And he wasted no time showing the national television audience that his left knee was ready for its first test of the season.
His 48-yard rumble up the Alabama sideline on the first play of Alabama’s 62-13 pounding of Duke served notice that he didn’t lose much of his step after spending the first two games sidelined with a minor knee injury.
The returning Heisman Trophy winner carved up a few more big plays to finish with 151 yards on nine carries. His 16.8 yard-per-carry average was the eighth highest in program history among backs with a minimum of five carries.
“I felt real good. I felt better than ever,” he said. “I really didn’t notice it. … The knee felt better than ever. It felt brand new.”
About that first run that set up a Greg McElroy to Darius Hanks touchdown pass on the game’s third play, Ingram said he knew the play call was coming ahead of time.
“I was one-on-one with the corner and I had to make a play,” Ingram said. “So it was good to set the tone early.”
It continued on the Tide’s third possession.
After trading out with Trent Richardson on the second drive, Ingram returned for the third and started the same way he did in the opener. Busting through for a 50-yard burst down the Duke sideline, Ingram broke the 100-yard mark on his third run of the afternoon.
Having the star back in the spotlight was satisfying for the offensive line that opened monster holes for Ingram in his limited action.
“This is a familiar feeling trying to chase down Mark as he’s running,” right guard Barrett Jones said with a lineman’s sized smile.
There was one smudge on Ingram’s record coming off the big game. After scoring a one-yard touchdown by diving on top of the pile of defenders, Ingram became irritated after the pile drove him several yards into the backfield after the whistles.
After returning to earth, Ingram appeared to throw the ball at a group of Blue Devil defenders.
“Both of them were just pulling me and twisting my legs,” he said. “So (it was), you know, heat of the moment.”
Michael Casagrande covers University of Alabama sports for The Star.