Ingram, Johnson, King help Tide to ‘ugly' win
"Mark (Ingram) did as fine a job today as anybody I've ever been around," said Saban, " and that includes Ricky Williams and Ronnie Brown (of the NFL's Miami Dolphins).
"If we had a whole team of guys that would play like that… the sky's the limit."
By "like that" Saban meant Ingram's Bryant-Denny Stadium record 246 yards on 24 carries, not to mention another 23 on two catches.
"I wouldn't' trade him for anybody. He's as good as anybody in the country. I think he's fantastic," said quarterback Greg McElroy. "He really carried us tonight."
"I give credit to the offensive line," Ingram said. "They really did a good job of getting movement, The receivers did a great job of blocking downfield, and gave opportunities for us (backs) to make plays down the field. We struggled in the passing game, but we just kept grinding and kept gutting it out."
On Bama's lone touchdown drive, Ingram operated mostly out of the Wildcat except when he took a McElroy pitch for the four yards. He accounted for all 68 yards of the game-deciding march. After 26 touches and numerous pass blocks during the game, he was worn out , but knew he had a source of energy he could call on.
"I was exhausted, and in my mind I kind of wanted to come out, but I give the praise and glory to Jesus Christ. He helped me threw that drive, and I think He was working through me on the end of that drive."
Carolina safety Chris Culliver noticed. How could he not?
"I wish we had gotten into a different defense," said Culliver. "It wasn't anything spectacular (by Ingram). He just had some good runs and some good blocks. We tried to come up with a play, but we didn't. He really just broke through the lines of scrimmage and got into the second and third level of the defense."
Two others who stepped up to fill in for injured cornerback Javy Arenas (bruised ribs) were cornerback Marquis Johnson and safety Tyrone King. Johnson had six pass breakups, and King was in on 1.5 sacks.
Johnson, who at one point batted down three consecutive fade routes, got a big hug and a word of encouragement from defensive coordinator Kirby Smart as the two exited the field.
"You played your (tail) off ! You played like a man possessed!" Smart told No. 24 as the two hugged each other.
Said Johnson, "I knew they were going to come at me. I know Javy really wanted to be out there, but I stepped up in his place.
"I felt disrespected. To be honest, that's how you should feel. They're still coming over here? It's okay. I felt like that was opportunity after opportunity after opportunity. I just focused on my technique, every single time, no matter how many times they came over there. You're going to handle adversity one way or another. How we handled it, is why we won the game."
"There were a few (fade routes) I tried to force," said South Carolina quarterback Jeff Garcia. "I tried to force and put it in too small a spot. I ended up throwing a couple out of bounds and a couple too far inside."
A big reason for that: Johnson's coverage.
"Three times. Yeah," said Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier. We thought if we had 1-on-1 again, we'd try it again. We thought that was our best chance. That's the way it happened."
"Marquis did a wonderful job in coverage. They drill us in practice on covering, and he really stepped up. You've got to take advantage of the chances you get," King said. "All I can do is keep working hard, and hope the coach gives me a call. Like coach (Saban) tells us, you've got to be ready. You never know when you're name will be called. You‘ve got to be prepared."
King said he found out he was the fifth defensive back during warm-ups. He said he thought, "This is my chance to make something happen." According to his Head Coach, he did.
"Old No. 20 had a pretty good game," said Saban. "Here's a guy that goes out there and plays a wonderful game for us. It's a message to everybody on our team."
For the night, Johnson and King combined for nine tackles in addition to Johnson's breakups and King's sacks, Johnson added a hurry of Garcia on a corner blitz.
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