TUSCALOOSA _ Sophomore safety Robert Lester's 75-yard fumble return in the second quarter is believed to be the longest in University of Alabama history, and also had the unusual outcome of the Crimson Tide still didn't end up with the ball.
On second-and-6 at the Alabama 16, Penn State completed a short pass with junior receiver Chaz Powell taking a hard hit by junior safety Mark Barron, with Lester picking up the ball at the 9 and taking off toward the other end zone.
However, a Penn State player eventually caught up, grabbed him by the belt and knocked the ball loose at the 16.
"I knew he was coming," Lester said. "I really don't know how he got it out."
Alabama sophomore cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick tried to scoop up the loose ball and then land on it only to have it stripped at the 2 and recovered by senior wide receiver Brett Brackett. Although the Big Ten officials appeared to initially award Alabama the ball, ruling Kirkpatrick was down before he fumbled, the play was reviewed with the crew instead giving Penn State a first down.
The end result was the Nittany Lions lost 89 yards on the play.
"I would like to think that the first one was a fumble and the second wasn't, but no such luck," Coach Nick Saban said with a laugh. "The good news was that it changed the field position.
The magic number
Richardson had the 31st 100-yard performance by a running back or receiver during Saban's three-plus seasons at Alabama. In those games, the Tide only has one loss:
100-Yard Rushers (22-1)
246 by Mark Ingram vs. South Carolina (Oct. 17, 2009) W
218 by Glen Coffee vs. Kentucky (Oct. 4, 2008) W
173 by Terry Grant at Vanderbilt (Sept. 8, 2007) W
172 by Mark Ingram at Mississippi (Oct. 10, 2009) W
162 by Glen Coffee at Arkansas (Sept. 20, 2008) W
150 by Mark Ingram vs. Virginia Tech (Sept. 5, 2009) W
149 by Mark Ingram vs. Mississippi State (Nov. 14, 2009) W
144 by Mark Ingram vs. LSU (Nov. 7, 2009) W
144 by Glen Coffee vs. Auburn (Nov. 29, 2008) W
144 by Trent Richardson vs. Penn State (Sept. 11, 2010) W
140 by Mark Ingram at Kentucky (Oct. 3, 2009) W
134 by Terry Grant vs. Western Carolina (Sept. 1, 2007) W
126 by Glen Coffee at LSU (Nov. 8, 2008) W
121 by Glen Coffee vs. Houston (Oct. 6, 2007) W
118 by Trent Richardson vs. Florida International (Sept. 12, 2009) W
116 by Mark Ingram vs. Texas (Jan. 7, 2010) (BCS) W
113 by Mark Ingram vs. Florida (Dec. 5, 2009) (SEC) W
113 by Mark Ingram vs. Arkansas State (Nov. 1, 2008) W
111 by Eddie Lacy vs. San Jose State (Sept. 4, 2009) W
112 by Glen Coffee vs. Florida (Dec. 6, 2008) (SEC) L
109 by Trent Richardson vs. Texas (Jan. 7, 2010) (BCS) W
104 by Terry Grant vs. Tennessee (Oct. 20, 2007) W
102 by Mark Ingram vs. Chattanooga (Nov. 21, 2009) W
100-Yard Receivers (7-1)
185 by D.J. Hall vs. Tennessee (Oct. 20, 2007) W
172 by D.J. Hall at Arkansas (Sept. 15, 2007) W
140 by D.J. Hall at Mississippi (Oct. 13, 2007) W
128 by Julio Jones at LSU (Nov. 8, 2008) W
124 by Julio Jones vs. Florida (Dec. 6, 2008) (SEC) L
103 by Julio Jones at Tennessee (Oct. 25, 2008) W
102 by Julio Jones vs. LSU (Nov. 7, 2009) W
100 by Mike McCoy vs. Florida International (Sept. 12, 2009) W
100-Yard Rusher/Receiver in Same Game (3-1)
Tennessee (Oct. 20, 2007) W 104 by Terry Grant and 185 by D.J. Hall
vs. Florida (Dec. 6, 2008) (SEC Champ.) L 112 by Glen Coffee and 124 by Julio Jones
Florida International (Sept. 12, 2009) W 118 by Trent Richardson and 100 by Mike McCoy
LSU (Nov. 7, 2009) W 144 by Mark Ingram and 102 by Julio Jones
Injuries and starters
Junior Courtney Upshaw (ankle) only played in a couple of obvious pass-rushing situations in the first half, with redshirt freshman Ed Stinson getting the start at Jack linebacker. It was mostly a precautionary move.
After starting at cornerback last week junior DeQuan Menzie only played star in the nickel package, which may have been due to durability concerns due to his coming off an Achilles tear. Freshman DeMarcus Milliner got his first start, but left the game in the third quarter with a right hamstring pull. Junior Phelon Jones replaced him.
Junior linebacker Chris Jordan did not play in the second half due to a shoulder injury and will have an MRI on Sunday. Senior left tackle James Carpenter went to the locker room early in the fourth quarter with a sprained ankle that isn't expected to keep him out next week. Junior Alfred McCullough replaced him.
With junior defensive end Marcell Dareus serving the second of a two-game suspension, Alabama beefed up the line by starting sophomore Kerry Murphy alongside defensive tackle Josh Chapman and put junior Nick Gentry in the line rotation.
Junior running back Mark Ingram (knee) didn't suit up for the game.
"Hopefully, Mark will be back next week," Saban said. "He practiced a little on Thursday but we didn't think he practiced enough to play. He'll practice more on Monday so that will be helpful. It will be helpful to get Marcell Dareus back on defense, but I think we just need more players to contribute especially on defense where there are more young guys who just need to take advantage of the opportunity."
The offensive line's string of 42 quarters without a holding call ended on Alabama's second possession when sophomore guard Chance Warmack was flagged. However, the Tide scored on the subsequent play, freshman Kevin Norwood's 36-yard touchdown reception.
There was so much national media at the game that the 14 pro scouts attending were given temporary tables in the camera well below the press box. Also on hand were representatives of the Fiesta, Citrus and Gator bowls.
The 515 wins between Saban (120) and Paterno (395) are the most career coaching victories of any game ever played at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Incidentally Penn State has had just four football coaches since 1918. Alabama had five last decade.
Since 1994 the No. 1 team in the Associated Press poll is now 27-0 at home against nationally-ranked opponents, with an average margin of victory more than 21 points. The last No. 1 team to lose at home to a ranked opponent was Florida, 36-33 to Auburn.
All of Penn State's visits to Tuscaloosa (not including games at Legion Field), have resulted in the losing team failing to score more than three points (6-0, 23-3, 9-0).
Team captains were Julio Jones, Dont'a Hightower and Preston Dial.