Tide Players Heard The Saban's Mantra
Apparently, Nick Saban's players played close attention to his words, as No. 2 Alabama dominated No.1 Florida, 32-13, and shut the Gators out the final 30 minutes.
"As the game went on, we were just pounding and pounding them," said sophomore running back Mark Ingram, who had 189 total yards. We could feel them wearing down."
Said freshman running back Trent Richardson, who spoke to the media for the first time: "That's what we do. That's how we play. We come out and pound you.
"We could tell they were getting tired."
Richardson ran for 49 net yards, and battled cramps. Even the IV he took in the training room after the game couldn't wipe the smile off his face.
"I said when I signed I wanted to come somewhere where I could play for a national championship," he grinned, adding "I just didn't know it would be this soon."
And he's headed to Pasadena with about 100 of his closest friends because of the afore-mentioned physicality.
"We had a great game plan: It was to come out and be physical," said sophomore receiver Julio Jones. "We could see they were getting tired."
Jones had 28 yards on two catches, but continued to be an effective downfield blocker as he has all season. "I'm going to block you, no matter whose running the ball," he said.
Senior tight end Colin Peek grew up with Gator tendencies in his DNA. Practically Peek's whole family went to Florida. He was escorted post-game by an orange and blue-clad female cousin. She seemed happier than Urban Meyer, the Gators' head coach.
"They had a good game plan, and they executed it," said Meyer. "You have to give Alabama credit."
Part of that game plan was throwing the ball to get Gator defenders out of the tackle box and thus open running lanes for Ingram, Richardson and Roy Upchurch (57 yards on 7 carries).
That was accomplished by using Jones as a decoy.
"We were running me on insides posts to get the safety to cheat over," Jones said.
It worked on a 17-yard pass from game MVP Greg McElroy to Peek.
"The play flowed to the left, and we threw back to the right. I ran a corner pattern, and Greg delivered the ball right there," said Peek, as his Gator cousin grinned and nodded, still arm-in-arm."
Peek finished with three catches for 39 yards.
Peek was asked if he could see Saban's mantra about "make his ass quit" coming true as the game wore down. "I think we did see that," Peek smiled.
Tim Tebow saw it too, and tried to rally the troops, but to no avail.
"This is a feeling we don't like. It was frustrating, obviously," said the 2006 Heisman Trophy winner, whose team saw a 22-game winning streak snapped like a burnt match stick. "This is not how we wanted to finish our season in the SEC. There were a lot of goals we won't be able to accomplish..
"Coming in, we thought we were prepared, but obviously we could have done a better job. That's my responsibility as a quarterback to get that done, and , and we didn't do it. It was frustrating. To say it wasn't would be a lie."
Middle linebacker Rolando McClain said all that off-season work in the vaunted "Fourth Quarter Program" of strength and conditioning coach Scott Cochran was easier when he though about last year's fourth quarter loss to the Gators in the SEC title game.
"I had this date circled on my calendar," said McClain, who made five tackles, hurried Tebow three times and broke up a pass.
"Our coaches worked us hard for a year in the weight room. Today, in the fourth quarter, when they were tired, we weren't, because we were in better shape."
Perhaps game MVP McElroy summed it up best: "It's been an incredible season. We started the season here (at the Georgia Dome) with a win (over Virginia Tech), and were able to win a championship today. I can't say enough about my offensive line.
"We have the greatest coaching staff in the country."
Lane Kiffen would tend to agree.
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