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Page 6 Sunday, January 17, 2010

and counting

Kevin Sullivan/Orange County Register/File

The Anniston Star

The Anniston Star

The postseason

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Page 7

Game XIV • Jan. 7, 2010

Alabama 37, Texas 21

Gary Cosby Jr./Decatur Daily/File

Alabama running back Mark Ingram goes over the top for a first down during the first half of the BCS National Championship in Pasadena, Calif.

Alabama caps magical season with championship


PASADENA, Calif. erhaps it was fitting for Alabama coach Nick Saban to pose with Mickey Mouse when the Crimson Tide visited Disneyland a week ago. A magical land for a magical team. In three short years, Saban took the Crimson Tide through the “process” to the Promised Land. Saban preached patience and said it would be a process, but it didn’t actually take that long. Saban’s No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide beat the one team it had played more than once and never beaten, knocking off second-ranked Texas 37-21 on Thursday night in the BCS National Championship game at the Rose Bowl. Consider Saban the right coach at exactly the right time. When he hired Saban in January 2006, Alabama athletics director Mal Moore said he wanted the right man for the job, a coach with a proven record that could win — and preferably had

“To reach this level this quickly … it’s quite remarkable.” — Alabama athletics director Mal Moore on coach Nick Saban’s tenure won — championships. Simply put, Moore wanted a winner. He wanted Saban, and he patiently waited to land the successful coach who led LSU to a national title following the 2003 season. “It’s difficult to express how proud I am of this team and these coaches, particularly coach Saban and what he’s put into this program,” Moore said. “To reach this level this quickly … it’s quite remarkable. It’s so fitting and we’re honored to play in the Rose Bowl because of the history of it.” Will there now be a statue of Saban out among those in front of Bryant-

Denny Stadium? Will it be almost immediately? “Yeah, hell yeah,” Moore said. Place Saban among the greats such as Wade Wallace and legendary Paul “Bear” Bryant. But make sure to make this space extra special, as he did something they didn’t do. Saban becomes the first coach in decades to win a national championship at two different schools. Magical definitely describes a season that needed a last-second blocked field goal from Terrence Cody to preserve a win against Tennessee. The Tide put together a comeback against

arch-rival Auburn, then unseated reigning defending national champion Florida for the SEC championship. It took some mix-and-match magic on the part of defensive coordinator Kirby Smart to cover up the loss of AllAmerican-caliber linebacker Dont’a Hightower. Yet, the defense didn’t seem to miss a beat with players stepping up such as Eryk Anders, who delivered a bonecrushing tackle that forced a fumble late to enable the Tide to pull away. Then there was Mark Ingram capturing Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy yet avoiding the so-called “Heisman Jinx.” Ingram rushed for 116 yards and two touchdowns, becoming one of a few winners to lead their team to a championship. There’s always an element of luck blended in with experience, savvy and talent when a team wins a national championship. The Tide came up with the magical elixir. — Christa Turner

Page 8 Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Anniston Star

T he real   McCoys Scenes from the 2010 BCS title game

TOP: Alabama makes its way through the tunnel on its way to the field for pre-game warm-ups. ABOVE: Alabama’s Trent Richardson breaks free for a 49-yard touchdown in the second quarter. LEFT: The Crimson Tide offensive line gives QB Greg McElroy time to find an open receiver. Photos by Gary Cosby Jr./Decatur Daily/File

The Anniston Star

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Page 9



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The Anniston Star

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The Anniston Star

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Page 11

Emotions run the gamut for Ingram, Tide fans It’s OK to cry now. Mark Ingram It’s long overdue, and Ingram was took Tim Tebow’s party foul and the most deserving candidate. turned it into tears for Alabama cheers. The three voting regions that had All it took was putting the title no one among the five Heisman final“Heisman Trophy winner” and the ists thought so, voting Ingram No. 1, University of Alabama in the Gerhart No. 2 and Texas quarsame sentence for the first terback Colt McCoy No. 3 or time in the Crimson Tide tied for second. football program’s storied South Region voters, includhistory. ing yours truly, voted for the Ingram did it in the clossame three in the same order. est vote in Heisman history, The reasons to vote Ingram No. edging Stanford running back 1 should start with a significant Tony Gerhart 1,304 points to record. 1,276 — a 28-point difference. He set the single-season Joe The voting ended Monday, Alabama record for rushing Medley and the news became official yards in a season. He stands with Saturday’s announceat 1,542 headed into the No. 1 ment in New York. Tide’s showdown with No. 2 Texas in Then the partying began anew in the BCS Championship game on Jan. the Crimson nation. 7. Think about it. Ingram is the singleA week after waking up in the dayseason rushing champion for Alabama. after glow of knowing that Alabama There are few programs where such had clinched a shot at its first national a record should carry much weight, title since 1992, Alabama fans awake but there is no tougher conference in the day-after glow of Ingram’s than the SEC in which to do it. Heisman. And it’s not as though Ingram No more Heisman stiff-arm to piled up numbers against the weakAlabama, because the sophomore run- est teams on Alabama’s schedule. He ning back, who carried the ball better had a combined 29 carries in routs of than any other Tide back in any one Florida International, North Texas and season, will carry the trophy back to Chattanooga. Tuscaloosa. He had relative days off in the

guarantee games, but he had days to remember against Virginia Tech, Ole Miss, South Carolina, LSU and Florida in the SEC Championship game. Throw in 99 yards against Tennessee, and he had 99 yards or better against the best defenses he faced. Credit rival Auburn for bringing the house and nearly derailing Ingram’s Heisman hopes, but credit Ingram for being head of the house when it mattered most. He had most of his biggest games during a midseason stretch that saw Alabama’s passing game tank. He almost single-handedly carried the Tide to victories against Ole Miss and South Carolina. Against Florida, he tasked one of the nation’s best defenses for 189 total yards and three touchdowns. Ingram ran so hard against the school that gave us Gatorade that he ran himself into dehydration. His cramps were so bad that he couldn’t stand on the stage as teammates celebrated. Trainers leaned him back and poured fluids down him, and he received IV fluids after leaving the Georgia Dome turf. Perhaps with that in mind, enough Heisman voters gulped the fact that Ingram carried a great team through its roughest patch.

