ATLANTA — Alabama tight end Preston Dial was the first one up and over the wall in the southeast corner of the Georgia Dome.
The Crimson Tide had the Southeastern Conference championship trophy after a 32-13 victory over Florida and Dial was headed into the sea of crimson hanging around for the party.
Running back Roy Upchurch followed.
Up and over the eight-foot wall.
Wide receiver Marquis Maze was next.
Then the job got tougher for the fans pulling the players into the crowd.
Junior offensive lineman David Ross, who at 299 pounds is four Quarter Pounders shy of 300, was yanked into the party as Sweet Home Alabama played on the Public Address system.
“That’s a first,” Alabama State Trooper Clarence Terry said as he stood behind the players watching the scene.
All told, 13 Alabama players went into the crowd to celebrate with family and friends.
Rogers touts victory
Chris Rogers is rarely at a loss for words and the Alabama defensive back had plenty of them after Saturday’s SEC championship win.
The senior made one tackle, but was full of energy in the postgame locker room.
“We knew we had it locked up when they said we were playing Florida,” he said. “We already knew it was locked up. As soon as we stepped on the field, it was locked up. It’s Bama. We’re back. The old Bear Bryant days, it’s back. We’re back.
“Bear Bryant is Nick Saban now.”
He went on to say this team could be compared with the very best that played in Tuscaloosa, but it won’t be satisfied unless it takes home with the BCS national championship.
Saturday’s win was extra satisfying, Rogers said, after hearing the talk after last season’s 31-20 loss to Florida in the same league title game.
“Last year, they said he had a fluke team and a fluke season,” he said. “We worked too hard at Bama. People don’t understand how we work. Coach doesn’t have to be with us to make us work. We want to work. … We want to go to Cali and exceed all expectations. That’s our goal. That’s our mission statement. That’s what we’re about.”
And the difference in the game Saturday?
“We can’t be denied,” he said. “We won’t be stopped. We exceed all expectations.”
McClain vs. Spikes
In a matchup between two of the more dominant middle linebackers in recent memory, Alabama’s Rolando McClain came out on top while Brandon Spikes came up with more tackles.
McClain made five stops although his contribution extended beyond finishing plays. He had three of the 14 quarterback hurries and broke up one Tim Tebow pass.
After wrapping up Alabama’s 13th straight win, McClain was asked about playing in the BCS title game.
“I can’t worry about that right now,” he said. “We are going to enjoy this win, and when the time comes, we’ll get ready for it.”
McClain is Alabama’s top tackler with 101 stops and is a finalist for Butkus Award and the Lott Trophy.
Penalties factor in
Playing with discipline is big when Saban is your coach. And Saturday, Alabama played with control.
Officially, Alabama committed just one penalty — an illegal formation infraction occurring on the game’s second drive.
But a defensive holding call on the next play gave new life to the drive that ended with a seven-yard Ingram touchdown run.
Overall, Florida was flagged five times for 51 yards but nearly all were costly.
No record for Arenas
Alabama punt returner Javier Arenas entered Saturday’s game 37 yards from the NCAA career record for return yards. Afterward, he’s still 29 away.
Florida punted away from the senior who has seven career punt return touchdowns.
Of the four Gator punts, Arenas ran just one.
Moving away from the unwritten rule of not fielding kicks inside the 10-yard line, Arenas took off with a Chas Henry boot he caught at the 4 in the third quarter. Arenas knifed his way eight yards to the 12 before going down.
The Alabama drive that followed covered the remaining 88 yards in 17 plays and put the Tide ahead by 19.
Later in the game, Arenas intercepted a Tebow pass in the end zone before taking a knee.