SEC: gamecocks-tide 10172009

Winning is what Alabama does best

October, 18, 2009
10/18/09
2:27
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images
Nick Saban's Crimson Tide continue to find ways to win and are making a strong argument for being ranked No. 1 in the nation.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Coming off Saturday night's 20-6 victory over South Carolina, maybe it’s premature to call Alabama the best team in the country, the No. 1 team in the country or even the team that deserves to be No. 1 in the country.

But there’s not a team in college football right now that has mastered the art of winning any better than the Crimson Tide.

They beat you when junior quarterback Greg McElroy is on top of his game. They beat you when he’s not on top of his game.

They beat you with senior starters (Javier Arenas) watching from the sideline. They beat you with budding sophomore superstars (Mark Ingram) having the best rushing performance Bryant-Denny Stadium has ever seen.

They beat you despite uncharacteristic turnovers and penalties. They beat you when maybe they weren’t as focused as they needed to be.

And they always beat you with defense -- suffocating, in-your-face, bone-crunching defense.

“It’s all about winning games,” Alabama senior offensive guard Mike Johnson said. “I remember against Arkansas that we weren’t that successful on the ground, and Greg (McElroy) picked us up through the air.

“However we’ve got to do it, we’ll do it.”

The truth is that McElroy hasn’t been real sharp throwing the football the last two weeks. He’ll be the first to tell you as much.

"I just wasn’t seeing it real good. I haven’t been playing real good," McElroy said. "I’ve haven’t been playing real confidently and stepping into my throws the way I have been. But we’ll get it figured out, I promise. I promise the fans, promise the coaches and promise the players that I will get it figured out and get it straightened out."

Against South Carolina, he had a hand in all four of the Crimson Tide’s turnovers – two interceptions and two fumbles.

But Ingram was there to romp for a Bryant-Denny Stadium record 246 yards rushing, and the Alabama defense has now gone eight quarters without giving up a touchdown.

In fact, Alabama’s defense actually outscored the Gamecocks on Saturday. Safety Mark Barron’s tackle-breaking 77-yard interception return in the first 62 seconds of the game was the Crimson Tide’s only touchdown until Ingram bulled across the goal line with 4:54 remaining.

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Ingram runs his way into Heisman contention

October, 18, 2009
10/18/09
1:37
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low
Marvin Gentry/US Presswire
Freshman Mark Ingram's performance Saturday may get soon get him some mention in the Heisman Trophy chatter.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – He wasn’t even the most ballyhooed member of Alabama’s celebrated freshman class a year ago.

But early on, Alabama’s Nick Saban knew what he had in Mark Ingram.

I remember asking Saban last August about freshmen who had caught his attention during the first part of preseason camp.

One of the first names out of his mouth was Ingram. I was surprised at the time. The only surprise now is how Ingram hasn’t been a hotter commodity in the Heisman Trophy race.

That’s about to change.

The 5-10, 212-pound sophomore did everything but strike the pose Saturday night in No. 2-ranked Alabama’s 20-6 win over No. 22-ranked South Carolina.

And, really, Ingram didn’t need to strike the pose. He was too busy running over, through and around South Carolina defenders on his way to a Bryant-Denny Stadium record 246 yards rushing on 24 carries.

If there’s a better runner after contact in the country, I want to see him. So do his teammates after watching him grind out more than 100 of his yards after the initial hit.

For that matter, they’re not sure there’s a better runner – period.

“I wouldn’t trade him for anybody,” Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy said. “I think he’s the best running back in the country for what we ask him to do.”

Only UTEP’s Donald Buckram has rushed for more yards in a game this season in the FBS ranks. Buckram had 262 yards against Houston on Oct. 3.

Ingram’s 246 yards marked the third highest single-game rushing total in Alabama history. Shaun Alexander had 291 yards against LSU in 1996, and Bobby Humphrey had 284 yards against Mississippi State in 1986.

In seven games this season, Ingram now has 905 rushing yards and 11 total touchdowns, eight rushing and three receiving. And in 304 career touches at Alabama, he’s never lost a fumble.

He also played through some pretty intense pain Saturday. He took a blow to his left knee in the first half when one of the South Carolina defenders cut him, but Ingram was only out for a few plays.

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Final: Alabama 20, South Carolina 6

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
11:13
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 2 Alabama hopped onboard the Mark Ingram Express to grind out a 20-6 victory over No. 22 South Carolina on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Here’s a quick analysis from the game:

How the game was won: It comes down really to two things. Alabama kept South Carolina out of the end zone when the Gamecocks got close and forced them to kick field goals, and the Gamecocks couldn’t tackle Mark Ingram, who set a Bryant-Denny Stadium record with 246 rushing yards.

Turning point: South Carolina’s Clifton Geathers sacked Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, forcing a fumble that Geathers recovered at the South Carolina 46 in the final minute of the third quarter. But the Gamecocks, trailing 13-6 at the time, couldn’t cash in with any points. Spencer Lanning’s 50-yard field goal was short.

Stat of the game: Alabama was unable to pull away until late because it turned the ball over a season-high four times. The four turnovers matched the number of turnovers the Crimson Tide had committed in six previous games this season.

Player of the game: Say hello to the Heisman Trophy front-runner. Ingram put his name at the top of the list with his 246-yard night. He had all 68 yards in Alabama’s clinching touchdown drive.

What it means: Although it wasn’t a dominating victory by the Crimson Tide, they will have a chance to supplant Florida as the nation's No. 1-ranked team when the new polls come out on Sunday. If so, the Crimson Tide would also likely be No. 1 in the first BCS standings, which also come out Sunday.

