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September 18, 2010DURHAM, N.C. _ It was like the Rolling Stones playing under a pseudonym at a nice little club. When the gates first opened for students, seven fans sprinted in to share the front row as the sound system leisurely played Chicago's "Saturday in the Park."
At least the lines "Can you dig it (yes I can), and I've been waiting such a long time for today," were accurate because Alabama had never before visited the venue named after the coach who won the Crimson Tide's first three national championships, Wallace Wade. But Duke simply didn't have a clue for what lay in store.
Then, like a guitar blast that could be heard all the way back in Tuscaloosa, Alabama simply destroyed Duke. It rocked Durham with hard-hitting runs, some precise passing and even turned a fumble on a kick return into a 91-yard touchdown.
When the smoke cleared (had there been any), the Crimson Tide had a 28-3 victory.
Oh wait, that was just after the first quarter when the fans in blue started heading out. The real final score was 62-13.
"That's the best Alabama team I've ever coached against, the 26 times I've coached against them," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "If you get on your heels against a team like that they're going to make you look really bad."
No one epitomized Alabama's game better than junior running back Mark Ingram, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner who doesn't appear ready to hand it to someone else. Making his season debut due to arthroscopic knee surgery his first carry resulted in a 48-yard gain when he went around the right side, ran over one defender, through another and then dragged a third to the Duke 12.
"I was just real focused, I was real hungry," Ingram said. ""I just wanted to make an impact right off the jump."
His third carry through a huge hole on the left side went for 50 yards, to already eclipse the 100-yard mark.
The fourth carry? A 1-yard touchdown when he was also called for a personal foul when a Duke defender took a shot at his knee long after the six points had registered.
A second touchdown came on his fifth carry, when Ingram completely faked out a defensive back en route to an easy 17-yard score and had everyone wondering, what knee surgery?
"He looked good all week in practice and he looked good today," Coach Nick Saban said. "Really surprised me with that came back and looked as good as he did all week in practice as well as the game today."
When Ingram and the rest of the offensive starters were pulled for good he had 151 rushing yards on just nine carries (16.8 average) and two touchdowns.
"No pain, nothing," Ingram said. "Feel better than ever. Feel brand new."
Overall, the Crimson Tide finished with 315 rushing yards en route to accumulating the most yards, 626, in 21 years (LSU, 644, 1989), the most points in 19 years (Tulane, 1991), and the biggest margin of victory in six years (52-0, Western Carolina, 2004).
"I was really pleased the way we sort of came out and set the tempo," Saban said.
The rest of the half saw more of the same as Alabama accumulated 382 yards of total offense before the break without executing a single third-down play. Meanwhile, Duke fans were able to applaud only three things while falling behind 45-13:
Alabama (3-0) gave up its first touchdown of the season, an 11-yard catch by Austin Kelly with 29 seconds remaining in the half;
Senior quarterback Greg McElroy's streak of attempts without an interception was snapped at 149;
Men's basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski was honored at halftime for his recent world championship.
Although Duke (1-2) was shut out in the second half, there was a little bit more, like Eddie Lacy fumbling for the second time near the end zone and with the reserves in the game Alabama actually punted twice.
"We can be so much better with just the small little mental errors," said McElroy, who completed 14 of 20 passes for 258 yards and three touchdowns, including five passes to junior Julio Jones for 106 yards.
Senior tight end Preston Dial also had his second career touchdown in as many weeks, this time on a 15-yard catch, sophomore cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick recorded his first career interception and sophomore Trent Richardson's kick return would have been one of the 10 longest touchdowns in Alabama history had he not mishandled the ball - but that's also what allowed him to break free.
"The thing you worry about when you're covering kicks is the timing of the thing breaks down a little bit," Saban said. "They came down and really played it pretty well, they kind of stopped, he hit a crease and they all got bunched up. You kind of lose your level of coverage and once you break it there's no one around."
Yes, the Tide was in near-perfect harmony and started plugging in reserves during the second quarter. Converted linebacker Jalston Fowler even had six late carries for 48 yards, getting him some rock-star status from the Alabama fans who were still sticking around.
"They're the number-one team in the nation for a reason," Duke safety Matt Daniels said. "They came out and executed and pretty much dominated us in all three aspects of the game."