He carried the Tide through the toughest defenses it faced to an SEC title and the chance for a national title. He carried the Heisman hopes of a glorious program that had 12 national championships, but no Heisman Trophies before Saturday. He carried thoughts of his imprisoned father, whom he readily acknowledged during his emotional victory speech. He carried the proclamation of Mark Ingram Day in his economically strapped hometown of Flint, Mich. Ingram carried it all over the goal line, even if he had to stretch the ball over it. So it was OK for Ingram to pause and take deep breaths during his victory speech Saturday night. It was OK for him to lose his fight to hold back tears in front of an ESPN viewing audience. Mark Ingram brought to one of the nation’s marquee college football programs the one crowning accomplishment it lacked, so it’s OK to cry. Then it’s OK to smile, because Alabama fans could have two more years to watch their own Heisman winner show his Heisman form in crimson and white. Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 235-3576 or

Page 12 Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Anniston Star

The Big 95, WHMA congratulates the Crimson Tide on winning the National Championship and thanks everyone who enjoyed listening to the season on The Big 95.

The Anniston Star

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Page 13




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The Anniston Star

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Page 14

than Sugar

Trent Penny/The Anniston Star/File

The Anniston Star

The postseason

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Page 15

Game XIII • Dec. 5, 2009

Alabama 32, Florida 13

Trent Penny/The Anniston Star/File

From left, Rolando McClain, Mark Ingram, B.J. Scott and Eryk Anders celebrate the Crimson Tide’s victory over Florida in the SEC title game.

Tide dismantles Gators to earn shot at BCS title


ATLANTA he stage was emptying as the roving party moved to its next destination when Mark Ingram pulled a uturn. A snow angel was in order. Just moments after completing Alabama’s 32-13 pounding of topranked Florida in the SEC Championship game, Ingram wasn’t letting the confetti shower go to waste. So he jumped back on the stage where the championship hardware was doled out and he got down to business. The party around him never stopped. A year after collapsing in the same Georgia Dome against the same Florida program with the same carrot dangling before them, the No. 2 Crimson Tide (13-0) exorcised its ghosts in convincing style. The word domination was thrown around the Alabama locker room as freely as roses were handed out. As the final seconds ticked off the clock and just before he took a final knee near an end zone packed with

“It was kind of surreal in a certain extent.” — Greg McElroy, Alabama quarterback

Alabama fans, quarterback Greg McElroy flashed two fingers on each hand to signify the 22nd conference title. “It was kind of surreal in a certain extent,” McElroy said. “We really kind of went out there, and we knew it was going to be like a boxing match. It was going to be 15 rounds. We knew it was going to go down to the very end.” Its quest is not complete, but Saturday’s events in Atlanta put Alabama a lot closer to that elusive 13th national title. With the win, Alabama punches its ticket for the BCS national title game and its first shot at the ultimate reward since 1992. Saturday night, though, the party was all about the Tide’s first SEC crown since 1999.

And the snow angels were just the beginning of the craziness that ensued after Florida quarterback Tim Tebow’s tearful walk to the locker room. The never-ending flow of confetti also turned 354-pound nose guard Terrence Cody into a child playing in his first snowstorm. “It was getting all stuck in my mouth,” he said. “I probably swallowed a couple.” For 60 minutes Saturday afternoon, his defense didn’t exactly devour Tebow’s offense, but it certainly held it in check. The Gators racked up 335 total yards, but just 13 points, and they had no second-half answer to Alabama’s suddenly unstoppable offense. McElroy turned in the performance

of a lifetime, silencing the vocal critics of his playing style and earning the most valuable player award after he helped the Tide roll up 490 total yards. He completed 12 of 18 passes for 239 yards and engineered two second-half scoring drives that turned a six-point game at halftime into an early celebration. The fourth-quarter meltdown from last season’s 31-20 SEC Championship loss never came. Instead, it was Alabama that wore down the Gators this time, and it was an epic Tide drive that effectively sucked the life from Florida. “We saw it,” Alabama receiver Julio Jones said. “They started cramping up and everything, and our guys were in shape.” The Tide game plan was simple: Keep Tebow in the pocket and force him to throw instead of run. He finished 20-for-35 for 247 yards, with an interception and a touchdown. Fellow Heisman contender Mark Ingram finished with 113 yards on 28 carries for the Tide. — Michael Casagrande

File photos from The Anniston Star, Associated Press

The Anniston Star

Page 18 Sunday, January 17, 2010

9 . 5 0 1 3 . 8 9 CONGRATULATES The #1 Team in the History of College Football on their

13th National Championship

The Anniston Star

The preseason

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Page 19

Big things ahead?

Butch Dill/Associated Press/File

Adding a surprising 2008 season to his resume, Alabama coach Nick Saban was again a big hit at Southeastern Conference Media Days in July.

