Ingram’s knee, and game, hold up well in return
No. 1 Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram barely even
felt like he played a football game when he woke up the morning
after the Crimson Tide beat Duke, much less like a guy who was
returning from knee surgery.
”I didn’t even get hit much in my runs thanks to the offensive
line,” he said.
Well, that explains that.
The Crimson Tide tailback flashed his moves, his quickness and
even his temper in his return Saturday at Duke. All in all, it was
a nice way to return after missing the first two games of the
season. Maximum yards, minimum hits.
It was also timely considering Alabama’s next three tests: at
No. 10 Arkansas on Saturday, followed by No. 8 Florida and a trip
to No. 12 South Carolina.
Ingram raced to 151 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries in
the 62-13 romp over the Blue Devils. It was an impressive – though
possibly too late – debut in his bid for a second Heisman. He said
he was only a bit sore on Sunday morning, and that was mostly from
”It was great just to be able to get back out there with the
team,” said Ingram, who had surgery on Aug. 31 after a practice
injury. ”It was hurting just not being able to be out there with
them contributing the first two weeks. I really just wanted to get
back out there and make an impact and show the team I’m still
capable of making some plays.”
Ingram said it was a contact injury in practice but didn’t
elaborate. He said it ”was a little discouraging” and
particularly tough missing a high-profile game against Penn
It made his return a little sweeter.
”You just cherish every (repetition). Every rep of practice,
every rep of the game, you cherish it,” Ingram said. ”I’ve never
really had to sit out because of an injury before, especially after
having surgery. It was my first surgery. You definitely learn to
cherish it a lot more.”
Coach Nick Saban said Ingram came within two or three snaps of
the number the coaches wanted him to play. Saban said they would
continue to increase his practice workload daily.
”I thought he did a really good job and hopefully we’ll just
keep taking another step to continuing to increase and improve his
role with our team,” Saban said.
His role is as the most famous member of one of the nation’s
best backfield tandems. Alabama managed to coast through its first
two games without Ingram and suspended defensive end Marcell
Dareus, both of whom returned against Duke.
The Tide still leads the Southeastern Conference in scoring
offense and total yards, while ranking second in rushing and
In Ingram’s absence, Trent Richardson averaged 6.9 yards a carry
and ran for four touchdowns. He snared some of the publicity that
normally would have gone to the Heisman winner, including a feature
on ESPN’s College GameDay and the cover of Sports Illustrated.
”I wasn’t surprised by it at all, but I was very proud of the
way he handled everything, the way he took over the games and made
so many big plays to help our teams win games,” Ingram said.
”He’s been ready for it, but it was just his turn.
”All the TV time he was getting, the Sports Illustrated cover,
he deserves all that.”
Richardson even had a 91-yard kick return for a touchdown
against Duke. The presence of Ingram and Richardson together will
certainly come in handy as the competition escalates in coming
It’s the duo, after all, that helped power Alabama past Texas in
the national championship game last season.
”It was great having 22 (Ingram) and 3 (Richardson) back there
again,” Tide guard Barrett Jones said. ”It’s a great feeling to
block for that combination of running backs. It’s great to know
that if one of them gets tired and the other one goes in, there’s
not going to be much of a dropoff – or any dropoff.”
Arkansas managed to contain Ingram last season, holding him to
50 yards. But Richardson had a 52-yard touchdown run and
quarterback Greg McElroy threw for a season-high 291 yards passing
and three touchdowns in the 35-7 win.
”We’ve got to try and slow him down and do a good job on first
down,” Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. ”We have to tackle
well. I thought we defended him well a year ago. We were in gap
control. We had our guys doing what we were supposed to do. We
missed one tackle and gave them a huge run for a touchdown, but I
thought we played them well defensively last year.”
Ingram didn’t show much rust after his layoff.
He displayed his burst on his first carry on the opening snap of
the game, sprinting 48 yards. He flashed his moves by making two
quick cutbacks to juke a Duke safety on a 17-yard touchdown
”The line just really got me to the second level, and I was
one-on-one with the safety and had to make him miss in order to get
in the end zone,” Ingram said.
Ingram also lost his cool on a 1-yard touchdown plunge and was
called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
”I just dove on the pile, and they were just pulling on,
twisting my legs a little bit,” he said. ”It was just the heat of
the moment, the heat of the game. Emotions got the best of me. It
was just the heat of the game. That’s part of the game that we all