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December 5, 2009ATLANTA _ When University of Alabama junior quarterback Greg McElroy was on stage to accept his SEC Championship Game most valuable player award, he held up two fingers on each hand to signify No. 22.
However, it wasn't in support of teammate Mark Ingram's bid for the Heisman Trophy.
"This is our 22nd SEC Championship for the University of Alabama," he said.
Nevertheless, the Crimson Tide believes it may have done enough to earn Alabama's first Heisman, and Saturday night Ingram set the Alabama single-season rushing record.
With his first touchdown on a 7-yard run, he topped Bobby Humphrey's record of 1,471 set in 1986. With 28 carries for 113 yards and three touchdowns against the nation's No. 1 defense, he has 1,542 yards for the season on 249 carries.
Here's the lost of all-time leaders:
1,542: Mark Ingram (249 att.), 2009
1,471: Bobby Humphrey (236 att.), 1986
1,383: Shaun Alexander (302 att.), 1999
1,367: Shaud Williams (280 att.), 2003
1,341: Sherman Williams (291 att.), 1994
Overall, Alabama gained 251 rushing yards, the most Florida has surrendered in any game under Coach Urban Meyer.
Heisman voting will be completed over the next two days, with the finalists announced Wednesday and the winner Saturday in New York.
"I've been rooting for him all season," senior running back Roy Upchurch said. "I hope he wins the Heisman."
The plan worked
Alabama's defensive plan was pretty simple, to go after Florida senior quarterback Tim Tebow and hit him as often as possible.
Senior end Lorenzo Washington came the closest to getting a sack, hitting Tebow on the blind side with instant replay overturning a called fumble, but Alabama caused 14 hurries.
"We knew we were going to come after him," senior linebacker Cory Reamer said. "Last year we were a little passive, we really didn't come after him and be as aggressive as we needed to be. We needed our (defensive backs) s to step because we were going to bring pressure the whole time."
Two big plays that didn't get overlooked were the impressive block thrown by McElroy on linebacker Brandon Hicks, and the possible touchdown-saving tackle by senior punter P.J. Fitzgerald.
"They didn't even have anybody on the gunner that came down on that side and we lost contain," Coach Nick Saban said. "P.J.'s a good athlete. He did a great job of getting a great athlete on the ground and Trent (Richardson) made a couple of runs, and I remember that one where really probably should have been a two-yard loss and he made six yards. But I think that's the kind of relentless competitive attitude that not to be denied really kind of means. Guys making those kind of plays, extending themselves, done it in every play of the game.
"We really told the players a story yesterday about Sugar Ray Leonard who actually said that the first time I fought in a championship fight I lost. I prepared. I knew the strengths and weaknesses, I was in great shape, but the thing I remember about the second time I fought for the championship and won was I had an unrelenting, not-to-be-denied, intangible attitude, and I was going to have to do it for 15 rounds and go toe to toe, and that's what made me win. I think there's a lot of examples out there today of the way our players competed and played in the game that showed that kind of resiliency, and that's what it takes to be a champion."
Saban is now 14-1 in rematches after losing the first meeting the previous year. The only loss was to Florida in 2000-01 when Steve Spurrier coached the Gators.
So when did Alabama know it had Florida on the ropes? "First quarter," sophomore safety Robby Green said. "When we showed up here," senior cornerback Marquis Johnson said. "I felt it before we started the game."
Senior cornerback Javier Arenas had one punt return for 8 yards. The SEC's all-time career leader has 1,733 yards and needs just 29 more to surpass Wes Welker of Texas Tech (1,761, 2000-03).
Julio Jones on Tebow: "He's a great player, but man we're tired of him."
Junior running back Terry Grant (abdominal injury) did not make the trip. ... Antonio Langham was Alabama's addition for this year's SEC "Legends." Florida's Reidel Anthony got the biggest cheer, Tennessee's Heath Shuler the loudest boos. ... Team captains were Rolando McClain, Mike Johnson, Arenas and Colin Peek. ... More than 750 media credentials were issued for Saturday's game, just a shade less than the entire SEC Media Days in July. ... Florida wore the same white helmets as last week's game against Florida State, and white pants. ... Matt Austin's crew worked the game.