TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — The renewal of the Penn State-Alabama rivalry turned out to be more a show of force by Trent Richardson and the Crimson Tide than another classic matchup between storied programs.
Richardson ran for 144 yards in place of injured Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, and the top-ranked Tide rolled to a 24-3 win over Joe Paterno and No. 18 Penn State on Saturday.
With Ingram sidelined for the second straight game with a knee injury, Richardson pulled a pretty good imitation. He plowed through and sidestepped tackles and scored on a 1-yard touchdown run. He also had four catches for 46 yards.
“This will be something I remember for a long time,” Richardson said.
The game itself wasn’t all that memorable. The traditional powers hadn’t met since 1990, also the last time Penn State (1-1) played a Southeastern Conference team.
It didn’t live up to the tradition of classic contests started in the late 1970s with Paterno and Alabama’s Bear Bryant roaming the sidelines. But the physical, fast Tide played its part as the defending national champions.
The Tide hardly slowed down without Ingram, and a young defense forced freshman Rob Bolden and the Nittany Lions into several turnovers to end promising drives.
It was the first time Penn State was held without a touchdown since a 14-9 loss to Michigan in 2007. The shutout lasted until the final 10 minutes.
McElroy completed 16 of 24 passes for 229 yards and two touchdowns for Alabama.
Most of the 101,821 fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium stayed put until the end, with some chanting “SEC.” The Big Ten vs. SEC matchup was one-sided pretty much from the outset, though.
“We came down here knowing how good they were and we didn’t wise up to it,” Paterno said. “I’m not just blaming the kids. I thought our kids didn’t play well and I don’t think we did a good job coaching. Period.”
Alabama harassed Bolden into two interceptions in his first road start. He was 13-of-29 passing for 144 yards.
“A tough crowd and a tough football team,” Paterno said. “That made it tough on him. We didn’t do a good job coaching and getting him ready for this one. I think we’ve got a long ways to go to be a good football team.”
A defense that replaced nine starters hasn’t allowed a touchdown yet and hit Bolden with some jarring blitzes. The Tide gets suspended end Marcell Dareus back next week against Duke.
Richardson had 102 yards in the first half against a defense that had gone the previous 17 games without a 100-yard rusher. Iowa’s Shonn Greene gained 117 yards on Nov. 8, 2008.
“Trent Richardson played a fantastic game,” Saban said. “He’s the first one to get 100 yards against their defense in a long, long time , which says a lot about their defense. But it also says a lot about Trent.”
Richardson had 22 carries and has filled in seamlessly for Ingram, who watched in a jersey and crimson warmup pants for the second straight game. Saban said he expected Ingram to practice on Monday and get at least some action at Duke
“I tried to put the offense on my back and run with it,” Richardson said.
McElroy passed Alabama down the field with four quick completions on its second drive. He found Kevin Norwood for a 36-yard score on the redshirt freshman’s first career catch.
It was hardly vintage Tide. Alabama ran the whole drive with an empty backfield, keeping the Nittany Lions off-balance.
Tight end Preston Dial caught a 14-yard touchdown on the opening play of the second quarter and the Tide led 17-0 at halftime.
Bolden managed to move the Nittany Lions at times, but their best scoring chances ended with a pair of interceptions and a fumble. Robert Lester had one pick and also recovered a fumble in a second-quarter sequence where Penn State lost 89 yards — but not, it turned out, the ball.
Lester recovered a fumble after a catch, raced 75 yards, then had the ball stripped by receiver Derek Moye. Tide cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick lost the ball at the 2 trying to scoop it up.
Lester said he was winded at the end.
“Obviously I need to do a few more windsprints,” he said.
Penn State regained possession, but couldn’t do anything with it. The inability to finish drives frustrated the Nittany Lions.
“We were in the red zone three times,” Nittany Lions wide receiver Devon Smith said. “We could have got a field goal or a score. It kept us out of the game.”
Evan Royster finished with just 32 yards on nine carries and remains 10 yards shy of 3,000 for his career.
The game didn’t live up to the rivalry’s history, but there were a couple of historic figures on hand.
Ex-Florida State coach Bobby Bowden, a Birmingham native, was there to watch his boyhood team. Bowden and Paterno, major college football’s two winningest coaches, met on the field along with Tide coach Nick Saban before the game in an impressive gathering.
Paterno’s mind was firmly stuck in the present, not history.
“I didn’t think about being back in Alabama,” he said. “I was just trying to think about whether we have a little better of a football team than we showed today.”
JOHN ZENOR / The Associated Press