Mark Ingram has never been one to get too caught up in numbers.
That is, unless you’re talking about wins and losses.
The number that gets his attention this season is Alabama’s 9-2 record and not the Crimson Tide’s rushing numbers, which are nowhere near where they were a year ago during their national championship run.
“There are reasons for that,” said Ingram, who rushed for 1,658 yards last season on his way to becoming Alabama’s first Heisman Trophy winner.
“But the main thing on our minds is putting forth our best effort this week and having our best week of preparation. We haven’t had our best game as a team yet. We’ve made some strides to accomplish that these past two games, but we all want to come together this game, make sure everybody’s on the same page, and that’s what will give us the best chance to have success in this game.”
Ingram and his talented backfield mate, Trent Richardson, have combined for 1,414 rushing yards heading into Friday’s Auburn game.
Those are solid numbers for any duo over 18 games. But when you consider they combined for 2,409 yards a year ago, it’s obvious Alabama’s running game simply hasn’t been what it was last season.
Everybody in Tide Land wants to know why.
Well, injuries have clearly played a big role. Ingram tore meniscus in his knee, underwent arthroscopic surgery in the preseason and missed the first two games. Richardson has also been banged up, battling a sore knee lately and resting the last two games.
There was also a period earlier this season where Ingram was having some swelling. But ever since the open date right before the LSU game, he said he’s felt fine and refuses to use his knee injury as an excuse.
“Ever since the bye week, my knee has felt better than ever,” he said. “There hasn’t been any swelling or anything else. So, it’s a lot better. These past two games, I’ve felt great as far as my knee is concerned, and my body feels good.”
Ingram has 780 rushing yards and Richardson 634 yards. Even more telling, Ingram has carried the ball just 136 times. He had 271 rushing attempts a year ago in 14 games. Richardson has 92 carries after carrying it 145 times last season.
The Crimson Tide finished last season with 601 rushing attempts and 346 pass attempts.
Already this season, they’ve thrown it 298 times, while running it 393 times.
With the way defenses are playing Alabama, Ingram said the Crimson Tide would be foolish not to take their chances throwing the ball.
“It’s how teams have played us, loading the box and leaving man coverage on the outside,” Ingram said. “That’s contributed to how explosive we’ve been in the passing game. It’s just not smart to run the ball right at where they’ve overloading to a side, so we’ve checked out a lot to pass plays.
“It’s just the way teams have been playing us, not to let us beat them running the ball.”
The good news for Alabama is that Ingram is fresh, really fresh.
“I’m feeling great as opposed to how most people feel at this point in the season,” said Ingram, who had limited work in the 63-7 rout of Georgia State last Thursday.
“All I can tell you is that I’m ready for whatever they need me to do to finish out this season the right way.”