Saban confident about Crimson Tide’s chances


HOOVER lanked by security guards in suits, Nick Saban took his annual stroll through the gauntlet late Thursday morning. The SEC Media Days, yet again, belonged to the Crimson Tide coach charged with bringing a national title back to Alabama. An army of fans assembled in the lobby of the Wynfrey Hotel seeking an autograph amid the scrum. “Well, you know, my daddy always says, you only have a problem if no one’s asking for your autograph,” Saban said. “So when there’s not a stir downstairs, I got problems.” The third-year Tide coach’s final encounter with his adoring masses came after more than two hours spent with every branch of the media during which he kept the message consistent. Saban expressed confidence with his team’s potential to handle issues ranging from the offensive line to finding a quality wide receiver to complement Julio Jones to the inexperience at quarterback.

Then there was the matter of getting the Crimson Tide back within the 85-scholarship limit set by the NCAA. Summer transfers of players like Prince Hall, Brandon Fanney and Chris Jackson have the program close to the threshold, although Saban did not say how many scholarships were currently in use. If every player who signed with Alabama enrolls this fall, the program would be well beyond the limit. That is never the case, but attrition will still be necessary to meet the guidelines. Commonly, Saban said, when players have issues and end up leaving Tuscaloosa, the problems are not football performance-related, but personal in nature. “None of these players are leaving because the kind of football players they are, from our standpoint,” Saban said. “There may be some player who leaves because they’re disappointed and don’t think or don’t have the confidence that they can play.” Please see preseason ❙ Page 20

“ You’ve got to either be willing to battle it out and make your mark or go somewhere else. That’s the message that he’s trying to convey, and, if you’re not willing to do it, then take off.” — Alabama lineman Mike Johnson on coach Nick Saban

The Anniston Star

Page 20 Sunday, January 17, 2010

preseason Continued from Page 19 Having back-to-back recruiting classes ranked in the top three nationally will also lead to attrition, Tide offensive lineman Mike Johnson said during his turn to speak with reporters. “You’ve got to either be willing to battle it out and make your mark or go somewhere else,” Johnson said. “That’s the message that he’s trying to convey, and, if you’re not willing to do it, then take off.” When it came to finding new blood on the offensive line to replace NFL draftees Andre Smith and Antoine Caldwell, Saban offered a short list of prospects. Junior college transfer James Carpenter “showed he could at least be a functional offensive lineman in this league.” William Vlachos was noted as “a good center” in the spring, but Johnson will no doubt be the leader of the front line. “Every question you ask me about quarterback is gonna come right back to (the line),” Saban said. “Quarterback is a difficult position to play if you

don’t have good people around you, and that starts with the offensive line.” Having three new starting offensive lineman will not cause Saban to play the more mobile Star Jackson over dropback passer Greg McElroy, who exited spring practice as the top quarterback. “We want to play the best players at every position,” Saban said. “Star Jackson has outstanding athletic ability, but he needs to be able to go out there and execute and play winning football in our offense.” Jackson, a former blue-chip recruit, completed just 4 of 13 pass attempts in April’s A-Day game and was intercepted twice as McElroy all but assured himself of the starting job when the Tide plays Virginia Tech in Atlanta to open the season. The Georgia Dome is the same place the 2008 season began with modest expectations. Of course, Alabama blew out highly ranked Clemson to begin its perfect run through the regular season. That has the Tide in position to be a trendy pick to win the SEC West this fall.

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Page 22 Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Anniston Star

The regular season Game I • Sept. 5, 2009

Alabama 34, Virginia Tech 24

Trent Penny/The Anniston Star/File

Alabama linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive tackle Lorenzo Washington (97) take down Virginia Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

Tide shows flashes of greatness through its issues


ATLANTA labama left the Georgia Dome victorious Saturday, but it wasn’t the kind of victory the Crimson Tide had in the same building this time

a year ago. The fifth-ranked Crimson Tide spent two quarters seemingly turning preseason question marks into regularseason concerns against No. 7 Virginia Tech. Then Alabama spent a quarter beating itself. The Tide finally wore down a stout Virginia Tech defense that didn’t get much help from its offense and survived the Chick-fil-A College Kickoff, 34-24. But it wasn’t like Alabama’s oldschool whipping of heavily favored Clemson a year ago. That was the statement game that launched a breakthrough 12-win season. Alabama played a statement quarter Saturday, enough to show signs that a

statement game could come soon. But the Tide had lots of issues in getting to its fourth-quarter takeover of Tech, enough to hold off checking on flights to Pasadena. “This was one of those games where you just had to keep responding,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “There were a lot of mistakes.” The Alabama team that whipped Clemson in the Georgia Dome a year ago didn’t do things to beat itself. The Alabama team that showed up here Saturday did plenty to beat itself. No one wants to be linebacker Rolando McClain when Saban comes calling about the personal foul and conduct calls that helped Tech score its first offensive touchdown. Running back Roy Upchurch gave the Tide fresh legs and a huge offensive spark off the bench, but he got stripped for a drive-killing fumble in the third quarter. In ways good and bad, he showed that he hadn’t carried the ball in

a game in a while. Leigh Tiffin made four field goals. Then again, Leigh Tiffin had to make four field goals, and he missed with a chance to put Alabama ahead just before halftime. Wide receiver Julio Jones attracted double coverage all night, opening things up for others. He also dropped a third-down pass with Alabama driving in the fourth quarter. Alabama gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown. When Tech’s defense was fresh, the Tide hardly showed the dominant offensive line and any-time running game that marked last year’s undefeated run through the regular season. Alabama spent the first half of Saturday’s game struggling to protect new quarterback Greg McElroy, and running between the tackles was an adventure until well into the second half. An offensive line with three new starters was one of Alabama’s top ques-

