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NEW ORLEANS -- It wasn't a game face, but a game scowl. Trent Richardson looked like he wanted to play LSU right now. Even his dreadlocks looked angry.
"Most definitely," said the Alabama All-American running back. "I'm waiting for it."
|Trent Richardson accounted for 169 yards of Alabama's 295 total offensive yards in the Crimson Tide's first meeting with LSU.|
It was Thursday when Richardson said this. Just think what kind of mood he'll be in by Monday evening, when No. 1 LSU plays No. 2 Alabama in the Allstate BCS National Championship Game.
The Nov. 5 meeting between these teams was called "The Game of the Century." It wasn't. It had drama. It had overtime. But mostly it had a lot of punts and missed field goals. C-SPAN was more fun to watch.
Bama lost in overtime, 9-6, and afterward there was the usual finger-pointing by some Crimson Tide followers. Some of the fingers were aimed in the direction of Richardson, who did everything but pour the Gatorade into cups that day at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Richardson accounted for 169 yards of Bama's 295 total offensive yards. He rushed for 89 yards and added another 80 yards in receptions.
"I played my heart out," Richardson said. "I did what I can do and what I can give you."
It's not like Richardson was facing a bunch of mopes. LSU gives up an average of 10.5 points per game. The Tigers are ranked second nationally in total defense and third in rushing defense. They'd hit you during warm-ups if they could.
Oregon's LaMichael James could eke out only 54 yards against LSU. Florida's Chris Rainey gained 25 of his 52 yards on one play. Auburn's Michael Dyer couldn't do better than 60 yards.
Nobody has rushed for 100 yards against the Tigers this season. Nobody has rushed for 90 yards against them.
"Big bullies," is how Richardson described the Tigers. And he said it with admiration and respect.
So to think Richardson somehow let Bama down by rushing for only 89 yards is laughable. That's like rushing for 189 yards against your average defense of mere mortals.
Without Richardson, Bama wouldn't be in this game. Of the Crimson Tide's 5,201 total yards, Richardson has produced 1,910 of those yards. That's nearly 40 percent of Alabama's offense.
"He's the best player on our team," Bama center William Vlachos said.
He has to be. Quarterback AJ McCarron is more manager than playmaker right now. The senior wide receivers (Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks) aren't confused with Oklahoma State's Justin Blackmon or USC's Robert Woods.
It is an offense capable of scoring lots of points (36 per game), but Richardson is usually the one doing the heavy lifting. His 23 touchdowns equal the total of the next seven Bama players on the 2011 TD list.
"Anytime you've got a guy like [Trent], he's your workhorse," McCarron said. "At the same time, he's not the only guy we've got."
This is true. But LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis isn't game-planning for McCarron, or back-up running back Eddie Lacy, or those two Bama wide receivers, or tight end Brad Smelley. Why bother?
The Tigers' No. 1 priority is to stop No. 3 -- Richardson. Just ask them.
"It has to be Trent Richardson," LSU strong safety Brandon Taylor said.
"Obviously, it's Trent Richardson," free safety Eric Reid said.
Richardson is built like a 5-foot-11 piece of cinder block. He can break your ankles or he can break your spirit. Tackling him is like trying to wrestle a runaway beer keg to the ground.
"It's horrible," LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. "After the [Nov. 5] game my neck was hurting, shoulders, everything. Just hitting a brick wall. You can't really explain how solid he really is. You can't take that dude down with one guy."
Richardson finished third in the 2011 Heisman voting. Who knows what might have happened had Bama beaten LSU in November, or if Richardson had gained 11 more rushing yards against the Tigers to reach triple digits.
He would have loved to have been the guy making the acceptance speech that night in New York. But the award went to Baylor's Robert Griffin III.
|Richardson missed out on the Heisman Trophy, but he's in position to bring another national championship trophy back to Tuscaloosa.|
That's OK. Just before Richardson entered the room for the ballot announcement, he spoke with his close buddy, former Bama teammate and 2009 Heisman recipient Mark Ingram.
"He told me, 'No matter what, you're going to be a winner in our eyes,"' Richardson said. "That meant a lot. He's like a big brother to me."
This might or might not be Richardson's final game for Bama. He could return for his senior season (insert laughter here), or he could join Ingram in the NFL (count on it).
Richardson is happy to discuss his future, just as long that future you want to discuss doesn't extend past Monday night. The only three letters he's thinking about these days are LSU, not NFL.
"This is a championship game, man," he said. "I can't wait for this game to get here Monday."
As the interview session was nearing its end, someone asked, "Why is it going to be different this time?"
Richardson stared straight ahead as he answered.
"Because we're going to make sure we finish this ballgame," he said.
No smile. No raised voice. Just that scowl.
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.