threw 22 the previous two seasons entering the year. He's thrown just five this season.
``He's not making mistakes,'' Mississippi State coach Sylvester Croom said. ``He's a senior quarterback. It's a big difference in that senior year. You've got experience. You've pretty much seen everything you're going to see, you've been in the worst situations you can possibly be in.
``He's had the strength of character to overcome it all, and he's a key part of their success this year.''
Besides the award recognition, perhaps the biggest sign that Wilson has arrived: The cell phone calls from LSU fans leading up to that game.
He said he didn't listen to any of the messages that filled up his voice mail.
``I turned my phone off midway through Thursday and didn't turn it on until after the game,'' he said.
Wilson's teammates brushed off the penalty he drew in response.
``He was fired up,'' tailback Glen Coffee said. ``He did it and then he was ready to play the rest of the game. To manage the game the way he did, you can't really say anything.''
to lead comebacks.
``I'm just taking care of the ball,'' Wilson said. ``I've been in a lot of situations, I know how to handle myself, know what to expect. I just work on making good decisions.''
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