tion marks coming into this season. Ultimately, Saturday’s game came down to Alabama’s strength, its defense, against Tech’s weak offense. Then Alabama’s offense made good, mounting a 15-minute edge in possession time against tired Tech. The Tide will play against better quarterbacks than Tech’s Tyrod Taylor this season. To win the SEC West Division, Alabama must overcome Ole Miss’s Jevan Snead. To win the SEC, Alabama must beat Tim Tebow. Even last year’s Tide team couldn’t overcome Tebow. But Alabama circa 2008 came out of its season opener in the Georgia Dome ahead of Alabama circa 2009 in one important way. “This was the first step toward establishing an identity with this team,” Saban said. Alabama had an identity when it left the Georgia Dome this time a year ago. — Joe Medley

The Anniston Star

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Page 23

The regular season Game II • Sept. 12, 2009

game III • Sept. 19, 2009

Alabama 40, Florida Int. 14

Alabama 53, North Texas 7

Brennan Smith/Decatur Daily/File

Jeronimo Nisa/Decatur Daily/File

Alabama true freshman Trent Richardson bowls over FIU’s Jeremiah Weatherspoon. Richardson picked up a slow offense with 119 yards.

Alabama’s Terry Grant leaves a North Texas defender in his wake on a big run. He finished with 79 yards and two touchdowns.

Highly touted frosh shines against lowly FIU

No. 4 Tide does its job, dominates lesser foe

TUSCALOOSA ackslaps and helmet pats filled the final few minutes of Trent Richardson’s Saturday night. His welcome-to-college moment arrived. Suddenly the best option with Mark Ingram recovering from the flu and Roy Upchurch spraining an ankle, the freshman soaked in his final minutes on the Bryant-Denny Stadium turf following a 40-14 beating of Florida International. Considered one of the biggest scores of the prized 2009 recruiting class, Richardson rolled up 97 of his 119 rushing yards in the second half of yet another slow start for the Alabama offense. Quarterback Greg McElroy, who broke a school record by completing 14 straight completions, wasn’t surprised by the freshman’s big night that included two second-half touchdown runs. “Often times with a freshman going out there, (he is) a little wide-eyed, a little bit anxious, a little bit excited, but not him,” said McElroy, who finished 18 of 24 and 241 yards passing. FIU, however, proved it was not here to play patsy in the first half. The Sun Belt Conference school even had a 14-13 lead in the second quarter. This, however, would not be a repeat of Alabama’s stunning 21-14 loss to Louisiana-Monroe in 2007. By the end of the night, Panther quarterback Paul McCall had minus-29 rushing yards, and Florida International had just one as a team. Offensively, the fourth-ranked Tide (2-0) stormed back from the one-point deficit on the ensuing drive. In five plays, Alabama retook the lead at 20-14 on a 2-yard Ingram touchdown run, which was aided by a crushing block by nose guard-turned-full back Terrence Cody. Alabama took that meager six-point lead into halftime. Richardson’s two touchdowns followed at the end of the third and beginning of the fourth quarter to salt away the win. — Michael Casagrande

TUSCALOOSA he fourth-ranked Crimson Tide scored on seven of its first eight possessions as it pounded outmanned North Texas 53-7. Having such a complete victory reassured Alabama coach Nick Saban. “I feel like until (Saturday), I wondered: Was this team really going to fulfill its full potential?” he said. “Are they going to be responsible for their potential? I just wasn’t pleased with the lack of consistency we played with in the first two games. “We played really well at times, and at other times, we didn’t, but I feel like we were much more solid (Saturday) and we made some improvement. I know we have much bigger challenges coming up. The competition is going to get better.” Early supremacy allowed the Tide (3-0) to test its bench. The substitutions began as early as the second quarter, with Alabama already leading 27-0. Another efficient day for quarterback Greg McElroy, matched with the pack of Tide running backs, took away any hope of a monster upset for North Texas. McElroy completed his first seven passes and finished 13-for-15 to tie the school record with an 86.7 completion percentage. Just as in Week 2’s win over Florida International, McElroy, a first-year starter, spread the ball around. He did it with star receiver Julio Jones on the sideline with a bruised knee. Jones dressed and warmed up, but his services weren’t necessary. With help from backup Star Jackson, 11 players in crimson jerseys caught passes, led by Marquis Maze’s four receptions for 49 yards and a touchdown. Mark Ingram returned to full speed after dealing with the flu a week ago and ran eight times for 91 yards. He also caught three passes for 38 yards. Alabama’s defense hasn’t been tested often. It continued to devastate opposing offensive lines. The Mean Green (1-2) mustered 63 rushing yards. At halftime, it had 12 yards. Only a third-quarter touchdown ruined the shutout. — Michael Casagrande



Page 24 Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Anniston Star

The regular season

Game IV • Sept. 26, 2009

Game V • Oct. 3, 2009

Alabama 35, Arkansas 7

Alabama 38, Kentucky 20

Gary Cosby Jr./Decatur Daily/File

Ed Reinke/Associated Press/File

Javier Arenas drops Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett for a sack as Alabama played Arkansas in Tuscaloosa Saturday.

Alabama coach Nick Saban gives an official an earful during his team’s closer-than-expected 38-20 victory over Kentucky.

