Alabama fifth-year senior Blake Sims certainly didn’t lose any ground in the quarterback competition as he led the Crimson Tide to a comfortable 35-9 lead through the first two possessions of the second half.
But Alabama Coach Nick Saban got a look at junior transfer Jacob Coker in something of a pressure situation. Late in the third quarter, Southern Mississippi punted Bama down to the one-yard line and Coker was sent into the game. He passed that test.
Alabama drove 99 yards in only eight plays for a touchdown.
Just for good measure, third team quarterback Alec Morris came in on Bama’s last possession and led the Tide to the final touchdown of the game.
Alabama will be without the services of starting safety Nick Perry for the first half of next week’s Florida game. Perry, one of the captains against Southern Miss, was called for a targeting personal foul, which carries the penalty of missing the next half of play, whether in the game or extending to the next game. The foul came in the second half against Southern Miss.
Alabama had a 21-6 lead at the half against Southern Miss. Bama is now 76-4 under Coach Nick Saban when leading at the half.
Late in the game Alabama showed J.K. Scott as a kickoff man. Scott, who probably trails the NCAA in punts attempted with three this year (not counting one when he was roughed). Scott’s kickoff sailed deep into the end zone for a touchback.
When Southern Miss took the opening kickoff and went on to kick a 33-yard field goal and take a 3-0 lead, it marked the second time in just three games this season Bama has given up the first score. West Virginia also took a 3-0 lead in the season-opener in Atlanta, a game won by the Tide, 33-23.
Alabama’s defense limited Southern Miss to just four yards of total offense in the second quarter. The Golden Eagles had 104 yards at the end of the first quarter on 4 runs for 7 yards and 7-12 passing for 97 yards. In the second quarter USM had 3 rushes for minus 2 yards and 3-6 passes for 6 yards. Total offense at the half was 108 yards for the visitors.
Alabama has seven sacks in the first three games (3 vs. West Virginia, 3 vs. against Florida Atlantic and 1 vs. Southern Miss), which are the most for an Alabama team in the first three games of the season since recording 10 sacks in the first three games of the 2009 undefeated national championship season (5 vs. Virginia Tech, 5 vs. Florida International and 0 vs. North Texas). It took the first five games for Alabama to record six sacks in 2013. Ryan Anderson and Xzavier Dickson lead the Tide with two sacks each through three games in 2014.
Since the start of the 2009 season, no defense has allowed fewer touchdowns than the Crimson Tide. Over the last 70 games, the Alabama defense has surrendered 92 touchdowns – an average of only 1.3 per contest. Southern Miss, of course, did not have a touchdown Saturday.
In Coach Nick Saban’s 97-game tenure at Alabama, the Crimson Tide has limited opponents to under 300 yards of total offense 62 times, or 63.9 percent of the time. UA has held two of three opponents below 300 yards in 2014, including limiting USM to 263.
Alabama limited Southern Miss to 56 yards rushing, marking the third straight game the Crimson Tide defense has allowed 60 yards or less on the ground. In the season opener, West Virginia finished with 28 yards rushing, and Florida Atlantic followed that up with 57 yards.
Nearly every time junior Amari Cooper touched the ball in the first half he moved up in one of several categories in the Alabama career record book. On his first reception, a 17-yarder, he passed Ozzie Newsome (1974-77; 2,070 yards) for the No. 3 spot on the Crimson Tide’s career receiving yards list. On his next catch, a 22-yard touchdown reception, Cooper tied D.J. Hall (2004-07) for second in career touchdown receptions with 17. Cooper finished the game with 135 yards on eight receptions giving him 137 career receptions for 2,190 yards. His 137 career receptions place Cooper into the No. 4 position in the record book.
Cooper finished the game with 135 yards, tying him with DJ Hall (2006) for a record five straight 100-yard receiving games.
Alabama is 63-1 since the start of the 2008 season when rushing for at least 140 yards. The only loss was at Auburn in 2013 when the Tide went for 218 yards, but saw the Tigers gain 296 and score on the game’s final play. In 75 total wins since the start of the 2008 season, Alabama has averaged 216.1 yards per game (16,204 yards). The Tide finished tonight’s game with 333 yards rushing, which was the most since it ran for 352 against Arkansas on Oct. 19, 2013.
Alabama has fielded one of the most balanced offenses in the nation over the past five-plus years. Since the 2009 season, Alabama has passed for 16,024 while rushing for 14,846, a difference of only 1,178 yards (or 16.83 yards per game difference in 70 games). This season, the Crimson Tide has passed for 894 yards passing while rushing for 811, a difference of 83 yards.
With Amari Cooper’s 22-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter, Alabama has scored in 172 consecutive games – the longest streak in program history.
Alabama’s all-time record against Southern Miss on the field is now 36-5-2, although NCAA penalties against Bama changed the record to 34-6-2. Bama has now won six consecutive games in the series, although this was the first game since 2005.
Alabama recognized the 1974 Alabama football team Saturday. That Crimson Tide team of Coach Paul Bryant went 11-0 in regular season before losing a two-point game to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. Captains of the team were Sylvester Croom and Ricky Davis.
The National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame had an on-campus salute to the late Derrick Thomas, who is being inducted into the College Hall of Fame this year. Thomas’s mother, Edith Morgan, represted the family in the ceremony.
Honorary captains were members of the 1974 Crimson Tide, Ricky Davis and Woodrow Lowe.