(Saturday, September 5th)
Final Score: (5) Alabama 34, (7) Virginia Tech 24
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Mark Ingram rushed for 150 yards on 26 carries and recorded a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns, helping fifth-ranked Alabama notch a hard-fought 34-24 victory over No. 7 Virginia Tech in an entertaining season opener at the Georgia Dome.
Ingram had a rushing and receiving score, chipping in three catches for 35 yards. Late in the game, though, he took a big hit and was seen on the sideline with ice on his knee.
Greg McElroy, in his first collegiate start, managed the game effectively, throwing for 230 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 15-of-30 passing for Alabama (1-0), which last year ran the table in the regular season before losses to Florida and Utah in the SEC title game and Sugar Bowl, respectively.
Roy Upchurch needed just seven carries for his 90 yards and a touchdown for the Crimson Tide, who outgained the Hokies 498-155.
Tyrod Taylor did not look comfortable behind center, tossing for 91 yards on 9-of-20 attempts for Virginia Tech (0-1), the reigning ACC champions.
With star running back Darren Evans lost for the season with an ACL tear, the Hokies leaned on Ryan Williams, who did not disappoint with 71 rushing yards, 42 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
"The way Williams ran the ball kind of gives you hope," Hokies head coach Frank Beamer said. "We just have to keep working."
The game's momentum shifted to the Alabama sideline early in the fourth, as a 29-yard punt left the Tide with a short field with 13:08 left in the game.
Marquis Maze's 48-yard reception on the first play of the drive was followed by Ingram's go-ahead, six-yard run into the end zone. McElroy found a wide open Colin Peek for the two-point conversion, and the Tide had a 24-17 edge.
Davon Morgan fumbled the ensuing kickoff at his own 20, and Ingram rushed 17 yards to the three on the next play. Two short gains and an incompletion later, though, had Leigh Tiffin kicking a 20-yarder for a 10-point lead.
The Hokies came right back, as Dyrell Roberts' 46-yard kickoff return and a personal foul penalty gave them life. Williams took the second play of the drive off the right tackle and down the sideline for 31 yards.
Williams was dragged down at the one, though after an instant replay review, it was ruled he managed to get the football over the goal line for the TD.
It took Alabama just five plays to march 74 yards and make it a two-possession game. McElory hit Ingram for an 18-yard score with 6:35 remaining, and VaTech went 3-and-out on its next touch to essentially seal the outcome.
"I think in the end it was our ability in the fourth quarter to wear them down a little bit with our runners and our offensive line. It gave us an opportunity to make a few big plays," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said.
Alabama moved the ball effectively in the first quarter but couldn't find the end zone. Ingram was stuffed on 3rd-and-1, and the Tide had to settle for a 49-yard Tiffin field goal on their first possession.
After another three-and-out from VaTech, a 35-yard hookup with McElroy and Darius Hanks set up a 34-yard Tiffin boot.
On the ensuing kickoff, Roberts shifted through 'Bama's kickoff coverage and down the left sideline, going 98 yards for a go-ahead score.
Williams fumbled a punt later in the first, but the Hokies defense forced yet another field goal, this time a 32-yarder from Tiffin with 3:05 left.
McElroy threw a pick deep in his own territory early in the second, allowing VaTech to take a 10-9 lead after Matt Waldron booted a 28-yard field goal.
Alabama countered with an 11-play, 76-yard drive that Upchurch culminated in a 19-yard TD scamper with 3:09 left in the half. In keeping in line with the rest of the half, though, VaTech came right down the field and went ahead, 17-16, on Williams' one-yard plunge, set up by his own 43-yard reception.
The third quarter wasn't as back-and-forth, with the only threat coming from Alabama, which drove into enemy territory midway through, only to have Upchurch get stripped from behind on Tech's 11-yard line.
Alabama leads the all-time series, 11-1...The Tide next face Florida International on September 12, the same day the Hokies host Marshall.
09/06 00:44:45 ET