Alabama ‘D’ hammers Razorbacks QB Mallett

Late surge keeps ’Cats from pulling off upset

TUSCALOOSA yan Mallett probably has a ringing in his head today. The Arkansas quarterback’s mental jukebox is set on AC/DC, and he can’t get the megahit “Hell’s Bells” out of his mind. It’s the song they play in Bryant-Denny Stadium, every time an opponent faces third down against Alabama’s defense. Arkansas faced 14 third downs in a 357 loss to Alabama on Saturday. The Razorbacks converted two. “To hold those guys to seven points, I think, is really good,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. It’s no revelation that Alabama’s defense is good. It was last year, and a lot of those guys are back. But it was easy to just pencil in Alabama’s defense and focus on early season question marks on offense. The offense has given good answers through four games. New quarterback Greg McElroy has played well enough to make one wonder if he was Alabama’s best quarterback last year … all due respect to school recordholder John Parker Wilson. An offensive line with three new starters has protected McElroy well since the opener against Virginia Tech. With that in mind, Saturday’s game figured to fit another AC/DC song with a Touch Too Much offense. Alabama’s offense rocked Arkansas’ pitiful defense. Mallett and Arkansas’ offense at least had its moments against Alabama’s secondary. As for coaching, Arkansas’ Bobby Petrino is no Frank Beamer. Petrino doesn’t make his bones eking out defensive and special-teams touchdowns. Petrino does offense and does it well. One won’t often see a Petrino offense struggle so, especially with a quality quarterback. But Alabama’s defense Shook’em All Day Long. The Tide left’em Thunderstruck and proved that talk that they might be better than last year Ain’t Noise Pollution. — Joe Medley

LEXINGTON, Ky. labama had just escaped the shadow of its own goal line when quarterback Greg McElroy looked to Colin Peek. Sputtering through 22 minutes of the early Kentucky afternoon, the leader of Alabama’s offense told his favorite tight end he’d find the end zone on the third-down play deep in Wildcats territory. Peek only gained 21 yards on that following reception, but its effect was staggering. It awoke the docile Crimson Tide offense that, along with an opportunistic defense, blew open a tight game for a 38-20 win at Kentucky. A 3-yard McElroy to Peek touchdown connection capped the 13-play, 97-yard drive, which was rescued by the tight end’s earlier catch. It was the first of three touchdowns in a two-minute span that took much of the tension out of what was an electric Commonwealth Stadium when No. 3 Alabama led just 7-6. “Well, I think that was a turning point in the game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “… Hitting the tight end down the middle was a big play on third down and got us started and gave Greg some confidence. He threw the ball effectively on that drive and that’s what we needed to do the whole game.” The 17 Alabama points following Peek’s touchdown all came off Kentucky’s four turnovers — three of which were interceptions thrown by UK quarterback Mike Hartline. The first Tide opponent who focused on the run did so effectively most of the day. By the end of the first quarter, Kentucky had out-gained the Tide 81-26 while running 26 plays to Alabama’s nine. Only Javier Arenas’ 60-yard return of the opening kickoff and the Mark Ingram touchdown run that followed kept Kentucky from completely dominating the early going. However, as Kentucky (2-2, 0-2 SEC) couldn’t find the end zone when it was moving the ball early, Alabama never lost control. And when it latched on with that 17-point outburst, Alabama (5-0, 2-0) never let go. — Michael Casagrande



The Anniston Star

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Page 25

The regular season Game VI • Oct. 10, 2009

Game VII • Oct. 17, 2009

Alabama 22, Ole Miss 3

Alabama 20, South Carolina 6

Trent Penny/The Anniston Star/File

Trent Penny/The Anniston Star/File

Alabama’s Mark Ingram is upended behind the block of tight end Preston Dial against Ole Miss.

Alabama’s Mark Ingram runs for a few of his season-high 246 yards. Ingram’s performance salvaged an ugly win for the Crimson Tide.

Hype of matchup falls flat in Alabama victory


OXFORD, Miss. ell, so much for the hyped AlabamaOle Miss game. So much for Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead leaving a mark on Alabama’s defense. So much for Alabama needing

much offense at all. And while we’re at it, can we just say so much for the rest of the regular season? Let’s just skip to the SEC Championship, because Alabama is running out of challenges. And the more these showdown games become lowdowns, the more it looks as though the Crimson Tide won’t face a true four-quarter push until Atlanta. Final score: Alabama 22, Ole Miss 3. And Alabama was closer to scoring more than 22 than Ole Miss ever was to scoring more than 3. Alabama’s defense was good as usual, and it’s time to declare Snead and once-No. 4 Ole Miss as confirmed disappointments. Sorry, CBS. Sorry that the national audience saw exactly one Ole Miss first down in the first half. Sorry that an offense led by a supposed preseason Heisman sleeper ran more plays than it had yards in the first half. Sorry that Snead and the Rebels mounted three or fewer plays on eight possessions and had two more four-play possessions. Credit Alabama for hitting Snead time and again, but he didn’t need help looking human. He’s done it all season. Snead looked unsure, uncomfortable and unworthy of the hype that followed his 2008 emergence, and he had nothing but gifts for Alabama’s defense. His four interceptions gave the Tide seven in two weeks, and one senses that the rest of the regular season cast will follow a similar script. Which quarterback will give the Tide an actual test? Stephen Garcia? Jonathan Crompton? Jordan Jefferson or Chris Todd? Snead couldn’t do it. Ryan Mallett either. As of this second Sunday in October, Mallett looks to be the best quarterback on Alabama’s schedule. And he’s in the rear-view mirror. — Joe Medley

