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September 7, 2009Although the University of Alabama's rushing performance was only the fourth best in the Southeastern Conference this past weekend, sophomore running back Mark Ingram was named the SEC offensive player of the week Monday.
Ingram had 26 carries for a career-high 150 rushing yards, and scored two touchdowns to help lead No. 5 Alabama's 34-24 victory against No. 7 Virginia Tech at the Georgia Dome.
He also had three catches for 35 yards to finish the game with a career-high 185 all-purpose yards, 99 of which came in the fourth quarter (81 rushing).
"It makes me happy, but I'm not too focused on that. I'm focused on trying to get prepared for this week's game."
Senior guard Mike Johnson was an honorable mention for offensive lineman of the week after not allowing a sack or pressure.
The coaching staff also handed out its weekly honors, with Ingram and junior quarterback Greg McElroy sharing the offensive award. Junior linebacker Rolando McClain was the defensive player of the week after recording two sacks, while senior punter P.J. Fitzgerald and senior long-snapper Brian Selman shared the special teams' award.
Television cameras may not have picked up on it, but McClain apologized to everyone involved for his two major penalties, personal foul and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, when the Alabama defense was in the red zone - which could have resulted in his ejection.
"Ro's been a very positive guy," Coach Nick Saban said. "I'm proud of his development as anyone we have on the team. He's certainly a team leader, he's a great competitor. I think sometimes guys who are that competitive, that emotional about what they're trying to do need to know when they're getting overboard. He obviously lost his cool in the game, that's not good. I would classify that as self-indulgent behavior. If I did it, he did it, anyone on our team did it, where what you did and how you responded could cost your team, and it could have cost the team even more.
"He learned from it, he apologized to the people for it at halftime, and he apologized to the team. He's the first guy who came up to me after the game and said, 'I messed up.' I'm sure he feels worse about it than anybody."
Alabama emerged from the game without any major injuries, and Ingram (bruised knee) was expected to practice Monday afternoon.
"One of the players fell on it, but I'm good," he said.
Junior quarterback Greg McElroy, who had his left wrist taped up and was sporting a large scrape on his left calf, was a little surprised how beat up he got in Saturday's game.
"It's a true testament to his toughness," McElroy said about teammate Brandon Deaderick. "The fact that he was able to be on the sideline with us, or play for us, or even showing up in practice the next day after what happened was remarkable. I know that when things weren't going real well for me at the time, you have to think back and say, 'Ok, I'm getting hit, I'm getting bruised and rattled a little bit, but look at that guy, he got shot.
"It really puts things into perspective, that this is a game, and it's supposed to be fun."
Saban said that backup quarterback Star Jackson was one of the latest players to come down with the flu.
If the name Mario Cristobal, the head coach at Florida International, looks a little familiar, he was the starting left tackle for the Miami Hurricanes in the 1993 Sugar Bowl, when they lost to Alabama 34-13 for the national championship. "It was a rough game, obviously," Cristobal recalled during a conference call Monday morning. "We had a chance to win two national titles in a row as a college football player, and it didn't work out. They showed up strong defensively like they had all year along, and they made it real tough on our offense. Offensively, they were able to run the ball very, very effectively against our defense, which was real, real good all year long. So that's one day you truly don't want to remember, but Alabama did a great job."
Coach Nick Saban was obviously unhappy when someone brought up the word "letdown," which will be a common theme this week after Alabama responded to its 34-10 victory against Clemson last year with a lackluster 20-6 win against Tulane. "It really isn't about who we're playing," he said. "If you have the right kind of attitude on your team, it's about who you are and how you want to play I don't think Kobe Bryant cares who he's playing against, I don't think LeBron James cares who's guarding him. He's trying to be the best player he can be, and that's what we want our players to be."
Saban gave a general answer when asked about how the starting safeties, Justin Woodall and Mark Barron, played Saturday: "We're not satisfied with the way we played. We made too many errors on defense. They scored too many points."
Ingram had no comment when asked about having to wait until Wednesday for the National Collegiate Athletic Association to clear him and wide receiver Julio Jones after making restitution for essentially receiving an illegal gift. "I wasn't really sure about the situation, I didn't follow it closely," McElroy said. "Believe it or not, I didn't know there was really any doubt they would play." Sophomore linebacker Jerrell Harris is still awaiting word on his status.