TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Mark Ingram was struggling and his good friend wasn’t there to back him up.
The injury to Trent Richardson’s left knee kept the sophomore running back from spelling the Heisman Trophy winner.
And just when it couldn’t get much worse for Ingram, he broke one and gave the Crimson Tide a healthy halftime lead.
His 82-yard touchdown on a simple screen pass that required breaking just one tackle gave Alabama the 17-point cushion heading into the locker room. The scoring play was also the longest of Ingram’s career bettering a 75-yard touchdown catch recorded in last season’s SEC Championship Game win over Florida.
The five previous touches were as bad of a stretch as Ingram’s had in his nearly three years in Tuscaloosa. He had five consecutive negative plays — four rushes and one reception that lost a combined 12 yards before finding daylight on the touchdown catch thanks to a little help from a Julio Jones block.
Still, quarterback Greg McElroy was Alabama’s leading rusher at halftime with 17 yards on two carries while Ingram netted 11 yards on 11 carries.
For Richardson, it was a quiet night. Saban called him a “game-time decision” on his Thursday radio show adding the sophomore would be “limited at best.”
Richardson saw only a few snaps at LSU after scoring on a 1-yard touchdown pass from McElroy when the unspecified injury occurred. He warmed up with the team but didn’t see the field as Eddie Lacy relieved Ingram for one passing play in the first half.
Lacy got his first carry of the game late in the third quarter running for five yards followed by a 15-yarder after two Ingram runs netted 20 yards.
Lacy ran three times for 27 yards on consecutive carries late in the third quarter followed by two Ingram runs that went for 20 yards.
Another Lester INT
Entering the day tied for the SEC interceptions lead, Alabama safety Robert Lester added another in the first quarter.
After Mississippi State ran on each of its first seven plays, quarterback Chris Relf put too much air under a pass and Lester caught it falling down at the Alabama 6.
That gave him six interceptions this season in his first as a starter. He was tied with Vanderbilt’s Casey Howard entering Saturday’s action for the lead in the conference.
As a team, Alabama ranked fifth nationally before Saturday’s contest with 15 total interceptions.
Almost, not quite
Walking back to the Alabama sideline, Marquis Maze’s exaggerated claps displayed his frustration.
He’d just run 81yards through the middle of the punt coverage for what appeared to be a huge touchdown, but the yellow hanky back in Alabama territory gave him cause to be miffed.
Alex Watkins was flagged for the illegal block that negated what would have been Maze’s first punt-return touchdown.
Ingram’s 82-yard touchdown reception on the next play softened the blow as Alabama took the 20-3 lead after all.
Alfred McCullough started for the fourth straight game at right tackle in place of D.J. Fluker who went down with a groin injury at South Carolina on Oct. 9.
Saban said earlier in the week that Fluker was back to practicing at full strength.
Cornerback DeQuan Menzie (Carver High) returned to action for the first time since playing Ole Miss on Oct. 16. The junior college transfer who had an injured groin tackled quarterback Chris Relf for a 1-yard loss on the game’s fourth play.
Alabama was last in the league in sacking opposing quarterbacks but improved its numbers against Mississippi State.
By the midpoint of the third quarter, the Tide had five sacks of Relf including two in three plays on the Bulldogs first possession of the second half.
The Tide was almost equally bad at protecting its own quarterback but that too improved against the Bulldogs.
McElroy had not been sacked through the midpoint of the third quarter and even entered halftime as Alabama’s leading rusher with carries of 2 and 15 yards.
McElroy was sacked three times at LSU last week and the Tide ranked 11th in the SEC in sacks allowed with 25
Playing its first game since Mississippi State defensive lineman Nick Bell passed away, a moment of silence was observed before the game Saturday night.
The Bessemer native passed away Nov. 2 at UAB hospital after a brief battle with cancer. Bell started three games and as late as Sept. 25 before falling ill.
Going along with the patriotic themed special Nike uniforms, veterans of the armed services were honored in numerous ways Saturday night.
As players warmed up less than an hour before kickoff, soldiers stationed in Afghanistan wearing Alabama gear appeared live on Bryant-Denny Stadium jumbotrons. The webcam feed ended with a “roll Tide,” and cheers from the early-arriving crowd. Several similar messages played throughout the game on the four big televisions in each of the stadium corners.
American flags were later presented to 13 veterans who served in World War II before returning to Tuscaloosa to play football for the Tide again.
Among them was Florence resident Bill Cadenhead who was one of two honorary captains.