Alabama's defense picking its spots

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
10:31
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- South Carolina has moved the ball some, and quarterback Stephen Garcia has scrambled around and hit a few plays against the Alabama defense.

But the Crimson Tide have been at their best the closer their backs get to their own goal line. These guys just don't give up touchdowns. In fact, they've now gone seven straight quarters without allowing a touchdown.

Good news on South Carolina's Brown

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
10:18
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- South Carolina receiver Moe Brown was taken to a local hospital and diagnosed with a concussion.

Otherwise, he checked out fine and will be able to return with the rest of the team later Saturday night to Columbia. Brown suffered a huge blow to the head right before the half after catching a pass over the middle. He was taken to the hospital for precautionary purposes.

Alabama's McElroy looking shaky

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
10:07
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy had played so well and so consistently this season that he had spoiled us.

It was easy to forget that he was a first-year starter. Well, he has looked like a first-year starter for much of the night against South Carolina and has not been able to get into any kind of rhythm.

He threw two interceptions in the first half, and the South Carolina defense has done a good job of keeping him off balance so far in the second half, too. The Tide haven't been able to get anything down the field.

Halftime analysis: Alabama 13, S. Carolina 6

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
9:28
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Despite being uncharacteristically careless with the football, No. 2-ranked Alabama took a 13-6 lead over No. 22-ranked South Carolina into halftime Saturday night at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

Here’s a quick halftime analysis:

Turning point: Following what was about a 10-minute delay when South Carolina receiver Moe Brown took a huge blow to the head, suffered a concussion and was carted off the field after giving the Gamecocks a first down at the Alabama 5, the Crimson Tide defense held the Gamecocks to a field goal after they failed to connect on three straight fade routes to Alshon Jeffery into the end zone. Jeffery had the second-down pass on his hands, but couldn't hold on.

Stat of the half: Alabama had committed just four turnovers all season coming into the game, but has three in the first half. Quarterback Greg McElroy had gone 141 pass attempts without an interception entering the game, but was picked off twice in the first half. The other turnover came when McElroy was unable to handle a high shotgun snap.

Best player of the half: Alabama sophomore running back Mark Ingram just gets a little bit better every week. He has 146 yards rushing on 14 carries and set up Leigh Tiffin’s 35-yard field goal with a 54-yard romp.

Gamecocks' defense hanging in there

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
8:53
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- If South Carolina's defense can get the offense to move the ball a little bit, the Gamecocks might have a chance in this one.

As it has for most of this season, Ellis Johnson's defense has come to play. The Gamecocks haven't gotten enough credit this season for being one of the better defenses in the SEC.

But they are, and Johnson and his staff have done an excellent job despite a glut of injuries, suspensions and inexperience.

South Carolina snaps McElroy's streak

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
8:17
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy had his streak of 141 passes without an interception snapped on his first pass attempt of the game Saturday against South Carolina.

McElroy's toss over the middle was picked off by South Carolina linebacker Shaq Wilson. It was McElroy's first turnover since a second-quarter interception against Virginia Tech in the opener.

It was a sign of things to come for McElroy, who is off to a shaky start. He underthrew a deep ball intended for Marquis Maze on the Tide's second possession that was nearly intercepted and came right back and was picked off for the second time in the first quarter by South Carolina's C.C. Whitlock. But Julio Jones stripped Whitlock of the ball, and Alabama recovered.

Barron shows off some of his old moves

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
8:00
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Having rushed for more than 1,000 yards as a high school running back in Mobile, Ala., Mark Barron got to show off some of his old moves Saturday night.

He intercepted what was a horrible throw over the middle by South Carolina quarterback Stephen Garcia, and that's when the fun started. Breaking at least four tackles, he weaved his way for a 77-yard touchdown return.

It's another example of when the Alabama defenders get their hands on the ball, they're thinking touchdown all the way.

Alabama's Arenas not playing

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
7:51
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - It looks like Alabama will be without senior cornerback Javier Arenas, who's also one of the best punt returners in the country.

Arenas didn't work with the first team during warmups and didn't start the game. He's dressed and on the sideline, but doesn't have his helmet. He was banged up this week in practice, and the Crimson Tide apparently are going to try and play without him.

Big test for Alabama against Norwood

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
6:53
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - One of the matchups to watch Saturday night is how well Alabama left offensive tackle James Carpenter handles South Carolina pass-rushing specialist Eric Norwood.

Carpenter has done a pretty good job this season of protecting Greg McElroy's blind side, but Norwood is relentless and lives for these big-stage games. Norwood leads the SEC with six sacks and is also due. He's been pretty quiet the last two weeks.

The Gamecocks have been good about moving Norwood around on passing downs, too, so it's harder to scheme for him.

Where South Carolina will have a difficult time holding up Saturday night is in the middle. The Gamecocks will start 5-11, 210-pound Shaq Wilson at middle linebacker, so you know the Crimson Tide are going to take their shots up the middle with the running game and try and get Mark Ingram loose.

Welcome from chilly Tide Central

October, 17, 2009
10/17/09
6:04
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Welcome from the Bryant-Denny Stadium press box, which is outside.

That means you get to feel the nip in the air tonight, and it's definitely nippy. The forecast is calling for it to get down as low as 45 degrees. It's also breezy, as you can see the flags on the goal posts whipping around.

Finally, some real football weather here in the south.

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