TUSCALOOSA — An emotional 24 hours ended with another win and huge rushing numbers for Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
The Heisman Trophy candidate also made an interesting comment about his future following a record-setting afternoon in Alabama’s 45-21 win over Georgia Southern on Saturday afternoon.
Richardson ran for 175 yards on 32 carries a day after attending his aunt’s funeral in Atlanta. But on the topic of next season, the draft-eligible junior offered an intriguing answer.
“I have got a whole ’nother year,” Richardson said. “I’m not worried about anything else. I’m going to be here for a whole ’nother year. I’m just ready to stay here and play football.”
When asked for more specifics, Richardson just smiled as a media relations representative said those questions would be answered after the season. Most NFL Draft experts rate Richardson as an early first-round pick if he were to leave school after his junior season.
His big afternoon of heavy work only added to his legacy at Alabama.
Diving over the pile for a 1-yard touchdown in the third quarter, Richardson broke Shaun Alexander’s single-season touchdown record with 20.
“I really didn’t know nothing about it until they (announced it),” Richardson said. “It means a lot to set a record. … Shaun is like a big brother, for real and I talk to him all the time.”
Playing into the fourth quarter, Richardson had 92 yards at halftime. But with backup Eddie Lacy not touching the ball in the second half, Richardson picked up an extra 17 carries before Jalston Fowler relieved him on the final series.
He couldn’t deny the emotion of the moment.
“She passed when I was playing Mississippi State,” Richardson said. “She got to watch me score, then she took her last breath.”
His 32 carries averaged 5.5 yards to help control the time of possession battle against a Georgia Southern team that pounds the ball even more than the Tide.
Alabama controlled possession for 32:37 on a season-low eight drives.
After the game, Richardson said he looked forward to spending some quality time with former teammate and former Heisman winner Mark Ingram. The New Orleans Saints rookie was in town on his bye week and served as the honorary captain along with former linebacker DeMeco Ryans.
“I don’t talk to him much about football when we talk,” Ingram said. “It’s just catching up and seeing how he’s doing and making sure everything’s going well for him. That’s what we do. And that’s what he does every week. He goes out there and puts on a performance. I don’t really tell him too much.”
Not much else could’ve gone wrong for the Alabama defensive line before Saturday’s game.
Every name on the nose guard depth chart had some issue keeping them off the field. Coach Nick Saban called the group “snake bit,” because of the variety of issues facing the position. Defensive end Quinton Dial earned the start while redshirt freshman Brandon Ivory provided relief in just his fourth game.
Dial’s eight tackles matched Mark Barron’s total to lead the team. Ivory had three stops in his first meaningful game action.
A number of nagging injuries kept starter Josh Chapman from playing, Saban said. It was a decision made early in the week, but issues at the end caused the issues. A one-game suspension for backup Nick Gentry and receiver DeAndrew White was announced two hours before kickoff.
Jesse Williams is the third-team nose guard, but he was limited by a shoulder injury and a Friday-night bout with food poisoning.
Ankle injuries also kept left tackle Barrett Jones and receiver Darius Hanks from playing Saturday.
Helmets raised as the alma mater played, Georgia Southern ended Saturday afternoon like conquering heroes. It looked like a victory celebration for a FCS program that gave a scare to the No. 3 team in the FBS.
Eagle coach Jeff Monken couldn’t discount scoring 21 points and running for 302 yards on the nation’s top defense.
“They say statistics are for losers. We can look at those things and think of it as a moral victory,” he said. “Bottom line is though we didn’t win the football game. Our kids played as hard as they could. They played with so much effort, and I’m proud of our guys for running the ball like that. They were holding people to under 52 yards a game I believe. We were able to run the ball with effectiveness.”
Running back Dominique Swope became the first to run for 100 yards against the Tide since Tennessee’s Tauren Poole did so last season. His 153-yard day was highlighted by an 82-yard touchdown run.
“I’d have to say it was the press from our linemen,” he said. “We had a lot of misdirection plays that we kept on executing and it worked for us.”
A walk-on who worked his way into a prime role with the Alabama defense suffered a knee injury against Georgia Southern.
Will Lowery, honored before the game during senior day ceremonies, limped off the field in the fourth quarter. Saban said he’d go for an MRI today.
“It’s not promising,” he said.
Lowery played in all 11 games and started once in what could be this final season, though the roster lists him as junior. He had 20 tackles and two pass breakups this season.
Block FG rarity
Alabama scored its first touchdown of the game under uncommon circumstances.
Linebacker Donta’ Hightower blocked a first-quarter Adrian Mora field goal that Dre Kirkpatrick scooped and ran 55 yards for the score.
It was the first Tide touchdown scored in that fashion since Roman Harper did it against Hawaii in 2003. Georgia Southern had never allowed a score on a field goal return and was the first Mora miss in 13 attempts this season.
The moments following a career-day got the most of
Alabama receiver Brandon Gibson.
His four-catch, 49-yard performance came in his final home game. Leaving the field, the tears flowed.
“I got a little choked up,” he said. “One the clock hit zero, it kinda got to me. Some of the guys were making fun of me for getting a little emotional, but I mean playing here for four and half, five years, it means something to you.”
All four of Gibson’s receptions came in the first half as the Tide played without starter Hanks and backup White. His previous high of three receptions came in the 2010 opener against San Jose State.
No, Alabama center William Vlachos didn’t score the touchdown, but tight end Brad Smelley gave him the credit.
Scoring the first of his two touchdowns of the day, the senior from Tuscaloosa said the line call led to the 34-yard pass play from quarterback AJ McCarron.
“Vlachos actually made the call,” Smelley said.
“They pushing everybody and I was able to wedge everybody in and we were able to make the play down field.”
Smelley was wide open near the end zone when he caught the pass, turned and dove for the goal line.