published Friday, November 20th, 2009

Heisman link

Mocs facing another trophy front-runner

  • photo
    Alabama runningback Mark Ingram (22) runs into the end zone after scoring a fourth quarter 70-yard touchdown against Mississippi State during their football game in Starkville, Miss., on Nov. 14. No. 3 Alabama won, 31-3. (AP Photo/Birmingham News, Mark Almond)

Another guarantee game, another Heisman Trophy candidate. Aren't these money-making matchups hard enough without adding one of the best players in college football to the challenge?

In the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga's season finale Saturday at No. 2 Alabama, the Mocs, for the third straight season, will go up against a front-runner for the Heisman.

In 2007 there was Arkansas running back Darren McFadden, who finished second to Florida's Tim Tebow. Last season the Mocs faced Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford in their opener, and Bradford went on to win the trophy. Now it's Crimson Tide running back Mark Ingram's turn.

"I don't think (athletic director) Rick Hart is doing it on purpose," Mocs senior linebacker Joseph Thornton joked. "You don't ever really know who's going to be on the Heisman watch at the beginning of the year, and it's just happened to fall that we've faced one of the favorites the last three years."

According to this week's ESPN Heisman Watch and the latest poll at HeismanPundit.com, the 5-foot-10, 212-pound Ingram is the current favorite. And for good reason, Mocs coach Russ Huesman said.

"One guy's not going to get him on the ground," Huesman said. "When he gets you in one-on-one situations, he can run through you. We've got to take great angles just to be near him."

Ingram, who would be the third straight sophomore to win the Heisman, has rushed for 1,297 yards (fifth-most in the nation) and 10 touchdowns this season. He's averaging 6.7 yards per carry and also has 25 receptions for 225 yards and three scores.

"He's got great feet, he runs with great pad level, he runs through tackles and he can catch," Mocs defensive coordinator Adam Fuller said.

Ingram is 200 yards shy of Bobby Humphrey's school single-season record of 1,497, set in 1986. Despite all its championships and All-Americans, Alabama (10-0) never has had a Heisman winner.

A huge game against the Mocs (6-4) could help change that, but Alabama coach Nick Saban hinted this week that Ingram won't stay in the game just to boost his numbers.

"We don't really worry about stats," Saban said. "We're going to make all the decisions based on winning and what's best for our team."

Both McFadden and Bradford had good games against UTC but didn't put up monster stats. McFadden rushed for 122 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries, and Bradford completed 17 of 22 passes for 183 yards and two touchdowns.

The Mocs' guarantee game next season is against Auburn on Nov. 6. As of now the Tigers don't have an apparent 2010 Heisman candidate, but Ingram wasn't on anybody's list at the start of this season.

about John Frierson...

John Frierson is in his seventh year at the Times Free Press and seventh year covering University of Tennessee at Chattanooga athletics. The bulk of his time is spent covering Mocs football, but he also writes about women’s basketball and the big-picture issues and news involving the athletic department. A native of Athens, Ga., John grew up a few hundred yards from the University of Georgia campus. Instead of becoming a Bulldog he attended Ole ...

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Livn4life said...

Ingram is a great back. Personally, I am no Tide fan but would not regret if he won the Heisman. The Mocs are blessed to be playing against Alabama and their premier tailback. I hope they make it at least a little tough on him. As for one man not bringing him down, there is a lot of truth in that. As I watch college and pro football in general, I see so many missed tackles it baffles me. It seems trying to tackle the ball is in vogue, even in high school. The result is five or six or even more yards for the runner. In my elementary days, we were coached to go for the feet or wrap up the legs.It is tough to make progress without your feet. I guess the new era calls for turnover efforts. For that, Mark Ingram and other good runners are grateful. They will get more yards most every play. Go MOCS, you have had a very good year!

November 20, 2009 at 9:25 a.m.
pigsken said...

I wish they would discontinue the Heisman. It's rare that one player on a team stands out from all the rest. The voters seem to want to vote for an offensive player on a top 5 team. Ingram does meet that criteria. And if he was a media darling like Tebow, he would win for sure. But in my opinion, if Trent Richardson was the starter at Alabama, they would still be 10-0. I think the best player for Bama is Rolando McClain, but he plays defense. And Tebow is just a fullback that can throw. I don't think Ingram is even the best running back in the country, but he is the running back doing the best on a top 5 team. Just an opinion.

November 20, 2009 at 3:08 p.m.
Abe said...

What's a "guarantee game"?

November 20, 2009 at 6:28 p.m.
Salsa said...

A "guarantee game" is seen as a guaranteed big paycheck for a small school (like UTC) to give a big school program (like Alabama) an extra home game and usually a guaranteed win.

November 20, 2009 at 7:55 p.m.
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