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Alabama Flashback Friday: The Night Mark Ingram Secured the Heisman

Ingram becomes a household name; Spurrier challenges a back-up DB and loses.

South Carolina v Alabama
Mark Ingram will not be denied.
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

In the long and storied history of Crimson Tide football, the program had produced several National Championships, All-Americans, and All-Pros. But never once had an Alabama player been given the Heisman Trophy as the most outstanding college football player. That was about to change.


It was Homecoming in Tuscaloosa when South Carolina came to town on a cool October night in 2009. Alabama was undefeated and had slowly climbed their way up to the #2 ranking. The Gamecocks, having recently defeated No. 4 Ole Miss, was 5-1 and ranked 22nd.

For you young’ns (or old’ns with fuzzy memories), this was not the South Carolina of today. This was SC back when Steve Spurrier actually still cared more about football more than what his golf handicap was. His defense consisted of safeties Darian Stewart (2017 Pro Bowl) and Chris Culliver, corners Stephon Gilmore (2017 Pro Bowl) and D. J. Swearinger, defensive linemen Devin Taylor, Melvin Ingram (2017 franchise player), Clifton Geathers, and Cliff Matthews - all of whom spent significant time in the NFL, most still active.

The game was televised in prime time on ESPN with Brad Nessler at the helm, aided by Todd Blackledge.


Before Mark Ingram could introduce himself to the world, the Crimson Tide defense did what Crimson Tide defenses do when sophomore safety Mark Barron picked off Stephen Garcia’s first attempt of the game and serpentined his way 77 yards down the field for the first score of the game [Side Note: from the time Barron caught the ball until the time he crossed into the end zone took 14 seconds.]

From that point it was a battle of inept quarterbacks, field goals, and smack-you-in-the-mouth defense. The halftime score was 13-6 with Barron’s pick-six representing the only touchdown of the game. The third quarter expired without either team scoring. At the eight minute mark of the fourth quarter, the Tide had gone punt, punt, fumble punt since halftime. Alabama needed someone to step up. This was the moment at which the stocky sophomore from Flint, Michigan calmly donned his Superman cape.

Mark Ingram literally took over the offense and the game running the ball on six straight plays, the first five out of the Wildcat formation. It went something like this:

  • 1st and 10 at ALA 32 (7:46 - 4th) Mark Ingram rush for 24 yards to the SC 44 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and 10 at SC 44 (7:10 - 4th) Mark Ingram rush for 4 yards to the SC 40.
  • 2nd and 6 at SC 40 (6:43 - 4th) Timeout ALABAMA.
  • 2nd and 6 at SC 40 (6:27 - 4th) Mark Ingram rush for 5 yards to the SC 35.
  • 3rd and 1 at SC 35 (5:57 - 4th) Mark Ingram rush for 9 yards to the SC 26 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and 10 at SC 26 (5:21 - 4th) Mark Ingram rush for 22 yards to the SC 4 for a 1ST down.
  • 1st and Goal at SC 4 (4:54 - 4th) Mark Ingram rush for 4 yards for a TOUCHDOWN.
  • (4:54 - 4th) Leigh Tiffin extra point GOOD.

Fittingly, Ingram scored the game’s only offensive touchdown on his final carry of the game, a 20-6 win. His totals were 24 carries for 246 yards, which equates to 10.25 YPC. He added 23 yards on two receptions.

Ingram’s performance propelled him to the top of the Heisman race. He would eventually take home the trophy on a memorable emotional night. [This is how I witnessed Ingram’s award ceremony.] The Tide would win-out on their way to National Championship number thirteen with a monumental win over Colt McCoy and Texas.


South Carolina v Alabama
"Dagnabbit. I thought it woulda worked that time."
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Ingram wasn’t the only Bama player to bolster his status in this game. Marquis Johnson will forever be in Steve Spurrier’s debt as the Head Ball Coach transformed the Tide cornerback from Javier Arenas’ backup into a 7th round pick by the Rams in the 2010 NFL Draft.

Down 10-0 in the second quarter on the Alabama five yard line, Spurrier elected to pick on Johnson calling for three straight fade passes to Alshon Jeffery. The Alabama corner was up to the task and successfully defended all three plays. SC settled for a field goal.

Johnson had several other defenses of Jeffery throughout the game. With 30 seconds to go in the game, Steve-O went back to that fade-pass well one last time and Johnson swatted the ball away with authority. A little more mad than genius on this night for Spurrier.


South Carolina v Alabama
Greg McElroy had a rough night.
Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images

Despite Ingram’s heroics, Bama QB Greg McElroy had a dreadful showing. Of his 10 completions in 20 attempts, only two were caught by a wide receiver, Marquis Maze, for a total of 19 yards. Julio Jones was shut out. The other catches were two apiece to running backs Ingram, Trent Richardson, Roy Upchurch and tight end Colin Peek. The majority of McElroy's 92 passing yards were yards after the catch. He also had two picks, a fumble, and a muffed exchange on a shotgun snap that resulted in a fourth Tide turnover.

Alabama also had 10 penalties for 113 yards compared to 5-60 for South Carolina. The time of possession favored the Gamecocks by 3:26. Bama converted only 3 of 10 third downs on the night. This could have easily been a loss for the Tide if not for the late game heroics of Mark Ingram.





Where were you when Mark Ingram won the Heisman Trophy?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Watching at Coleman Coliseum on the Jumbotron/lobby TVs during halftime of the basketball game against Purdue.
    (12 votes)
  • 84%
    At home watching on TV.
    (306 votes)
  • 2%
    I don’t remember (BANNED!).
    (10 votes)
  • 9%
    Other (see comments).
    (35 votes)
363 votes total Vote Now