Sunday, September 6, 2009

ATLANTA — Virginia Tech hung on for three quarters playing Beamer Ball. Alabama’s superiority could not be denied in the fourth.

Score another big season-opening win for the Crimson Tide.

No. 5 Alabama overcame a 98-yard kickoff return, two costly turnovers and several silly penalties, finally wearing down No. 7 Virginia Tech in the final quarter for a 34-24 victory Saturday night.

It was another rousing start of a season at the Georgia Dome for the Crimson Tide, which began a national title run in Atlanta last season by thumping Clemson.

Mark Ingram rushed for 150 yards and finished off Virginia Tech with two fourth-quarter touchdowns. Greg McElroy threw for 230 yards in his debut as Alabama’s starting quarterback, taking quite a beating but standing tall at the end.

Alabama held a staggering 498-155 edge in total yards against Virginia Tech’s touted defense, but the Hokies led 17-16 going to the final period.

Ingram put Alabama ahead to stay with a 6-yard touchdown run, set up by McElory’s 48-yard pass to Marquis Maze. McElory was 15-of-30, a perfect complement to Nick Saban’s always-punishing ground game. Roy Upchurch added 90 yards rushing and the Tide finished with 268 yards on the ground.

Virginia Tech hung around following the mantra of coach Frank Beamer, who’s always believed all three phases of the game can contribute to the scoring. The special teams got a touchdown. An interception led to a field goal. Three costly Alabama penalties handed the Hokies another TD, and another long return and personal foul set up a late TD that gave the Hokies a chance.

But Alabama would not be denied, even with all the miscues. After Ryan Williams’ spectacular 32-yard touchdown run made it 27-24 - he was given the score after a replay showed he stayed inbounds long enough to stick the ball inside the pylon while flying through the air face up the Tide calmly responded with a lightning-quick 74-yard drive to clinch it.

Ingram ripped off a 39-yard run. McElroy hooked up with Colin Peek on a 19-yard pass. Finally, McElroy took a snap at the 18, rolled to his right, hit Ingram on the run and watched the namesake son of the former New York Giants receiver take it on to the end zone.

“Sweet home, Alabama,” blared from the speakers as the teams left the field.

The Tide sure feels at home in Atlanta to start the season, following up last year’s 34-10 blowout of favored Clemson on the very same field. That victory propelled Alabama to a 12-0 record during the regular season, but their national title hopes were dashed by Florida in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

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