FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. | The heir apparent is, apparently, ready to take on his expected role.
University of Alabama junior runnng back Eddie Lacy, limited and slowed in the first two games of the season by nagging injuries, looked fit and ready for Saturday's Southeastern Conference opener against Arkansas. Lacy carried just a dozen times but gained 55 yards and scored three touchdowns to lead a physical Alabama rushing attack that was able to grind out 225 yards in a 52-0 win against the Razorbacks.
"I had a great week of practice, and I came in and it felt good," Lacy said.
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Alabama seemed determined to take a physical stance against an Arkansas defense that had given up 412 passing yards on 68 attempts a week earlier in an upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe. The Crimson Tide passed for an efficient 213 yards, with starter AJ McCarron going 11 for 16 for 189 yards and a score, but the running game took center stage.
"That's what coach (Nick Saban) preaches, he wants us to be more physical than the other team," Lacy said. "It's a physical game, and if you come out and hit the other team in the mouth they're not going to respond the way they're supposed to - and we were basically able to do that the whole time."
Lacy never gained more than 11 yards on a carry but stepped lively and showed sparks of the form he displayed as the backup to Trent Richardson in 2011 and, two years prior, to Richardson and Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.
He punctuated three quick drives with scoring runs. After a bad Arkansas punt snap set up Alabama deep in Razorback territory, Lacy bulled his way in for a 6-yard touchdown run to give Alabama a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
After Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix returned a second-quarter interception, Lacy scored on a 1-yard run. He added a 10-yard touchdown run to punctuate UA's first drive of the second half to signal the start of a blowout.
"I hugged him after that touchdown right after halftimme," UA center Barrett Jones said, "and I kind of feel like he's back. We kind of saw that old Eddie, he was starting to trust his legs again, and I'm real pleased with what I saw."
What Lacy and the other backs saw were running lanes. The line paved the way for Lacy's three touchdowns in a game where five different running backs got four carries or more.
"Everybody was just on the same page," Lacy said. "Everybody came out, we were feeling great, we all were locked on to accomplishing the same goal and we were able to come out and do it.
"Our offensive line did a great job from the first quarter all the way to the end of the game. We were basically able to do that the whole time. As running backs, we just had to take the correct steps, read the right blocks and the holes were there automatically."
Alabama set a physical tone to start the season, running over Michigan in the first half, but had a lull in the second half and wasn't able to push Western Kentucky around. That physical tone returned against Arkansas.
"We always carry ourselves as a physical team," guard Chance Warmack said. "I thought we came out pretty physical. That's what we want to show everybody."
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.
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