A Bad Party Better Than None

Was Alabama going to join the party of highly-ranked teams who had their struggles Saturday? The Crimson Tide seemed to have a hangover until a party animal--Wildcat Mark Ingram--enabled Bama to have a homecoming celebration.

Alabama needed Mark Ingram from the Wildcat formation to put the finishing touches on a 20-6 victory over South Carolina at Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night.

Ingram, a sophomore, rushed 24 times for 246 yards, the third most by an Alabama back in storied Crimson Tide history, and the most ever by a Bama player at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

In the fourth quarter, nursing a 13-6 lead, Ingram took the team on his shoulders for a six-play, 68-yard drive. All but the final play of the march--a five-yard Ingram run for the touchdown--came on Ingram runs from the Wildcat position.

The win kept Alabama undefeated at 7-0 and atop the Southeastern Conference Western Division at 4-0 in league play. Bama came into the game ranked second in the nation. South Carolina had been ranked 22nd nationally. The Gamecocks fell to 5-2 overall, 2-2 in SEC games.

Bama's hard-earned win followed a day in which number one Florida, number three Texas and number six Southern Cal had equally poor performances in wins; and number four Virginia Tech and number seven Ohio State were upset.

Alabama continues its home stand next Saturday as the Crimson Tide hosts Tennessee in an SEC game. The Volunteers had an open date this weekend. The Alabama-Tennessee game will be nationally televised by CBS with kickoff at 2:30 p.m. CDT. Tennessee is 3-3 overall and 1-2 in SEC games.

Final Stats:

Alabama's kickoff teams had a horrible night in both coverage and returns, in great part because of penalties. The Tide opened the game with its kickoff coverage team allowing a long runback and a 15-yard facemask penalty so South Carolina started at the Alabama 44. But on second down Mark Barron picked off Stephen Garcia's pass at the Alabama 23 and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown. Leigh Tiffin's extra point gave Alabama the 7-0 lead just 1:04 into the game.

Crimson Tide partisans were thinking "party time" for the Bama homecoming. The celebration would have to be put off.

Alabama's Red Zone troubles of a week earlier against Ole Miss continued in the first quarter against South Carolina. With the help of an unusual play, the Tide drove to the Gamecocks' seven-yard line, but couldn't get the first down at the four and Tiffin kicked a 25-yard field goal for a 10-0 Crimson Tide lead with 2:13 remaining in the first quarter.

That field goal drive was kept alive despite Greg McElroy's second interception of the game. C.C. Whitlock intercepted for the Gamecocks, but he was tackled by Julio Jones and fumbled and Darius Hanks recovered for Bama, giving the Tide a new set of downs.

South Carolina had been very quiet until the last minutes of the second quarter when on a third-and-10 Garcia found freshman sensation wide receiver Alson Jeffrey, who turned it into a 52-yard gain to the Alabama 16. The Gamecocks drove to a first-and-goal at the Tide five, but missed on three tackles before Spencer Lanning kicked a 22-yard field goal with 3:14 remaining in the first half.

The play that got the Gamecocks to the six-yard line was a pass to senior wide receiver Moe Brown, who appeared to be knocked unconscious on a tackle by Robby Green. Brown left the field on an ambulance and was taken to DCH Regional Medical Center where he was diagnosed with a concussion. He was thought to have returned to South Carolina with his team.

Mark Ingram's 54-yard run to the South Carolina 18 in the final moments of the second quarter was another Red Zone frustration. Trent Richardson got nothing on a run up the middle and two passes were incomplete. Tiffin kicked a 35-yard field goal to make it 13-3 with just under a minute before halftime.

It doesn't matter who the coach is, a prevent defense seems vulnerable.

South Carolina had the ball at its 41-yard line with 56 seconds to play. On a third-and-10, a draw play gained 10 yards. Then Garcia had scrambles of 21 and 12 yards to the Alabama 14. Garcia tried two passes, both incomplete, and then as time expired in the first half, Lanning kicked a 31-yard field goal. At intermission, Bama's lead was an unimpressive 13-6.

Alabama had decent opportunity late in the third quarter after Julio Jones returned a punt 33 yards, but McElroy was hit and fumbled the ball back to the Gamecocks. Garcia drove South Carolina inside the Tide 30, but the drive lost yardage, primarily because of a Lorenzo Washington sack, and Lanning was called on for a 50-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter. He couldn't deliver, short by less than the distance of Washington's sack.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Alabama's punt return team had a penalty that wiped out a nice runback by Jones. The Tide started at its own 32 and went to the wildcat formation. Ingram ran for 24 yards to the South Carolina 44. The run put Ingram over the 200-yard rushing mark for the game. (He had 146 yards in the first half.) Ingram then picked up four to the 40 and five to the 35. On third-and-one, Ingram went to the 27.

Ingram then took it at left end for 22 yards to a first-and-goal at the five. Bama then went to normal formation. Ingram took a quick pitch and went over left tackle for the touchdown with 4:54 to play. Tiffin's extra point kick made it 20, South Carolina 6.

South Carolina threatened to make the score look even less impressive with a drive to a first-and-goal at the Bama five, but four passes were incomplete and the Alabama party could begin.

Although Ingram had a fabulous game, McElroy was substandard, completing only 10 of 20 passes for 92 yards. He completed only two passes to wide receivers, both to Marquis Maze.

P.J. Fitzgerald had a good day punting. He didn't punt in the first half. In the second half he had three boots for a 45.3 average.

Julio Jones had a good day as punt return man with five for 75 yards, despite some nice runbacks being wiped out by Bama penalties.

There was a lot of laundry on the field with Alabama penalized 10 times for 113 yards and South Carolina five times for 60 yards.

Alabama had 17 first downs, South Carolina 19, and the Gamecocks did something not many teams do in having an advantage in time of possession, 31:43 to 28:17.

Alabama had the better of it rushing, 38 carries for 264 yards to 27 runs for 67 yards by the Gamecocks. South Carolina won the passing war with 20 completions in 46 attempts for 214 yards.

In total offense, Alabama had 58 plays for 356 yards, the Gamecocks 73 plays for 278 yards.

Alabama was led defensively by Mark Barron with eight tackles. Rolando McClain, Tyrone King and Erky Anders had seven each. Marquis Johnson broke up six passes.

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