TUSCALOOSA -- Within seconds of Ronnie Clark casually scoring his first career touchdown Saturday, the redshirt junior "tight end" was immediately swarmed by half the Alabama defense.Long since taken out of game with the Crimson Tide leading Ole Miss by 40 points just 6 minutes into the third quarter, more than a dozen veterans sprinted from the the Alabama sideline to surround the third-string tailback.
"That was amazing," junior tight end Hale Hengtes said. "We all love Ronnie Clark to death, and he's been a valuable contributor to our team and he's gone through hell since he's been here with injuries and things like that."
Clark, whose 9-yard touchdown run with 6:51 remaining capped Alabama's scoring effort in Saturday's 66-3 blowout of Ole Miss, has mostly appeared in mop-up duty so far this season, rushing for 70 total yards on 15 carries.
"I think a lot of people were very, very excited for him -- so excited that we really could have gotten a penalty because the guys ran out on the field without their helmet on, so we caught a break on that one," coach Nick Saban said. "We were really, really happy to see Ronnie have (that) positive self-gratification for all his dedication and hard work, and commitment to the program and the team in every way that he's been able to contribute."
Clark has struggled to see the field throughout much of his Alabama career to this point after multiple Achilles injuries inhibited his progress.
"Ronnie Clark has been, to me, the consummate, ultimate great story about ... what college football should be all about," Saban said. "Here's a guy that has done everything that anyone could ever ask as a teammate and contributed to the team in whatever way he could, regardless of how (few) accolades that may have brought him. I think every player on the team respects that and understands that, and I think every coach, including myself, respects that and understand that."
Saban complimentary of A&M
To hear Saban tell it, an unranked Texas A&M that lost to UCLA to open the season might just be the "strongest" opponent Alabama has faced this season.
"Texas A&M is the strongest team that we've played to this point looking at them from a holistic standpoint," Saban said, pointing to the Aggies' "explosive" offense, opportunistic defense and "dangerous" special teams. "This is by far, I think, the strongest team that we've played to this point all the way around."
While most casual fans might consider then-No. 3 Florida State the "strongest" overall team Alabama has played so far, the Seminoles have fallen out of the national rankings with a 1-2 record after the Tide knocked out starting quarterback Deondre Francois for the season.
Meanwhile, Texas A&M (4-1, 2-0 SEC) has won four in a row, including a stirring 50-43 overtime victory over Arkansas on Sept. 23. It's quite the rebound for an Aggies squad that led 44-10 in its opener before UCLA scored 35 straight points over the game's final 17-plus minutes to steal a last-second victory.
"I think sometimes when things like that happen, it can be a galvanizing thing for your team," Saban said of A&M's opening loss. "People respond better sometimes to bad things happening than they do when good things happen. ... They've certainly responded and played really, really well. ... This is a really good team."
Wallace earns SEC honor
Alabama senior cornerback Levi Wallace had two interceptions in Saturday's 66-3 win over Ole Miss, including a pick-six for the team's first defensive touchdown of the season.
The effort was more than enough for the former walk-on from Arizona to be named as the SEC's defensive player of the week Monday.
Wallace, who didn't begin the season as a starter but has found his niche as a shutdown corner opposite fellow senior Anthony Averett, helped limit an Ole Miss passing attack that had averaged 427 yards per game to just 165 yards on Saturday.
"(Winning SEC player of the week is a) great privilege," Wallace said Monday. "Shaun (Dion Hamilton) actually told me during the game that I'd probably get SEC Player of the Week. But like I said, I'm never focused on any of that. I'm just trying to help my team win."
This article is written by Alex Byington from The Decatur Daily, Ala. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.