Ingram’s monster game salvages ugly Tide win


TUSCALOOSA enalties, interceptions and continued redzone failure. All that set the table for a potential South Carolina upset of second-ranked Alabama in a chilly Bryant-Denny Stadium Saturday night. The difference — as it had been most of the season — was Mark Ingram and the devastating Crimson Tide defense. Alabama’s bruising back piled up 246 yards on 24 runs as he carried the Tide to an ugly 20-6 win against No. 22 South Carolina. It was the second-best rushing performance nationally this season and one of the best coach Nick Saban said he’s ever seen. “I tell you, if we had a whole team of guys who played like that, the sky would be the limit in terms of the heart and character that he plays with,” Saban said. Mark Barron’s 77-yard interception return in the games’ opening minutes turned out to be the game’s only touchdown for a long stretch as each offense struggled to finish drives. For Alabama, that is becoming a theme. A week after settling for five red-zone field goals, the Tide (7-0, 4-0 SEC) stalled out on its first two trips against South Carolina (5-2, 2-2). Quarterback Greg McElroy was charged with four turnovers — two interceptions and two fumbles — but Ingram bailed him out for a second straight week. Still, Alabama avoided the upset bug that has bitten nearly every top team this season. Mainly, because the Tide defense played the biggest when it mattered the most. Its nine quarterback hurries and five sacks kept Gamecock quarterback Stephen Garcia from finding any real rhythm as he completed 20 of 46 passes for 214 yards. Pretty or not, Saban was happy to get away with a victory and a 7-0 record. “I really think it’s a sign of a good team,” he said. “I’m really proud of my players for being able to go out there and earn this and play their way through it. You can say it’s winning ugly or whatever, but it’s still winning.” — Michael Casagrande

Page 26 Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Anniston Star

The regular season

Game VIII • Oct. 24, 2009

Game IX • Nov. 7, 2009

Alabama 12, Tennessee 10

Alabama 24, LSU 15

Trent Penny/The Anniston Star/File

Dave Martin/Associated Press/File

Alabama’s Terrence Cody celebrates after a 12-10 win over Tennessee. Cody’s blocked field goal helped the Tide avoid being upset.

LSU’s Charles Scott is stuffed by Alabama’s Javier Arenas (28) and Kareem Jackson. Scott was injured on the play.

Cody’s block saves Tide and its hopes for titles

Alabama offense makes comeback to down LSU

TUSCALOOSA iping the tears from his eyes, Terrence Cody took his time strolling back to the locker room Saturday evening. With the remaining Bryant-Denny Stadium crowd chanting his name and his left index finger pointing skyward, the burly 354-pound lineman couldn’t fight back the tears on the slow walk off the field following his legacy-sealing effort. Just minutes earlier, his second field goal block saved the top-ranked Crimson Tide from complete collapse in a 12-10 win against visiting Tennessee. Vols kicker Daniel Lincoln’s 44-yard attempt on the final play never got past Cody’s giant left paw — setting off a wild celebration that saw an overjoyed and helmetless Cody running and jumping into teammates’ arms. “The ball snapped, I got a good jump off the line, pushed the guy back and just stuck my arm up,” Cody said. The block capped a bizarre final 3:29 that saw Mark Ingram lose the first fumble in his Tide career, the first touchdown surrendered by the Alabama defense in 11 quarters and an onside kick recovered by Tennessee to set up the crazy final sequence. Almost lost in the madness of the final play was Leigh Tiffin’s performance. Alabama’s senior kicker nailed four field goals — including a 40- and 50-yarder — to account for all 12 Tide points as the offense struggled finishing drives again. His effort, however, would have been a footnote had his kicking counterpart connected on that final attempt. And had Lincoln’s kick sailed through the uprights, the loss would have completed one of the worst collapses in recent Alabama history. “That’s how fragile a season can be,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “Make one mistake and you have to go overcome it, and I hope that there’s a lot of lessons for our team to learn from this, and I think our focus needs to be on improving.” — Michael Casagrande

TUSCALOOSA ow that’s what dominant football looks like. It looks like Alabama, the third-ranked team in the BCS standings, outgaining No. 9 LSU by 200 yards. It looks like Mark Ingram gashing one of the SEC’s top defenses for 144 yards. Dominant football looks like Julio Jones, rumored to be a pretty good playmaker but absent of late, sidestepping an LSU defender and outrunning one of the SEC’s fastest defenses for the decisive score. Dominant Alabama, a la the Crimson Tide of September, returned Saturday after taking October off. It returned in Alabama’s 24-15 victory over LSU, a victory that belied the score and clinched the Tide’s second consecutive SEC West Division title. Alabama and Florida will play in an SEC Championship rematch on Dec. 5 in Atlanta. Assuming that both teams win out the regular-season string — and they’ll be heavy favorites to do so — they’ll play a national-semifinal rematch. Here comes the Tide again, but it’s not the same team that lost to Florida in Atlanta last year. “This team has a totally different challenge than last year’s team,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I’m proud of the way they’ve managed it and handled it. “They have to be good because they want to be good, and last year’s team … wanted to prove that they could be good.” All of this comes just when it looked like Alabama, circa 2009, had forgotten how good it can be. Sure, Alabama caught breaks against LSU. But the Tigers took a 15-10 lead without them, and the biggest question coming into this game was how a wheezing Alabama offense would play against one of the SEC’s top defenses. Question answered, and the answer was as emphatic as a Nick Saban headphones spike. Alabama had far more points within reach than the 24 it scored. What does it all mean in the big picture? Alabama looks primed for a strong stretch run after a month of stretching its luck. — Joe Medley



The Anniston Star

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Page 27

The regular season Game X • Nov. 14, 2009

Game XI • Nov. 21, 2009

Alabama 31, Mississippi State 3

Alabama 45, Chattanooga 0

Trent Penny/The Anniston Star/File

Stephen Gross/The Anniston Star/File

Alabama defenders Robby Green (23), Courtney Upshaw (41) and Javier Arenas swarm Mississippi State quarterback Tyson Lee.

