Mark Ingram Wins The Heisman
Alabama RB Mark Ingram
Alabama RB Mark Ingram
Posted Dec 12, 2009

In the closest Heisman race ever, Mark Ingram became the third sophomore in a row to win and the first in Alabama's great history. He came up big in some of the biggest games of the season, and because he helped lead his team to the national title game, he gets the Heisman by just 28 points over Stanford's Toby Gerhart.

Mark Ingram Wins The Heisman

Gerhart 2nd in the closest race ever

- 2008 - Sam Bradford bombs his way to a Heisman 
- 2007 - Tim Tebow the first sophomore to win
- 2006 - Troy Smith wins in a landslide

By Pete Fiutak

Heisman Trophy Tally
Player 1st Total
Mark Ingram 227 1,304
Toby Gerhart 222 1,276
Colt McCoy 203 1,145
Ndamukong Suh 161 815
Tim Tebow 43 390
C.J. Spiller 26 220
Kellen Moore 10 100
Congratulations, Alabama. Now you're officially a big-time college football program.

For the first time in its long and glorious history, Alabama has a Heisman winner as running back Mark Ingram beat out Stanford's Toby Gerhart in the closest finish ever. It's not like there haven't been great Tide players worthy of being in the picture, but most of the program's greatest stars were on defense, while its greatest offensive player, John Hannah, was a lineman. But now Ingram has changed all of that in a season that was defined by what he did in the biggest games and with the spotlight on ... for the most part.

Ingram wasn't necessarily the best running back in 2009; Gerhart won the Doak Walker. He wasn't necessarily the top player on the Tide; LB Rolando McClain, DT Terrence Cody, and the offensive line had a lot to do with the team's success. And he wasn't necessarily the biggest statistical star running the ball; he finished the regular season 12th in yards per game and with a total of 1,542 yards and 15 touchdowns. But he helped carry the Tide when it needed the most help, and without him, the team probably would be going to New Orleans for the bowl season instead of Pasadena.

He made a big statement in the opening game of the year rushing for 150 yards and a score against Virginia Tech, but he wasn't needed against FIU and North Texas running a total of 18 times in the two games for 147 yards and two scores. But when the offense started to sputter a bit with QB Greg McElroy unable to keep up the success of the first part of the season, it was Ingram who took over.

While the SEC Championship game might have put Ingram over the top in the Heisman debate, it was a three-game October stretch that likely won it for him. Kentucky gave the Tide all it could handle, and then Ingram took over on the way to a 140-yard, two touchdown day and a 38-20 win. With everyone watching against Ole Miss, Ingram put on a show with 172 bruising yards and a touchdown in a 22-3 win. And then came the 246-yard, one touchdown day against South Carolina that pushed him to the top of the list of mediocre Heisman candidates. The 144-yard game against LSU showed that he wasn't going to go away.

Ingram detractors will point out that Tennessee held him to 99 yards and almost won (if not for Cody's two blocked field goals), and they'll also point out that some of his biggest games came against Mississippi State (149 yards and two scores) and UT-Chattanooga (102 yards and two scores). Getting hurt against Auburn, and being held to just 30 yards on 16 carries, opened the door for Gerhart, Colt McCoy, and Ndamukong Suh, but Ingram shut it with a resounding thud.

Was he going to play? That was the big question going into the SEC Championship, and in what some would argue was the national championship, against Florida. Could Ingram get through his hip injury to even be a factor, or was he going to have to rest up with the hope that he could be ready for the bowl game? On 28 carries for 113 yards and three touchdowns, along with two catches for 76 yards, Tide was the star of the biggest win of the season, and for that, he became the year's signature player.

But plenty of voters weren't convinced.

Ingram received 227 first place votes while Gerhart received 222, McCoy 203, and Suh 161. Just a few votes the other way and Ingram doesn't win. Gerhart did just as much in the big games, rolling for 223 yards and three scores against an Oregon defense that finished 38th in the nation against the run, and he ran for 178 yards and three touchdowns against USC, 136 yards and four scores against Cal, and 205 yards and three touchdowns against Notre Dame. That was just in the last four games of the season.

Suh faced an uphill battle as a defensive tackle, but there's little arguing that his 12 tackle, seven tackle for loss, 4.5 sack day against Texas in the Big 12 Championship was the most dominant performance of the season. Nowhere near a one-game wonder, he finished the regular season with an unheard of (for a defensive tackle) 82 stops and 12 sacks. But did he get his team to a national title? He sure tried and he certainly came close to carrying his offensively-challenged Huskers to a Big 12 championship, but Alabama is in the BCS Championship and Nebraska isn't.

The victor go the spoils. Right now it's Alabama's college football world, and for the moment, Mark Ingram is the king.