TUSCALOOSA, Ala. --- Mark Ingram was already a rising star before last year's South Carolina game.
Maybe a commentator or two, and some Alabama fans, had even tossed his name and "Heisman Trophy candidate" together after a 172-yard game against Mississippi.
But when Ingram ran for 246 yards and the clinching touchdown in the next game against the Gamecocks, that shot him way up most of those Heisman watch lists.
"They might have been talking about it a little bit after Ole Miss," Ingram said Monday, "but I think South Carolina was what really threw me in the race."
Ingram went on to become Alabama's first Heisman winner. Now, No. 19 South Carolina's defense gets another crack at him on Saturday, when the top-ranked Crimson Tide come to Columbia.
Ingram took over last year's game because he had to. Greg McElroy and the passing game were thoroughly stymied.
Ingram accounted for all 68 yards on the final scoring drive of the 20-6 win, carrying five times out of the wildcat before taking a pitch for a 4-yard touchdown.
"The game was still kind of close toward the end of the game, and they just put me in the wildcat for five or six straight snaps," Ingram said. "I just wanted to get down there and put the nail in the coffin."
Alabama hasn't needed quite that kind of effort from Ingram this season. McElroy has been one of the SEC's most efficient passers, Julio Jones is back among the leading receivers, and Trent Richardson has shown he might be the nation's best backup.
"To slow down Alabama, you've obviously got to slow them (Ingram and Richardson) down to start with," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said.
That's been hard to do. Ingram is averaging 7.9 yards on 45 carries, Richardson 7.4 on 57 carries. They have combined for 10 touchdown runs.