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(Saturday, December 5th)
Final Score: (2) Alabama 32, (1) Florida 13
Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Mark Ingram made sure history didn't repeat itself in the SEC Championship game, as the sophomore running back ran for three touchdowns to send No. 2 Alabama to a convincing 32-13 victory over top- ranked Florida that assures itself a shot at a national title.
The Crimson Tide (13-0) controlled the tempo with a ground game that amassed 251 yards, backed by Ingram piling up 113 yards on 28 carries. The Heisman Trophy hopeful also had 76 receiving yards despite suffering a hip pointer in last week's narrow win over Auburn.
"Our entire team played great," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "Really, most of the credit goes to our guys up front on the offensive line. This is a great win for our program."
Alabama, which captured its 22nd SEC title, held the ball for nearly 40 minutes and will likely overtake the Gators (12-1) at the top of the BCS standings when they come out on Sunday, meaning the Tide will play for the BCS National Championship in Pasadena. That will likely mean a matchup against Texas on January 7, as the Longhorns squeaked by Nebraska, 13-12, in Saturday night's Big 12 title contest.
Florida spoiled Alabama's undefeated campaign last season in the conference finale, but the defending national champions' non-existent running game and the suspension of defensive end Carlos Dunlap proved too much to overcome in the anticipated rematch.
Greg McElroy upstaged All-American Tim Tebow, hitting 12-of-18 passes for 239 yards with a touchdown pass to Colin Peek to earn the game's MVP award.
"It's been such an incredible season," McElroy said. "I can't say enough about my offensive line, (and) we have the greatest coaching staff in the country. I'm happy to be able to wear the crimson."
Tebow ran for a team-high 63 yards on 10 carries and threw for 247 yards and a touchdown on 20-of-35 efficiency.
However, the 2007 Heisman winner threw an interception in the end zone early in the fourth that essentially ended any chance of a comeback, as the Gators' school-record 22-game winning streak came to a screeching halt at the Georgia Dome.
"We didn't execute very good," Florida head coach Urban Meyer said. "We've got to find a way to regroup and win a bowl game...We're kind of in a territory we haven't been in in awhile, and we've got to regroup from a loss."
The Tide led 19-13 at the break and dominated the final 30 minutes to pick up their first league title since 1999.
Florida got the ball first after halftime, but Riley Cooper was stopped a yard short of the marker on third down to force a punt.
After Ingram moved the chains with a third-down run, Marquis Maze caught a 28- yard pass to move into enemy territory. A roughing-the-passer penalty placed the ball on the 17, and on the next play, McElroy placed a perfect lob pass over the shoulder of Peek, who held on for the touchdown at the 9:53 mark.
The Gators quickly punted again, and 'Bama padded its 26-13 lead with a back- breaking drive that lasted nearly nine minutes and featured five third-down conversions. Ingram rushed for four of them, the last on 3rd-and-1 from the Florida two-yard line.
On the next play, the powerful tailback capped the 17-play, 88-yard season- defining march on a one-yard plunge with 1:11 gone in the final stanza.
Tebow needed just six plays to reach the red zone, but a poor throw fell into the hands of Tide cornerback Javier Arenas for a touchback.
Alabama was content to run the clock, and Florida's turnover on downs on its next touch resulted in euphoria on the Tide sideline and a tearful Tebow on the other.
"It was frustrating obviously," Tebow said. "This is not how we wanted to finish our season in the SEC. There were a lot of goals and a lot of goals we won't be able to accomplish. It was frustrating. To say it wasn't would be a lie."
Alabama's Leigh Tiffin got the scoring started 4:23 into the game with a 48- yard kick, and Florida went three-and-out on its first possession.
A defensive holding penalty in the red zone aided 'Bama's eight-play, 76-yard drive, and Ingram finished it by crossing the goal line from seven yards out. Tiffin's extra point attempt hit off the right upright, keeping it 9-0, the largest deficit Florida had faced all season.
Caleb Sturgis and Tiffin exchanged kicks of 48 and 34 yards, respectively, the latter occurring with 6:03 remaining before halftime.
Florida made it a three-point game when Tebow found an open David Nelson for a 23-yard touchdown, but several big plays remained in the fold in the final five minutes of the half.
Ingram took a well-designed screen up the right sideline for 69 yards before being pushed out of bounds at the three, where on the next play he took it in for a TD with 3:32 on the clock.
Cooper's 59-yard catch-and-run on the next play from scrimmage put Florida near the red zone, but a pair of incomletions on second and third down brought out Sturgis for a 32-yard field goal just before intermission.
This was the first SEC title game featuring two undefeated teams...It was the seventh time the two teams faced one another in the SEC title game with the Gators holding a 4-3 edge...Ingram broke Bobby Humphrey's single-season school rushing record of 1,471 yards set in 1986...Florida only allowed one opponent in the regular season to score 20 points...Dunlap was suspended after he was arrested and charged with a DUI earlier this week...Florida had just 88 yards rushing, which was hindered with the early exit of Brandon James (leg)...Alabama gained 26 first downs, compared to 13 for the Gators...Aaron Hernandez led the Gators in receiving with eight catches for 85 yards. Cooper had three grabs for 77 yards...Alabama's Maze finished with five catches for 96 yards.
12/05 23:53:27 ET