Bama starting quarterback Blake Sims directed five touchdown drives, Jake Coker led Alabama on a 99-yard touchdown drive and to a field goal, and sophomore Alec Morris quarterbacked the Tide to its final score in the last minute of the game.
Alabama opens Southeastern Conference play next Saturday when the Crimson Tide hosts the Florida Gators. Kickoff will be at 2:30 p.m. CDT with CBS televising the game.
Tide wide receiver Amari Cooper had another exceptional game with eight receptions for 168 yards and a touchdown. Christion Jones had four receptions for 50 yards. Five receivers had one catch each, including tight end Brigan Vogler getting a five-yard touchdown reception.
Sims completed 12-17 passes for 168 yards and two touchdowns and had five rushes for 46 yards. Coker completed 5-7 passes for 46 yards.
Alabama piled up 31 first downs to 13 for Southern Miss. Bama had 49 rushing plays for 333 net yards and 24 passing plays (17 completions) for 214 yards for total offense of 73 plays for 547 yards. The Golden Eagles had 18 rushes for 56 yards and completed 19 of 37 passes for 207 yards for total offense of 55 plays for 263 yards. The Tide was penalized only three times for 25 yards, USM six times for 50 yards. Alabama converted 7-11 on third down plays, Southern Miss 3-13. Bama had an advantage in time of possession, 34:40 to 25:20.
Nick Mullens completed 19 of 35 passes for 207 yards and Markese Triplett had five receptions for 46 yards to lead Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles got four field goals (33, 43, 37, and 30) from Corey Acosta.
Safety Landon Collins led Bama defensively with 12 tackles (six primary), while linebacker Trey DePriest had four primary stopes and two assists and safety Geno Smith three primary stops and an assist. Linebacker Xzavier Dickson reached the quarterback twice to break up passes among his three quarterback pressures. Ryan Anderson had a sack and two quarterback pressures. Jonathan Allen had a tackle for loss and Collins and DePriest combined for a tackle for loss.
It was not a pretty first half for Alabama. As expected, Southern Miss came out throwing from its no-huddle offense and the Golden Eagles moved smartly downfield on the first possession of the game. Finally the drive was stopped, but it was at the Bama 16, an easy 33-yard field goal for Corey Acosta and a 3-0 USM lead.
Alabama answered with a nice touchdown drive, 70 yards in 7 plays with Blake Sims hitting Amari Cooper on a crossing route and Cooper taking it to the end zone. After Adam Griffith’s extra point kick, the Tide had a 7-3 lead with 7:42 remaining in the first quarter. The drive had also included a 17-yard pass to Cooper and runs by T.J. Yeldon of 13 and 15 yards.
After an exchange of punts, Bama went 80 yards in 13 plays with Sims scrambling the last four yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead. The drive started with Cooper on an end-around gone wrong at the left side. But he reversed field and turned it into a 13-yard gain. Cooper also had a 10-yard reception in the drive and Sims scrambled for a 20-yard gain on third-and-10.
Both teams would have punting game mistakes that led to scores in the second quarter.
The Golden Eagles made the first error, a short punt that gave the Tide starting position at the USM 38. It took only six plays for Alabama to grab a 21-3 lead. Cooper had a lateral pass and run for nine yards and a 10-yard pass reception in the drive and Sims scrambled for eight yards on first-and-goal from the nine, setting up a Kenyan Drake touchdown with 5:36 remaining in the second quarter.
It looked as though Bama might have a chance to pad its lead when the Golden Eagles had to punt from their 23 with over three minutes remaining, but the short punt hit Alabama’s Tyren Jones and was recovered by the Golden Eagles at the Tide 29. That led to another Acosta field goal, this one from 43 yards, with 1:25 to play and left it Alabama 21, Southern Miss 6 at halftime.
Alabama had the ball for five possessions in the second half and scored on all five – four touchdowns and a field goal.
Bama got the ball to start the third quarter and drove 75 yards in eight plays with Kenyan Drake scoring over left guard from a yard out. Sims had connected with Cooper on passes of 22 and 14 to start the drive, Derrick Henry had a 21-yard run, and Drake had a nice 11-yard run in the march to a 28-6 lead.
The Golden Eagles came back with their third field goal march of the night with Acosta hitting from 37 to make it 28-9.
Alabama wasn’t having much luck with the officials or the replay officials on close calls, but finally a review went Bama’s way. An official ruled Cooper out of bounds on a long pass play from Sims, but the replay showed it to be a completion and a 29-yard gain that started the Tide on its fifth touchdown drive. Sims had a 13-yard pass to Christion Jones and the quarterback also had a nice read-option run to the USM five before passing to Brian Vogler for the touchdown and a 35-9 lead.
If anyone was thinking of seeing Coker at quarterback, it probably wasn’t after the Golden Eagles punted Bama back to its one-yard line. But it was no problem for the junior. He gave the ball to Henry for an 11-yard gain that got Bama off the goalline and later Henry would have a 14-yard run. A Coker pass to Christion Jones gained 22 yards to the USM 29. On first down from there, a quick pitch to Drake resulted in a run around right end in which Drake was not touched as the junior scored his third touchdown early in the fourth quarter. Alabama had a 42-9 lead.
The Golden Eagles drove to another Acosta field goal, a 30-yarder, that pulled USM to 42-12.
Coker’s last appearance of the night at quarterback was somewhat disappointing, but only because of its finish. Tyren Jones had an outstanding series running the ball with pickups of 22, 16, and 6 around a Coker pass to senior walk-on tight end Michael Nysewander for nine yards. Coker kept on a first down play and the Tide had second at goal at the one. The obvious disappointment was that Jones lost a yard and then Coker was sacked at the 13 and Bama had to settle for a 30-yard field goal from Griffith and a 45-12 lead.
No one could accuse Alabama of running the score up, but the Crimson Tide did get a final touchdown in the final seconds. Soph quarterback Alec Morris directed the 10-play, 69-yard drive, which was all on the ground and ended with Jones going in from two yards out and the final margin of 52-12.