It’s hard to imagine but in the long and storied history of Alabama football that includes such notables as quarterbacks Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and Richard Todd, along with running back Bobby Humphrey, no Crimson Tide player ever won the Heisman Trophy in the 75 years it’s been presented.
That all changed last Saturday night in New York City when sophomore running back Mark Ingram became the first. “This is a great moment but we still have a national championship to play for,” Ingram said.
Stay tuned because Ingram will be prominently displayed on Jan. 7 during the Bowl Championship Series title game at The Rose Bowl when top-ranked Alabama plays undefeated Texas. If unblemished Alabama wins, it will be the school’s first national title since 1992 and eighth overall.
In the closest race ever, Ingram narrowly edged Stanford running back Toby Gerhart by 28 points, while Texas quarterback Colt McCoy placed third. Nebraska defensive end Ndamukong Suh was fourth, and Florida quarterback Tim Tebow finished fifth.
In 13 regular season games, Ingram rushed for an Alabama single-season record 1,542 yards, along with 15 touchdowns. His 113-yard, three-touchdown effort and Alabama’s 32-13 win over then No. 1 Florida in the Southeastern Conference title game, probably swayed the Heisman voters in his direction but Ingram, who has never fumbled in nearly 400 carries, had the credentials leading up to that clash with the defending champion Gators.
Eight times Ingram topped the 100-yard plateau with a career-best 246 yards on 24 carries during a 20-6 victory over visiting South Carolina.
Last season, Ingram showed more than enough promise under Head Coach Nick Saban, rushing for 728 yards and averaging 5.1 yards a carry. Ingram has a nose for the end zone, tallying 12 rushing touchdowns and bettered that average by a full yard this season, with 15 rushing scores and three through the air.
On the stocky side at 5-foot-10 and 212 pounds, the Flint, Michigan native, has the earmarks for greatness. Displaying intense power, Ingram can run over defenders or show off his speed and scoot around the end.
Ingram opened the season by rushing for 150 yards in the Tide’s 10-point win over Virginia Tech and then added 56 yards on 10 carries during a 40-14 rout of Florida International.
Facing North Texas, Ingram ripped off 91 yards on a season-low eight rushes but wasn’t really needed during the 53-7 rout. At home in a 35-7 win against Arkansas, Ingram, who carried the ball 249 times, managed 50 yards, and then went off for 140 yards at Kentucky in an 18-point victory with two rushing touchdowns. He now had six scores on the ground over five games.
What followed was a 172-yard effort and a 19-point triumph over host Mississippi, and a 246-yard romp against the Gamecocks. For only the fourth game, Ingram was held under 100 yards—99 by Tennessee—as the Tide earned a hard-fought 12-10 decision at home.
A nine-point victory over Louisiana State saw Ingram run for 144 yards and then added a 149-yard explosion at Mississippi State during the Tide’s 31-3 win. Ingram carried the ball 11 times for 102 yards during Alabama’s 45-0 whitewash of Chattanooga before being limited to a season-low 30 yards in 16 carries in a five-point victory over state rival Auburn.
Rick Assad has been a sportswriter for more than two decades. He has a political science degree from UCLA, a journalism degree from CSUN, is a staff writer for diamondboxing.com and is a contributor to trufanboxing.com. You may e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.