ORLANDO, Fla. -- All month, the impact of All-American safety Mark Barron’s season-ending injury was a topic of discussion.
His absence and walk-on Will Lowery’s insertion into the starting lineup were seen as a the weak point Michigan State would exploit.
Lowery heard the talk.
The exposure, though, never happened.
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“One of their receivers called me out in the paper, I think,” Lowery said after his inaugural start netted three tackles. “So I was expecting it in the beginning.”
Alabama’s ability to pressure and sack quarterback Kirk Cousins helped the thin secondary against an experienced group of receivers and tight ends.
“We confused the quarterback with the blitzes we brought at him when they were looking my way a few times,” Lowery said.
In all, the sophomore deemed it a success.
“I think I did all right,” he said. “I definitely could have done some things better, but, for the most part, I didn’t make any big errors that cost us.”
An on-again, off-again starter, Alabama sophomore linebacker Nico Johnson made the most of the first defensive play from scrimmage Saturday.
Spartans running back Edwin Baker’s sweep to the right ended 5 yards behind the line of scrimmage and in Johnson’s arms to set the tone for the defensive domination.
“Some of the players said I did,” said Johnson who had four tackles, including one for a loss. “But I was just trying to make a play.”
He nearly came up with a gift-wrapped touchdown in the second quarter before the replay booth took it off the scoreboard. Scooping what appeared to be a fumble, Johnson ran 30 yards for what would have been a 20-0 lead.
After further review, the call was reversed and the pass was ruled incomplete before Brian Linthicum fumbled it.
Johnson said he had a feeling that it was coming back when the referee reached for the headset.
“It’s football,” he said. “Things happen. I had to go with it.”
Freshman defensive back Jarrick Williams was called into service against Michigan State to help deal with Barron’s absence.
When he was to blame for three consecutive third-down conversions on the Spartans’ opening drive, Saban said he used a little self-control.
“We were trying not to make SportsCenter,” Saban said referencing the spanking he gave backup quarterback AJ McCarron against Mississippi State that landed him on ESPN. “ Rather than use my technique that I used on AJ, I did not want to make SportsCenter again, so we were patient and played Kirby. He settled down and played better. But it was a great experience for him, and it will be good for his development.”
Ingram of old
Exhibiting flashes of the bursts he used to win the Heisman Trophy in 2009, no play Saturday showed the Mark Ingram of old more than a 30-yard reception in the second quarter.
Taking a screen pass from Greg McElroy coming out of the backfield, Ingram used a variety of jukes, dips and straight-ahead power in the big gainer.
“They just didn’t really cover me,” he said. “And Greg just threw me the ball, and I tried to make something happen.”
Ingram scored on the next play for the second of his two touchdowns, contributing to his 89 all-purpose yard total.
Alabama rattled off a number of school records in the blowout win.
The six rushing touchdowns tallied by four different players broke the previous record of four set in last season’s BCS title game. The 546 total yards was second only to the 1953 team’s 586 it hung on Syracuse in the Orange Bowl.
Individually, Ingram captured one of the jewels in the Alabama record book. His two touchdowns vaulted him past Shaun Alexander for the career rushing touchdown list with 42.
McElroy moved past John Parker Wilson to grab the single-season passing yardage record. His 2010 total was 2,914 to Wilson’s 2,846 set in 2007.
Spartan quarterback Kirk Cousins took his share of hits Saturday afternoon.
The blow delivered by Alex Watkins in the third quarter was his last.
“I just had a throbbing headache on the field and my lower back started to flare up, so I just felt my body was wearing down as the game went on,” Cousins said. “That was sort of the final nail in the coffin.”
He didn’t return after that and finished with negative-56 rushing yards -- 30 of which came when a fumble was batted deep into the Michigan State backfield.