Mark Ingram rushed for a career-high 246 yards and a game-clinching touchdown, powering No. 2 Alabama to a 20-6 victory over No. 22 South Carolina on Saturday night.
Ingram's tackle-breaking, defender-dragging runs and a punishing defense helped the Crimson Tide (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) overcome four turnovers — doubling their season total. It also helped 'Bama avoid the down-to-the-wire scares No. 1 Florida and No. 3 Texas had — or an upset defeat like No. 4 Virginia Tech endured.
Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks (5-2, 2-2) had never beaten a team ranked higher than No. 3 and were hoping for their second win over a top-five team this season.
Ingram didn't let it happen. He was practically a one-man show on the decisive drive. He took the direct snap for five consecutive runs — including a 24-yarder and 22-yarder — and then took a pitch in from 4 yards out with 4:54 left. Ingram covered all 68 yards on the drive and finished with the third-best rushing game in Alabama history.
His previous career-high was 172 yards set last week against Mississippi, which also didn't manage a touchdown against the Tide.
The game's only other touchdown fittingly came from the a defense that sacked Stephen Garcia five times and kept him firing blanks into the end zone at the end of promising drives.
Safety Mark Barron stepped in front of Garcia's first pass attempt in the middle of the field and returned it 77 yards for a touchdown.
Garcia wound up 20 of 46 for 214 yards after completing just 4 of 18 passes in the first half. South Carolina managed just 64 yards rushing.
Alabama's Greg McElroy also was shaky against the nation's No. 6 pass defense. His first pass — and two of his initial four — were picked off after he had gone 135 straight passes without an interception.
He wound up completing half of his 20 attempts for just 92 yards. Ingram made up for it on his 24 rushes and also caught two passes for 23 yards.
Leigh Tiffin kicked field goals of 25 and 35 yards for the Tide, which had 10 penalties for 113 yards.
South Carolina couldn't get points off two drives into Alabama territory late in the third quarter. The Gamecocks marched just across midfield on 12 plays before having to punt. Then Clifton Geathers stripped the ball from McElroy to give them back the ball.
But the Alabama defense held again and Spencer Lanning's 50-yard field goal attempt was short.
The Gamecocks scored on field goals of 22 and 31 yards by Lanning in the final 3:14 of the first half but missed chances for more points. Garcia threw a combined five incompletions into the end zone.
He had hit freshman Alshon Jeffery on a 52-yarder and leading receiver Moe Brown on an 8-yarder down to the 5. Brown lay on the field for several minutes before being strapped to a backboard and carted off the field with a concussion, flashing a thumbs-up to fans chanting "Let's Go Moe."
Garcia set up the second kick, made as time expired, with runs of 21 and 12 yards on consecutive plays.
Both teams were missing key players. South Carolina's No. 2 rusher Jarvis Giles was suspended. Alabama cornerback and return man Javier Arenas watched from the sidelines with an undisclosed injury. He sat out a practice earlier in the week with a rib injury