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'Bama's Ingram pulls double whammy: Heisman and BCS title

Photo by Mark J. Terrill

Photo by Mark J. Terrill

PASADENA, Calif. -- Mark Ingram ran right over that Heisman Trophy jinx.

Turning in a workmanlike performance with a few timely plays, the Alabama tailback carried 22 times for 116 yards and two touchdowns Thursday night in a 37-21 victory over Texas in the BCS national title game.

With his mother watching from the stands -- and his famous father still in jail -- Ingram became only the second player to win college football's most prestigious individual award and a national title in the same season since the inception of the BCS, joining Southern California quarterback Matt Leinart (2004).

Heisman winners had been just 1-6 in BCS title games.

Ingram didn't match his tearfully poignant Heisman acceptance speech, when he became the first player in the history of the storied Alabama program to win the award. But he made it clear that the crystal football given to the national champions was more meaningful than the bronze trophy he received in New York.

"The Heisman was kind of shocking and something I never really expected coming into this year," said Ingram, voted the game's most outstanding offensive player. "It was a great honor to win the trophy but it was more than just a trophy, too. It was overcoming adversity. A lot of the emotion came from that.

"This national championship was more everybody. I was so happy to leave my heart out there for the team, and blood, sweat and tears."

That adversity includes his father Mark Sr.'s imprisonment on a money laundering and bank fraud conviction. The former New York Giants and Miami Dolphins wide receiver was sentenced to 92 months but could have time tacked on for failing to report to a federal prison in Kentucky in December 2008, apparently because he wanted to see his son play in the Sugar Bowl.

Sidelined briefly by leg cramps, Ingram returned to the game just in time Thursday night to help polish off a 14-0 season for Alabama.

"Mark has great competitive character," coach Nick Saban said. "He was cramping up a little bit in the game. He's a great competitor and he certainly wanted to go back in the game and we certainly needed him to. It worked out for us."

While the defense made an assortment of big plays against Texas, Ingram and backfield mate Trent Richardson carried the offense.

Richardson, a freshman, ran for 109 yards and two TDs, and the two tailbacks did it against a defense that had allowed just 62 yards rushing per game coming in. It was only the 11th time in school history that two Crimson Tide running backs have run for 100 yards and the first time it happened in a bowl game.

But it was Ingram, as usual, standing in the spotlight with the game on the line. His eighth 100-yard rushing effort tied Shaun Alexander's decade-old single-season record, and his two touchdowns gave him 17 on the season.

Ingram was more than happy to share carries with Richardson, though.

"It helps us tremendously to elevate our game to tremendous levels," he said. "It's going to be nothing but headaches for the defenses in the next year or two."