For that matter, the first interception by Robert Lester for Alabama against Arkansas may have been the winning play. The Razorbacks were knocking at the end zone door when Lester stepped in front of a Ryan Mallett pass to keep the Hogs from what appeared to be a sure touchdown.
It is the second one, though, that most will remember. Alabama’s All-America tailback Mark Ingram remembered it. “When Robert got the interception and ran it back to the 10-yard line, that was huge. I think that set up the outcome of the game right there. We had it at the 10 and three straight runs got the touchdown.”
Obviously Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner, had a little to do with the outcome, because even after Lester’s nice runback, Bama still had to get it in the end zone. Ingram did that.
The interception return was actually “only” to the 12-yard line. Lester got his second interception of the game and fourth of the season with the Tide trailing by 20-17 with under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Lester picked the ball off at the Arkansas 44 and returned it 32 yards. Three plays later Ingram took it in for a 24-20 lead with 3:18 to play.
Lester was one of a handful of Tiders selected by Bama coaches for player of the week honors. He was also the Southeastern Conference Defensive Player of the Week.
For the year he leads the SEC in interceptions and is second in the nation. He has returned his four interceptions for 48 yards.
Lester said the first interception against Arkansas “would be preparation, because the scout team ran that route during practice and I was prepared for it when I saw the formation. I was ready for it and was able to make the play. The second one, we checked out of a pressure and I was able to make a big play.”
As for having four interceptions in the first four Bama games, Lester said, “I have to credit the defensive line and the linebackers for putting pressure on the quarterback. Without that, the quarterback will sit back there and make the plays.”
This week, Lester and his Alabama teammates are preparing for a Florida team that ranks second in the SEC to Alabama in scoring.
Alabama, ranked first in the nation, hosts Florida, ranked seventh in the polls, at 7 p.m. CDT Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium. CBS will televise the game.
Although the Gators are missing some key players from last season, notably quarterback Tim Tebow, Lester said Florida is “a great offense. They wouldn’t be where they are now. They are undefeated. We have to prepare as well as we can to stop them. They are going to come in and give it their all.”
Although this is Lester’s third year at Alabama, he was redshirted as a freshman and did not see action in the SEC Championship Game last year. This will be his first time to play against the Gators. He said, “It’s going to be a great game, a game everyone is looking forward to.”
He said beating Arkansas, another ranked team, on the road last week was a big confidence-booster for the Tide, and that “if we beat Florida, it will give us another big confidence boost.”
Lester said he knows that Florida had the Alabama game circled after Bama thumped the Gators 32-13 in last year’s SEC Championship Game. Florida is not circled on Alabama calendars, though, Lester said. “Every game we play here is important, and you never want to lose,” he said. “We take them one team at a time.
“We have to play with a sense or urgency, and be able to have the intensity for an important game. Focus and execute. And we need to calm down and read our keys and just play football. Play with poise.”
Lester also hopes that Alabama remembers a big lesson from the come-from-behind win against Arkansas.
“I think we learned that instead of waiting to execute in the second half that we need to start from the first play of the game to the end.”