Chattanooga’s Buster Skrine has no chance to catch Alabama’s Javier Arenas on this punt return Arenas took for a touchdown.

West title in bag, Tide doesn’t let up vs. State

Easy win takes backseat to pre-Iron Bowl hype

STARKVILLE, Miss. owbells silenced and letdown avoided, Alabama enjoyed a little piece and quiet late Saturday night. The maroon portion of the record-setting crowd of 58,103 in Davis Wade Stadium was already stuck in traffic by the time Alabama salted away its 31-3 win over Mississippi State on Saturday night in a game that featured little intrigue for a change. A business-like Tide avoided any thought of a letdown a week after clinching the SEC West title by controlling the action from the second quarter on as it turned a dangerous environment into a relatively docile setting. Before the game, however, Alabama coach Nick Saban could tell the environment would be hostile. “I told our players, it’s going to be a street fight out there,” Saban said. “We’re going to have to go toe-to-toe with them for a while. We’re going to have to change the way we think at times and the way we play and the way we execute.” Just like in last week’s win over LSU, Alabama (10-0, 7-0 SEC) balanced out its offense while riding its intimidating defense that intercepted three Bulldog passes. The 252 Alabama rushing yards were balanced by 192 passing yards from Greg McElroy, who completed 14 of 19 attempts and threw two touchdown passes. But most eyes were locked on the running backs. Entering the game, most of the hype surrounded the matchup of the top two bruising backs in Alabama’s Mark Ingram and Mississippi State’s Anthony Dixon. After a fast start by the big Bulldog, Ingram flexed some muscle and flashed his speed by running for 149 yards to Dixon’s 81. Mississippi State (4-6, 2-4 SEC) leaned on its star as Dixon also contributed six catches for 59 yards and played a few snaps at Wildcat quarterback. In all, Dixon accounted for 140 of the Bulldogs’ 213 yards. “Defensively, we had a lot of respect for their ability to run the ball,” Saban said. “A couple of runs got out. Anthony Dixon is a really good running back. Rolando McClain did a great job.” — Michael Casagrande

TUSCALOOSA he coast is clear, Iron Bowl talk. You can come out now. The subject — unofficially off limits for the week leading up to Saturday’s predictably boring 45-0 win over Chattanooga — is no longer taboo. And Alabama players were more than happy to talk about the nation’s most celebrated intra-state rivalry. There seemed to be a burden lifted from the team after everyone made it through Saturday’s glorified scrimmage without injury. And for the first time, players didn’t fear talking freely about Auburn, even if they didn’t serve up quotes fit for Auburn bulletin boards. Mark Ingram had every opportunity to fire back at Tiger Ben Tate, the self-proclaimed top running back in the state. “Everybody is entitled to their opinions,” said the SEC’s leading rusher after a 102-yard, 11-carry performance. “He’s a great back and I respect his game and I appreciate the way he runs the ball, but I’m not going to talk about anything. I’m just going to let the way I play talk for me.” Nick Saban did his first talking about the Iron Bowl after the Chattanooga win. And despite everything he’s said publically about not looking ahead, Saban admitted the Alabama coaches took a little peak during the bye week at the end of October. Turns out, he looked at all of the future opponents and the issues they present while game planning for the LSU game. It’s the multiple formations and shifting personnel that can be confusing, so Saban and his coaches got a head start preparing for the Auburn version of the Gus Malzahn offense. There wasn’t much trash talk to be found in the Alabama interview room. Sorry to disappoint the talk show callers, but those in crimson actually threw several compliments in Auburn’s direction. It could just be gamesmanship or a fear of extra running after practice that kept the Tide so humble. Either way, the rivalry week us upon us. Players can once again address the inevitable even if they stop short of bashing the other. — Michael Casagrande



Page 28 Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Anniston Star

The regular season Game XII • Nov. 27, 2009

Alabama 26, Auburn 21

Gary Cosby Jr./Decatur Daily/File

Baron Huber leaps onto the field celebrating the Crimson Tide’s 26-21 victory over Auburn in the 2009 Iron Bowl in Auburn.

Tide turns back arch rival with last-second score


AUBURN here was no past, no future, just living in the moment for the Crimson Tide. That moment saw Roy Upchurch a few steps beyond Auburn defender Neiko Thorpe, hauling in a 4-yard, go-ahead touchdown pass. That moment saw first-year Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy — previously untested in the clutch — show his poise while connecting on his final six passes of the game-winning drive. That moment saw Alabama coach Nick Saban giving his faithful fans a No. 1 sign and thumbs-up as he ran off the field, victorious for the first time at Jordan-Hare Stadium. The No. 2 Tide withstood its toughest test to date, holding off an Auburn team living off emotion and guts for a 26-21, come-from-behind Iron Bowl win on Friday. “Great competitors can play in that moment and great teams can play in that moment,” Saban said. “I am not saying we have a great team. I am just saying our team was able to do that (Fri-

“Only the strong survive, but the strong can still get their ass whipped.” — Alabama coach Nick Saban

day).” The Tide (12-0) had its date with Florida in the SEC championship game stamped weeks ago, yet with Alabama eyeing a shot at a national championship, there was plenty at stake against bitter rival Auburn. For three-plus quarters, the underdog Tigers (7-5) played with more heart, more emotion, more passion — and the result showed on the scoreboard. Auburn’s defense shut down the Tide rushing attack, limiting Heisman Trophy candidate Mark Ingram to 30 yards on 16 carries, and the Tide to 73 yards, well below its average of 219. “It might have been the best game we played all season,” Auburn linebacker Craig Stevens said. “We were just flying around, and we had one goal in mind. That was to stop the run.”

