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November 21, 2009

Tide celebrates fitting 45-0 win

TUSCALOOSA _ Here's all anyone needs to know about the University of Alabama's game against Chattanooga on Saturday, walk-on special-teams player Carson Tinker was listed on the participation chart.

So was Kyle Pennington, Alex Benson, Jacob Vane, A.J. Walker, Thomas Darrah and Robert Ezell. Hampton Gray made a tackle, Jeremy Shelley attempted both a field goal and an extra point and even Travis Sikes threw some pretty good blocks.

Seemingly just about everything went right for the No. 2 Crimson Tide, which saluted and then sent off the senior class with a sparkling 45-0 showing in the regular-season finale at Bryant-Denny Stadium -- and enjoyed the extra bonus of using reserves for nearly all of the second half.

"I think that just about every senior on our team got to play in the game," Coach Nick Saban said. "I think ... I hope ... we tried."

Alabama accumulated 313 rushing yards while Chattanooga's leading rusher had just 18. The Tide gave up 84 total yards on 48 plays (1.75 average), nabbed three interceptions without having a turnover and posted its first shutout since last year's 36-0 victory against Auburn.

Many of the Tide's heavy-hitters had big plays too including Heisman Trophy candidate Mark Ingram tallying 102 rushing yards on 11 carries and two touchdowns, and sophomore wide receiver Julio Jones making a showcase 44-yard reception and later scoring on a 19-yard strike.

Jones' long catch over the middle, came in single coverage and probably wouldn't have happened had the receiver effectively blocked out the defender with his body.

"Didn't come out real well out of my hand but he made a play for me," said junior quarterback Greg McElroy, who completed 6 of 11 passes for 80 yards before giving way to reserve Star Jackson. "I'll hit him on the run next time for a touchdown."

Ingram subsequently took advantage with one of his patented tackle-breaking runs and dragged two defenders with him across the goal-line.

"I think Mark (Ingram) is strong and I don't think he should be underestimated for his balance and body control, the power and strength that he has as a runner, and he's got explosive speed to go with it," Saban said. "He also can change directions so you don't get those straight-up hits on him. But, he's done that consistently all year long.

"I'm sure we could have left him in there today and he could have had a huge day, but he gained 100 yards, that's a good day's work when you come out with 10 minutes to go in the second quarter, or whenever it was. Hopefully, that recovery will help him a little bit for what we need to get done in the future."

But if one word was especially appropriate after Alabama fans honored 27 seniors in a pregame ceremony, it was "Fitting."

Senior cornerback Javier Arenas made a terrific interception and also scored his first touchdown off a punt-return this season, going 66 yards.

"It was very special, more of it's-about-time feeling," said Arenas, who established a Southeastern Conference record for career punt-return touchdowns with seven. "You think about it for a second and keep moving on. That's for when you're sitting in a rocking chair, you're old, you get cocky and tell everyone you had that record."

Senior linebacker Cory Reamer, another player who wasn't nearly had his career derailed on the Capstone, got his first career interception on his final play here.

"Good way to end it," Reamer said. "That's a memory I'll never forget."

Senior running back Roy Upchurch completed the scoring with a 21-yard touchdown on his final carry at Bryant-Denny.

Overall, the Tide had four running backs with at least 60 rushing yards, which was more than Chattanooga (6-5) had as a team (48).

"It was good to get in and get a nice day's work and let some other guys get some carries and show what they've got," Ingram said. "They deserve it and work hard every day."

The dominated was also complete, with Alabama opening the scoring with an 11-play touchdown drive and kept pounding away. By the end of the first quarter, the Mocs, who play in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA), had roughly the same number of yards, 23, as Alabama did points, 21.

So after Ingram scored again on a 40-yard run to put the Tide up 35-0 and move into second on the UA single-season rushing list, he sat and was soon joined by all of the other starters to essentially mark the start of the the upcoming shortened week. Alabama (11-0) will face rival Auburn on Friday, followed by the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 5 when a spot in the national title game will be at stake.

"I told the players this, if we had lost this game today there would be nothing else that could tarnish what you could accomplish than that," Saban said. "You would someday be an NFL player, driving 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 them.' Nobody would ever forget that and I don't say that in a disrespectful way."


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