Alabama routs Arkansas State for first shutout since 2005

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- No. 2 Alabama produced a shutout, a 100-yard rusher and a defensive touchdown in a game that would have been easy to overlook.

What the Crimson Tide didn't have: a letdown.

Mark Ingram ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries and Rashad Johnson scored on a 32-yard interception return in the Tide's 35-0 victory over Arkansas State on Saturday.

Alabama (9-0) turned in a dominant all-around performance to set the stage for next week's showdown at No. 19 LSU in the type of game that had been a stumbling block for recent Tide teams.

Think Louisiana-Monroe, another Sun Belt Conference team that upset 'Bama last season.

"We're starting to develop that attitude of be as good as you can be, don't play to your opponent, all those kind of things," said Tide coach Nick Saban, who is set to face his former team at LSU.

Did somebody say LSU? The team Saban once led to a national championship?

"I haven't really thought about it yet," he said of his return to Baton Rouge, "but it ain't going to be about me."

Well, not just about him.

Alabama, which can clinch the Southeastern Conference Western Division title with a win over LSU, managed its first shutout since a 17-0 victory over Mississippi State on Nov. 5, 2005. The Tide allowed only 158 yards on 54 plays against Arkansas State (4-4), which had scored 83 points against Texas Southern and upset Texas A&M earlier this season.

The Tide took its opening drive 89 yards on 16 plays for a touchdown to put aside any fears of a letdown like the one against Louisiana-Monroe. That game might have made it easier to focus in on this one.

"It's pretty easy, especially compared to last year when we lost games that we should have won," said tailback Glen Coffee, who scored on a 9-yard run.

Ingram scored on runs of 5 and 17 yards in the second half for the freshman's first 100-yard game after managing just 1 yard on four carries against Tennessee last week.

"Mark Ingram, who has struggled a little bit the last couple of weeks, sure did look good today," Saban said.

Coffee rushed for 56 yards and scored to cap that opening drive before sitting out the second half. Saban said he sustained a biceps bruise but didn't expect him to miss practice time.

John Parker Wilson completed 15 of 28 passes for 158 yards and was intercepted once.

Wilson's 12 consecutive completions dating back to last week's game at Tennessee tied Andrew Zow's school record set in 2000. The streak ended when Julio Jones couldn't hold onto his second pass attempt.

The final score could have been even more lopsided, but the Tide was turned back four times on trips into Arkansas State territory, including an interception on the goal line and a missed field goal.

Arkansas State crossed midfield twice in the fourth quarter but the drives ended with a failed fourth-down play and a sack on third down.

"We did some good things, we just didn't do enough of them, and they showed why they are the No. 2 team in the country," Red Wolves coach Steve Roberts said. "They are a very, very powerful and very physical football team."

Quarterback Corey Leonard passed for just 67 yards and was intercepted once and sacked four times, seldom getting time to find open receivers. Reggie Arnold gained 72 yards on 15 carries for the Red Wolves.

They converted just two of 12 third-down plays.

"When we would put one or two plays together, when it came to a big first down or something like that, they really would come after us and overpower us a lot of the times," Leonard said.

The Tide led only 14-0 at halftime but breezed down the field to open the third quarter. Upchurch's 22-yard run capped a four-play, 70-yard drive after Ingram tallied 43 yards on two runs.

Johnson, meanwhile, spearheaded the dominant defensive performance. He had 13 tackles and 2.5 stops for losses besides the interception return that made it 14-0 midway through the second quarter. It was the Tide's fourth defensive touchdown of the season.

"It felt great," Johnson said. "I've never scored before. It was a big play. We needed some momentum, and it boosted the offense, too. I looked up, saw it, reeled it in and then all I saw was the sideline."

And now it's on to LSU. It's OK, Alabama. You can mention those three letters.

"We hadn't looked or talked about LSU at all," Wilson said. "Now we can."