Editor's note: Each day this week we'll review the five biggest plays or moments of the season for the Alabama Crimson Tide. Yesterday, we looked at Dee Milliner's interception in the season opener against Michigan.
For weeks, Alabama fans wondered what was wrong with Eddie Lacy. The big, bruising tailback with the feet of a ballerina was showing his frailty early on in the season. The heir apparent to Trent Richardson and Mark Ingram couldn't stay on the field as he continued to be bothered with nagging injuries -- a recurring turf toe problem, a sprained ankle, a strained hamstring. The 220-pound junior couldn't get healthy and it appeared that true freshman T.J. Yeldon might take the reins as the starting tailback at any moment.
Then came Lacy's breakthrough moment in Columbia, Missouri. In Alabama's first trip to conference newcomer Missouri, Lacy reminded fans and analysts what type of running back he can be. In the pouring rain, he slashed the Tigers' defense for 177 yards and three touchdowns. Neither lightning delay nor injury would keep Lacy from getting his that day.
“I came in with a positive mindset,” Lacy said after the game. “I don’t try to think a certain way. The running backs, we haven’t had a big run in a long time, and I was able to do it today, but it was just because I was thinking positive.”
Of course, Lacy wouldn't leave the game unscathed. He suffered a bruised hand which has been wrapped up at one point or another ever since. To him, playing through the pain was all a matter of having the right mindset.
"It's mind over matter," he said.
With Lacy and Yeldon both running well at tailback, the Alabama offense has hummed along with remarkable efficiency. UA finished in the top 20 nationally in rushing yards and most recently set an SEC championship game record with 350 yards on the ground against Georgia. Lacy, despite running at less than 100 percent, accounted for 181 yards and two touchdowns to help Alabama secure a trip to Miami to compete for a national title against Notre Dame.
"We have always had two backs -- it’s sort of a philosophical thing that we like," UA coach Nick Saban explained. "Durability is such a critical factor in running backs that if you play one guy all the time it enhances his chances of not being able to continue to play at the same level. It’s always been our goal to play two guys -- not always equally, but fairly equally to where both guys have a better chance to sustain the season at a high level and are productive throughout."