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March 7, 2010

Looking back at the 2009 season, part IV

The vote total was probably a lot closer than most people realize because there were so many deserving players, but there can only be one most valuable player at the SEC Championship Game.

Sophomore safety Mark Barron led Alabama with seven tackles while senior cornerback Javier Arenas made a key interception in the end zone. Sophomore wide receiver Marquis Maze made five receptions for 96 yards, but his numbers paled in comparison to sophomore running back Mark Ingram, who had 113 rushing yards, the back-breaking 69-yard screen receptions and scored three touchdowns en route to winning the Heisman Trophy.

Instead, the nod went to junior quarterback Greg McElroy, who kept the ball away from Tim Tebow and completed 12 of 18 passes for 239 yards. Alabama finished with 490 total yards against the nation's top defense and had the ball nearly twice as long at the Gators (39:37 to 20:23).

"If you want to be a champion, you have to have a team of champions," McElroy said. "This team came out and proved itself a champion."

Here are the 14 players of the game from the weekly "Upon Further Review" columns. Vote for your favorite on the message board.

Virginia Tech: Ingram showed he's ready to carry the Crimson Tide and finished with a career-high 150 rushing yards on 26 carries, three catches for 35 yards, and scored two touchdowns.

Florida International: McElroy set an Alabama record with 14 consecutive completed passes, breaking the record of 12 set by John Parker Wilson and Andrew Zow. If it wasn't for a dropped pass in the end zone by sophomore Julio Jones he could have started the game with 17 straight completions, making the record 19 with his two at the end of last week's Virginia Tech game.

North Texas: Although Arenas' 151 return yards were pretty impressive, McElroy completed 13 of 15 passes for 176 yards, two touchdowns, ran in another, and had no interceptions. In the process, he tied the school record for best completion percentage in a single game with a minimum of 10 completions (86.7 percent, Walter Lewis, 1983 vs. Ole Miss, and Danny Woodson, 1991 vs. Vanderbilt).

Arkansas: It should be the entire defense, but we'll give it to McElroy. He completed 17 of 24 attempts for 291 yards with three touchdowns and no turnovers to easily outperform Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett, the statistical leader in most Southeastern Conference passing categories.
Kentucky: Junior linebacker Rolando McClain made 12 tackles, was in on three turnovers with an interception, forced fumble and tipped ball, and credited with a hurry. We saw him miss a tackle, but he may have tripped over his cape.

Ole Miss: Although Ingram finished with 172 rushing yards, the win was clearly the result of the defense. Is it possible to divide a game ball into 11 pieces?

South Carolina: Easiest selection ever. Ingram set the Bryant-Denny Stadium rushing record with 246 yards on 24 carries (10.2 average), caught two passes for 23 yards and scored his 11th touchdown of the season.

Tennessee: Terrence Cody for his two blocked field goals, but honorable mention goes to Arenas, who despite having bruised ribs made 13 tackles including 3.5 for a loss and a sack, and returned two punts for 33 yards.

LSU: Ingram and the offensive line took control after the break. In the third quarter he had 85 rushing yards on eight carries for a 10.6 average and six of the nine times he touched the ball resulted in a first down. He finished with 144 rushing yards on 22 carries (6.5 average) and five catches for 30 yards.

Mississippi State: Senior cornerback Marquis Johnson and sophomore safety Mark Barron combined to make three interceptions and broke up five passes.

Chattanooga: Since hardly anyone played more than a half, the award was split between three, each representing a different part of the team. Offense: It wasn't so much that Ingram had 102 rushing yards on 11 carries (9.3) average and two touchdowns, but how he did it. For example, four defenders hit him on his 25-yard touchdown before he dragged two more across the goal-line. By our unofficial count, Ingram had 81 yards after contact. Defense: McClain led the Tide with seven tackles, was in on one for a loss and broke up a pass. Among his three quarterback hurries was a blitz he burst into the backfield so quickly the running back didn't have a chance to react and the quarterback could only throw the ball away. Special teams: Arenas came into the game averaging 13.8 yards per punt return, but didn't have a touchdown this season until the second quarter. At cornerback he also batted up a ball to himself for an interception and made three tackles.

Auburn: Similar to last week, there's really no way to pick just one. Offense: McElroy completed seven straight passes on the drive and finished 21-of-31 for 218 yards, two touchdowns and no turnovers. Defense: McClain had another big-time performance against Auburn with a game-high 12 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss and a sack. Special teams: Arenas had only three returns, but broke free on two with a 46-yard kick return and his 56-yard punt return to set the SEC career record. He needs 37 yards to break the NCAA record (Wes Welker, Texas Tech, 1,761, 2000-03). Arenas also had a terrific came at cornerback with seven tackles, a sack and a hurry, and his blitzes caused major problems.

Florida: Just about everyone was deserving, but McElroy completed 12 of 18 passes for 239 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions. That's 13.3 yards per attempt (19.9 per completion) for a very impressive passer rating of 196.53.

Texas: Ingram was limited by a foot injury and then started cramping up, but still managed to gain 116 yards on 22 carries, and two catches for 12 yards, with two touchdowns.



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