Eager for the Chance

Everyone knows about Alabama's Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson. LSU's Stevan Ridley doesn't quite share the same spotlight – at least not yet.

BATON ROUGE, La. --- Stevan Ridley doesn’t shy away from the obvious.

Though he’s in his fourth season at LSU, the first-year starter hasn’t gained a following like Alabama running backs Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson.

“You hear those guys names a lot,” Ridley said. “I see them talked about all the time.”

Reps might be Ridley’s biggest beef with the situation.

As a sophomore last fall, Ingram ran for a school record 1,658 yards and 17 touchdowns on 271 carries. Richardson, only a freshman, added 751 yards and eight scores – two of which came in the National Championship win.

Richardson became the most talked about rookie in the Southeastern Conference. Ingram won the Heisman Trophy.

“I don’t think you lose much when either one of them goes into the game,” said LSU coach Les Miles. “They both seem pretty talented to me.”

What about Ridley?

He’s been patiently waiting, taking a redshirt in 2007, totaling 12 carries in 2008 and 45 carries in 2009.

Now, it’s his time. Through eight games this fall the junior out of Natchez, Miss. has 152 carries, 133 more than the next running back on the depth chart. He's also passed up any expectations, once owning the conference's best rushing mark and currently averaging 90.4 yards a game, good for fourth-best in the league.

With the arrival of Alabama week comes the biggest challenge to date – a three-part test that would in the end spell victory for LSU and their far-from-famous running back. 1) Win the game. 2) Run hard on the Alabama defense. 3) Make people forget about the Tide’s two-headed monster.

“They are two great backs that have been talked about as long as I have been here, and I’ve always wanted to say ‘what do those guys have on me?’” Ridley said. “I was just waiting on the opportunity to prove it. It’s a fierce competition between Alabama and LSU, but a lot of players take it personally. I want to be the best at my position. I want to prove that I can run the football just as well they can.

“I take it as a personal challenge.”

It goes without saying, but doing it against the conference’s second-best rush defense would make it that much sweeter.

“Saban is known for his defense, so if you can go out there and perform against that defense then you are doing some things right,” Ridley said. “This will probably be the biggest game of my career.”

The Alabama game also holds weight with Ridley for another reason. When Charles Scott went down with a broken collarbone against the Tide last November, Ridley stepped in for the first significant action of his career – and he’s stayed on the field ever since.

Back against Alabama a season later, the junior running back can feel the intensity of the week building in the Baton Rouge air.

From the attitude of the players to the way coach Miles runs practice, everything is stepped up a notch.

“Coach is fired up,” Ridley said. “These are the ones you circle on the schedule in the summer. You know your big games. It’s like holidays. You kind of get jitters. That’s how it is with Alabama. We circled this way prior than a week or two before.”

Both teams enter the game at 7-1 and 4-1 in SEC play, which means the winner will stand alone in possession of second place in the Western Division. Auburn, who still has an Iron Bowl date with Alabama, sits at 9-0 overall and 6-0 in conference play.

“Nobody wants to fall to two losses,” Ridley said. “It is always a close game, so you have to do the right things. A lot of people buy into the thought that they are unbeatable. Alabama is a strong football team, but so is LSU. We have one loss and we still haven’t played our best football.”

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