Bama at its best riding tailback duo

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Keep Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson parked on the sideline or busy with pass protection.

Hey, that sounds like a nice strategy to beat No. 8 Alabama and prevent that powerful offense from rolling - if you can pull it off.

Mississippi defensive tackle Jerrell Powe saw it work for No. 10 South Carolina last week. So why not again Saturday night against the Rebels?

"I think they got exposed," Powe said. "They showed that they're a one-dimensional team that can run the ball really well. I think South Carolina did a good job of stopping the run and they really couldn't get anything going after they got stopped."

That's not entirely true, but Alabama's 19-game winning streak - and its running game - did grind to a halt against the Gamecocks. It wasn't just about stacking the line of scrimmage with defenders or playing physical defense.

One reason the Gamecocks' strategy worked so well was an early 21-3 lead that forced Alabama to turn mostly to Greg McElroy and the passing game.

Consequently, two of Alabama's most talented players were minimized. The Heisman Trophy winner Ingram was held to 41 yards on 11 carries; Richardson didn't even see that much action, logging six runs for 23 yards.

"When you get behind 21-3, what is the priority?" Tide coach Nick Saban said. "Is it to get those guys the carries or is it to try to get back in the game?"

The goals are not usually mutually exclusive, of course.

It's the second straight game one of the nation's top tailback duos has been held in check. It didn't matter the first time when Alabama's defense led a 31-6 win over Florida with Ingram and Richardson combining for a modest 110 yards.

It proved the Tide can find other ways to win. McElroy threw for 315 yards and two touchdowns against the Gamecocks, but could be without his favorite target.

Julio Jones had surgery to insert a plate and screws in his broken left hand Sunday. If he can't play or is limited, that leaves the onus even more on Ingram and Richardson and other playmakers such as receivers Marquis Maze and Darius Hanks.

"We have three really good receivers. We have two really good runners," Saban said. "I think we have to utilize all those things and take what the defense gives us. If they're going to have them up there and we need to throw the ball, we have to do that.

"It's not about this guy's going to carry the ball this many times and this guy's going to carry the ball that many times, no matter what. That's hard to do."

Right tackle D.J. Fluker is out with a pulled groin, so the line also won't be at full strength. But Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt thinks his defense - and especially the talkative Powe - had better be wary.

"(Powe) better be in the trenches because they'll be coming right at him," Nutt said. "It starts with him - you better back that up. Because they've got one of the best offensive lines in the country. They execute. They've got a real leader. They've got a Heisman Trophy guy and then a guy behind him that probably could be a Heisman guy.

"And then they've got a real receiver who will play. That's not just Julio. It's Maze, Hanks. They've got real weapons."

But when Alabama's offense is at its best, it typically starts with Ingram and/or Richardson.

Against South Carolina, Alabama had 29 runs for 36 yards but the total gains were more than halved by seven sacks. So the actual breakdown was 22 called runs or McElroy scrambles and 42 passes.

Ingram said the offense just needs to execute whatever plays are called.

"Obviously, their No. 1 thing was to stop the run and make us throw the ball to win," he said. "They were successful at stopping the run. We had to throw the ball to win. We just didn't execute right our offense. We have to get back to the drawing board and start from scratch again."

Ingram had run for 308 yards and four touchdowns on 33 carries in his first two games back from a knee injury. He has 23 carries for 88 in the past two.

He and Richardson both are still averaging 7.1 and 7.0 yards per carry, respectively. And now they're facing a team that ranks last in the SEC in scoring defense and 10th in total yards allowed.

"I'm sure they'll do what they feel like gives them the best opportunity to win," Rebels defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix said. "Ingram and the other back Richardson gives them an opportunity to win the game. They're smart coaches. They've won championships."


AP Sports Writer David Brandt in Oxford, Miss., contributed to this story.


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