Alabama jumps out early, cruises by Chattanooga

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 2 Alabama was still celebrating Mark Ingram's second long touchdown run when coach Nick Saban told his star tailback to take the rest of the day off.

Ingram ran for 102 yards and TDs of 25 and 40 yards in the first 20 minutes, then happily yielded the stage while the Crimson Tide breezed to a 45-0 win over Chattanooga on Saturday.

"Just get in, get a good day's work, execute and have some success. Then let the other people get the playing time they deserve," Ingram said.

Yes, the Tide (11-0) did make it seem just that easy.

Alabama raced to a 35-0 halftime lead and showed no signs of a letdown ahead of games with rival Auburn and No. 1 Florida. That enabled the starters to take a break in the second half against the Mocs (6-5), although Ingram and the Tide still managed a few highlight-reel plays.

Javier Arenas set the SEC career record with his seventh punt return for a touchdown, sprinting 66 yards down the right sideline in the second quarter. He also had an interception.

Julio Jones caught a 44-yard pass and scored on a 19-yarder from Greg McElroy.

The stats were perhaps even more lopsided than the final score. The Tide had a 422-84 advantage in total yards, gained 313 on the ground and had five players with at least 60 yards rushing. They also had 26 first downs while holding Chattanooga to five.

It only seemed like a pressure-free game. Saban warned his team of the repercussions of a huge upset, even beyond their national title hopes.

"I told the players if we had lost this game today, there would be nothing else that would tarnish what you've accomplished more than that. You would someday be an NFL player in a Mercedes-Benz and roll your window down to talk to a pretty girl and she'd say, 'You lost to Chattanooga when you played at Alabama,'" Saban said. "Nobody would ever forget that one."

Instead, it'll be forgotten quickly with the Iron Bowl awaiting six days later.

This was the sixth time the Tide's defense had held an opponent to seven points or less this season, but the first shutout since last year's 36-0 win over Auburn.

"We played a good football team and I don't know if there was much we could have done to be better than this," said first-year Mocs coach Russ Huesman, who led a turnaround after a 1-11 season.

Ingram managed his sixth 100-yard effort of the last seven games despite carrying only 11 times. The Heisman Trophy candidate broke three tackles and had two defenders draped across his back at the end of the 25-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.

Then, Ingram zigzagged 40 yards for another score 5 minutes into the second quarter on his final carry. Then he headed to the sidelines and Saban told him he "was pretty much done."

"I'm sure we could have left him in today and he could have had a huge day," Saban said. "He gained 100 yards. That's a good day's work when you come out with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter."

McElroy was 6-of-11 passing for 80 yards, including that 19-yard touchdown pass to Jones, before giving way to backup Star Jackson in the second half. Jones caught three passes for 65 yards, all in the first half.

After that, Alabama attempted only five passes, content to control the ball against the Southern Conference team and let the clock wind toward bigger games. It was the finale at Bryant-Denny Stadium for 27 Alabama seniors.

"Just about every senior on our team got to play in the game," Saban said. "It was good that the players came out and played Alabama football so those guys got a chance to play."

Arenas wasn't the only Bama special teamer in record territory. Leigh Tiffin kicked a 41-yard field goal, tying the school records for kicks made in a season (25) and career (78).

Arenas sat out the second half and only got halfway to his ideal final home performance of scoring "a couple of touchdowns" that he stated early in the week.

"I'll settle for one," Arenas said.

He is 37 yards shy of the Lee Nalley of Vanderbilt's SEC career punt return record of 1,695 yards, and 103 yards from the NCAA mark set by Texas Tech's Wes Welker.

Trent Richardson and Roy Upchurch also rushed for touchdowns.

Chattanooga twice drove into Alabama territory in the first half, both times failing to convert on fourth-and-long. The first ended with four straight incompletions from the 38, and the second on an interception from the 22.

"I didn't feel like bragging about kicking a field goal and having three points on the board," Huesman said. "You kick field goals to put yourself in position to win games. You don't kick field goals just because you're at Alabama trying to put three points on the board."


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