Pretty Much Ho-Hum As Tide Tops Rebs
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron connected on two nice touchdown passes to freshman Amari Cooper, Christion Jones returned an Ole Miss kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown, and Jeremy Shelley kicked four field goals as the Crimson Tide ran its record to 5-0. Bama also picked off three Ole Miss passes, turning two of them into touchdowns.
Bama is ranked number one in the nation and is 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play. Mississippi fell to 3-2 on the year. It was the SEC opener for the Rebels.
Alabama has an open date next week. The Crimson Tide returns to action Oct. 13 at Missouri. A kickoff time and television coverage has not been announced.
It was not a dominating performance. On defense, the Rebels were more physical than has been the case in recent years. On offense, Ole Miss used rotating quarterbacks, a nifty runner in Jeff Scott, and a hurry-up tempo to keep things uncomfortable for Bama.
Alabama finished with only one more first down than the Rebels, 17-16. The Tide had 34 rushes for 125 yards, Mississippi 35 runs for 80 yards. McCarron completed 22 of 30 passes for 180 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. (He is now Alabama's all-time record-holder in consecutive passes without an interception. He has 206. The old mark was 190 by Brodie Croyle.) Three Ole Miss quarterbacks completed 19 of 33 passes for 138 yards and suffered three interceptions. The Tide had three fumbles and lost one of them. Ole Miss did not have a fumble.
Alabama and Ole Miss came into the game as two of the least penalized teams in the SEC and lived up to that billing. The Rebels were penalized twice for 15 yards and Alabama twice for eight yards.
Alabama had a substantial advantage in time of possession, 35 minutes to 25 minutes. But the Rebels converted 8-17 third down plays and two of two on fourth down tries. Alabama was 11-18 on third down opportunities.
The Tide scored on all four Red Zone opportunities, and the Rebs were 2-2 in the Red Zone against Bama.
Eddie Lacy led the Tide with 19 rushes for 82 yards. T.J. Yeldon had 10 runs for 38 yards. Jeff Scott led Ole Miss with 19 carries for 49 yards.
Bo Wallace was top passer for the Rebels as he hit 15-26 for 123 yards, but he also suffered two of the three interceptions surrendered by Ole Miss.
Cooper had eight receptions for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Lacy had three catches for 15 yards, Kevin Norwood 2-10, and Christion Jones 2-19. Vince Sanders was top receiver for the Rebels with seven catches for 46 yards.
Cody Mandell punted three times for a 41 yard average and the Rebels to return only one of them (for 10 yards).
C.J. Mosley led the Tide defensively with 10 tackles (seven primary). Vinnie Sunseri (five primary, one assist) and Trey DePriest (four primary, two assists) had six each. Interceptions were turned in by Dee Milliner, Robert Lester, and Deion Belue.
The big news of the first half was that Alabama trailed in a game in regulation for the first time since the first quarter of last year's game at Tennessee, a game eventually won by Alabama, 37-6.
After Alabama got a pair of 38-yard field goals from Jeremy Shelley to take a 6-0 lead in the first quarter, the Rebels started a drive at their 25 with just over three minutes remaining in the first quarter. The Rebels appeared to have been stopped for the third consecutive series on three-and-outs, but Bama was flagged for pass interference to keep the Ole Miss drive going. Quarterback Bo Wallace completed a 31-yard pass to Donte Moncrief to put the Rebels deep into Alabama territory at the Tide 25. As the quarter ended, the Rebels had reached third-and-one at the Alabama 3.
Jeff Scott got two yards and a first-and-goal at the one. On the first two carries, one by Scott and one by Wallace, the Rebels were pushed back a few feet. On third down, Scott went around right end for the touchdown. Bryson Rose kicked the Rebels to a 7-6 advantage with 13:50 left in the second quarter.
So, technically, Alabama had to battle from behind to get the victory. But that Ole Miss lead lasted for 15 seconds. That's the time it took for Christion Jones to corral the Rebels' kickoff at the Alabama one and race up the right side for a 99-yard touchdown that gave Bama a 13-7 lead the Tide would not relinquish.
By halftime it was 27-7.
Alabama took advantage of two pass interceptions and two great pass receptions for touchdowns by freshman Amari Cooper to take a comfortable lead at intermission.
Following the kickoff return by Jones, the Rebels' Wallace was picked off by Dee Milliner at the Mississippi 35. Dee Hart had a 12-yard pass reception from McCarron and a seven-yard run. On third-and-three from the 16, McCarron threw a flag route to Cooper, who caught the ball just as he was going out of bounds. (Hart made a great block in pass protection.) The ruling on the field was incomplete, but on review it was determined Cooper had a foot down when he caught the pass for a touchdown and a 20-7 lead with 10:30 to play.
Although Bama didn't get to take advantage of an interception by Robert Lester, who fumbled it back to the Rebels on the return, moments later back-up quarterback Randall Mackey's pass was intercepted by Tide cornerback Deion Belue at the Alabama 32.
It took Bama 13 plays and 6:56 to drive the 68 yards for the touchdown. The march started with a 12-yard McCarron to Cooper completion and ended with a 12-yard McCarron to Cooper completion on which the freshman went up between two defenders and snagged the bullet. It was 27-7. In addition to those two passes to Cooper, McCarron had two other completions to the freshman for 13 yards in the drive. Bama also got nice runs of 10 yards by T.J. Yeldon and 11 by Eddie Lacy.
Lacy was the workhorse on the Tide's first scoring drive, with a run of 15 yards and three six-yard carries. Alabama's second scoring drive came after a poor punt allowed Bama to start at the Ole Miss 44. McCarron hit Kevin Norwood for 17 yards, but then the drive stalled and Shelley kicked his second 38-yard field goal.
Ole Miss drew first blood in the second half with a 70-yard drive that took 16 plays and just over five minutes. The Rebels twice converted on fourth down plays, Scott running for one and taking a six-yard pass for another. Back-up quarterback Mackey, who plays both quartrback and wide receiver, had a 12-yard reception and followed that two plays later with a 12-yard touchdown run. Wallace also had a 16-yard pass to Ja-Mes Logan in the march.
When Alabama failed to score in the third quarter, it marked the first time in 33 quarters Bama had not scored, and so it went to the fourth quarter with Bama holding a 27-14 lead.
Alabama got a little breathing room with a third Shelley field goal, a 26-yard effort, early in the fourth quarter. Bama got a good start thanks to a poor Ole Miss punt, and the Tide showed some offensive spark with McCarron connecting with Christion Jones for 16 yards and a first down. But a couple of McCarron passes for touchdowns were broken up, and the Tide settled for the field goal and a 30-14 lead.
Alabama closed out the scoring with 1:41 to play when Shelley connected on his fourth field goal of the night, a 23-yard effort that capped a 75-yard drive and took just over seven minutes. Lacy had a 23-yard run to jump-start the drive and McCarron completed passes of 15 and 16 yards to Cooper before the Tide had to settle for the short field goal and the final 33-14 margin.
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