Mark Ingram Has Eyes On Texas
Alabama tailback Mark Ingram thinks the BCS got it right. Alabama, ranked first in the nation, and Texas, the second ranked team, will play for the national championship Thursday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. Kickoff will be at 5 p.m. PST (7 p.m. central time) with national television coverage by ABC.
When Ingram was asked if this was the best possible match-up, he said, "I think so. You have two teams that went 13-0, won all their games. They had some great wins, some games that were tough to win, and they won 13 games and won their conference championships. I think you have the right game."
Ingram, a 5-10, 212-pound sophomore tailback, was a big reason for Alabama success. He has become the Crimson Tide's all-time leading single season rusher with 249 runs for 1,542 yards. He rushed for 15 touchdowns. He also had 30 pass receptions for 322 yards and three touchdowns.
Ingram has had the negatives thrown at him.
Alabama has never beaten Texas (the Tide record is 0-7-1); the Sports Illustrated jinx; and now the Heisman jinx, that Heisman Trophy winners are on the losing team in bowl games; that number two teams have one better than number one teams at winning the BCS national championship game.
"Everybody else is focused on little things like that, jinxes and Heisman performances," Ingram said. "We're not focused on that at all. Ever since after I won that trophy, we got back and started practicing, our main focus was on doing whatever we could to improive in practice and doing whatever we could to give ourselves a chance to be successful in this game.
"I'm not to worried about this Heisman jinx or anything like that. I knlow I have teammates that support me and hold me up and they have my back, and that makes it a lot easier and a lot more relaxing.
Our main focus has been on Texas, has been on doing whatever we could at practice to better ourselves,give ourselves the best opportunity to be successful in this game. We're not too worried about the other stuff."
Ingram said the team had been given a mission statement by Coach Nick Saban.
"He always tells us not to worry about the big picture, like the consequences of losing the game, or the lure of the game, or everything at stake in the game," Ingram said. "You have to focus on the process of what you have to do to get yourself ready to play the best football game you can play. We know that now. He said it to us so much to us in the post-season. We know we have to stay focused. But we all know in the back of our mind what this means, how big this is. But we have to stay focused on the process, being better every day at practice, staying healthy, getting our rest, eating right, those little things that will give us the best opportunity to be successful in this game."
Ingram keeps a positive attitude. He deflected a question as to whether a loss to Texas would negate all the good of Alabama's 2009 season.
"I try not to think like that," Ingram said. "I don't think any player for Alabama or Texas is thinking that way. We've had a great season and accomplished a lot and as long as we go out there and play, give it our all, play our hardest, and put our hearts on the field, then win or lose...."
Alabama opponents have to account for Ingram. As a result, there have been defenses designed to "load the box," crowding defenders towards the line of scrimmage to stop the run.
Ingram doesn't think that will be the case against Texas. "They are going to play their defense," he said. "They are going to do what they do. They are going to have an odd front. Their linebackers are going to run to the ball. I don't think they are going to do anything special. They may have a few wrinkles thrown in, but they are going to do what they do because they have been successful doing it."
Ingram acknowledged that some teams have been able to limit Alabama's running game. "Sometimes they'll load the box," he said. "But then they have to answer to the passing game. In the Auburn game, they shut down our rushing, but Greg and Julio and Peek (quarterback Greg McElroy, wide receiver Julio Jones, and tight end Colin Peek) had great games in the passing game."
Ingram said the Texas offense is "sound all across the board. Their scheme is real complex. They show you a lot of different looks. All 11 players are coached real well. Their defensive scheme is real good; they have real good technique; they are real fast, from the D-Line to the secondary they are all really fast. They get to the ball, they disrupt a lot of plays, they cause you to do a lot of things you don't want to. They are just a great defense. When you look at them, you see 11 guys who are really fast, they have a great defensive scheme, they know it, and they are coached really well."
Both Alabama and Texas rank among the national leaders in rushing defense. Ingram said the challenge is an opportunity. "You thrive on opportunities like this," he said. "A great defense in the biggest game you hope to play in as a college player."
He said the Texas defense is "similar to ours in a lot of ways. "They are real fast, they get to the ball, they shed blocks, linebackers are real fast and fill the gaps, they flow real fast to the ball, and the secondary comes up and makes tackles as well," Ingram said. "All 11 guys are real sound and they play great defense."
The Texas defense puts the pressure on the Alabama offensive line. Ingram thinks the Bama front will measure up. "They've done such a great job," Ingram said. "They get better and better every day. I remember in the spring they had a new set of guys and everybody was doubting them, but they worked hard and took advantage of the opportunity they had. They jelled in spring ball and camp in the fall and each and every week they improved. They worked hard and came together as a real solid, fine unit. I couldn't run behind five better guys."
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