The Tigers — who were demoralized 36-0 by Alabama a year ago to end a six-game Auburn winning streak against its rival — weren’t expected to be overly competitive with the powerful Tide, much less lead them until the final minutes. The Tigers did it with a quick start, scoring two touchdowns in the first quarter and tacking on another early in the third quarter. Saban acknowledged his team survived a scare, although he praised them for overcoming adversity. “Only the strong survive, but the strong can still get their ass whipped,” Saban said. “I probably shouldn’t use that language, but we did survive by character and resiliency.” Alabama put behind that 14-0 Auburn start. The Tide forgot about a

21-14 deficit early in third quarter. “You never look at the scoreboard, just focus on the play right now,” Ingram said. With that in mind, McElroy led the Tide on a massive 15-play, 79-yard scoring drive, using the talents of sophomore wide receiver Julio Jones and freshman running back Trent Richardson. McElroy converted three third downs, including the touchdown play to Upchurch. McElroy said there wasn’t a doubt in the Alabama huddle on that last drive. “I’m always looking at everyone, and there was no sense of worry, no sense of panic,” he said. “Everyone knew we were going to (score). It was just a sense of ‘It’s time.’” Upchurch’s Daniel Moore moment gave the Tide its first lead, surprising a team that had lived off keeping the Tide off-balance for three quarters. “It was just a really big gut check for us at the end, and we really just came through,” Alabama lineman Mike Johnson said. In the end, the Tide simply created a moment. — Christa Turner

The Anniston Star

Sunday, January 17, 2010 Page 29



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Page 30 Sunday, January 17, 2010

Looking ahead

The Anniston Star

Reward...the title it’s just one more part of T he Process Those who will erect the Nick Saban ing more with his new deal? statue likely need no more suggestions, but It’s time to talk more than statues for here goes. Saban. It’s time to talk more money. Pose the Alabama coach with a mildly Sure, Saban got an extension this past irritated expression, wiping away Gatosummer, upping his pay to $4.7 million per rade. That Saban scene in the waning year. The contract also came with an escaseconds of Alabama’s BCS National lator clause that is designed to keep him Championship victory among the nation’s highest-paid against Texas eight days coaches. ago says it all. There’s no indication that he feels It’s just the way underappreciated or that other suitthat Saban matter-ofors have or will come calling. factly wiped away With Bryant-Denny Stadium the outpouring of expanding to 101,000 seats and no jubilation from apparent letup in recruiting, Saban his players and will find no better chance to keep kept coaching winning than he has at Alabama. Joe the final seconds Nick Saban is as stable as Nick Medley of a game AlaSaban gets, but that’s not the point. bama led by It’s not about leverage at this stage. 16 points, as though It’s not even about what some other coach the emotion of the makes. moment was clutter. It’s about doing right for the only coach to And we all know win a national title at two schools in the BCS how Saban feels about era. clutter. It’s about doing right for the only coach Such a statue sugbesides Bear Bryant to win an SEC title at two gestion might appear schools. to be a wisecrack about It’s about the Crimson Tide nation askold Mr. Focus, but it’s ing how much was a national championship appropriate for the coach worth after so much pain — self-inflicted and who has wiped away so otherwise — then giving Saban a bigger cut much clutter for the Alabama of the action. program and its fans. If Saban wants to do right and donate the No need to build a memodifference while the state of Alabama hurts rial for everything that happened financially, then so much the better. between national titles. Saban wiped But the fact is that Tide football reportedly all of that away. made nearly enough money — $38.2 million He wiped away the embarrassment of — in the 12 months ending June 30 of 2009 multiple run-ins with NCAA enforcement. to cover not only the $4 million per year of He wiped away the pain of coaching misSaban’s original contract, but also the extenfires and bad hires in the years between himsion he signed. The program showed almost self and Gene Stallings. a 40 percent gain from the year before Saban Saban wiped away the pain of one of was hired in 2007, according to the AssociAlabama’s most difficult football decades, ated Press, which reported data from the U.S. winning a national title in just three years on Department of Education. the job. Saban just completed his third year on the And speaking of clutter, Saban wiped job and has yet to make half of the $32 milaway talk about the once-shocking deal lion called for in his original deal. Alabama gave him to leave the NFL’s Miami In today’s business climate, failing execuDolphins. tives get unholy bonuses. Why not reward a Does anybody doubt he’s worth $4 million rapid rewards man such as Saban? per year now? One doubts that Alabama fans will mind, Does anyone see injustice in Mack Brown, considering how much clutter Saban has the coach Saban beat for the BCS title, makwiped away for them.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press/File

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2009 National Champions  

Special section celebrating the University of Alabama's National Championship season.

2009 National Champions  

Special section celebrating the University of Alabama's National Championship season.