Alabama Coach Nick Saban said that Crimson Tide players may have taken some inspiration from Florida State Saturday. No, not the Florida State that got demolished by Louisville, 62-20. Rather the Seminoles who trailed Ole Miss by 22 points late in the second half of their season-opening game but came back to win, 45-34.
Alabama was down by 21 points late in the first half. And like FSU, the Tide came back beginning late in the first half and continuing through the second half to defeat Mississippi.
Following Bama’s 48-43 win over the Rebels Saturday night, Saban said, “We told the players we thought this was going to be a 60-minute game. We probably would have to wear them down and beat them in the second half.
“I did not think it would be quite that way,” he said, referring to Alabama getting down by 21, then up by 18, and then having to hang on for the victory.
Saban added, “I do think that the players seeing what happened in the Florida State game – when Ole Miss made some big plays, got way up in a big game, and Florida State just kept playing – it showed a lot about the competitive nature of the players who continued to do that.”
After Bama got behind by 24-3 with under three minutes to play until halftime, Bama got a quick touchdown on a Jalen Hurts pass to Calvin Ridley for 22 yards, a 22-yard run from Hurts, and Ridley going in from six yards out on a direct snap jet sweep. It had taken just 37 seconds. The Tide defense then held the Rebels on three downs, forcing a punt. Eddie Jackson gathered in the punt at his 15 and went the distance to pull Alabama to within a touchdown at intermission.
“Scoring right before the half was really huge, twice was big,” Saban said. “We just kept saying, ‘We’ve got to keep playing, we’ve got to keep playing. Score one touchdown and we are back in the game.’ And we were able to score two.
“That’s the message we always try to give to our players about how you compete, how you have to be relentless. That was the message for this game: overcome adversity.”
Saban could never remember a game in which a team fell behind so far, then got up so far – Bama leading 48-30 on Jonathan Allen’s 75-yard interception return with 5:28 to play.
And then, Saban continued, “let them score twice to be back in the game.”
It was 48-33 with 2:51 to play.
Saban said, “The offense did a great job of taking the air out of it at the end.” The Tide had six rushes, made two first downs, and then went to victory kneeldowns for the last two plays in running out the clock.
“You have to give a lot of credit to all phases of the game,” Saban said. “I thought we did a really good job on offense controlling the ball (the Tide had only six more offensive plays than Ole Miss, but Bama had nearly an 11-minute advantage in time of possession).
“Defensively, we did not play great. We gave up too many big plays. But we scored on defense (Allen’s interception return and DaRon Payne scooping up a fumble caused by Ryan Anderson and getting it into the end zone). That is huge in the game, the scores on defense.
“We scored on a punt return, huge in this game.
“So all phases and players contributed to this. It was a great team win.
“What a great college football game.”
He said the only serious injury was a sprained knee suffered by wide receiver ArDarius Stewart, but said he expected Stewart to miss no more than one game.”
Alabama hosts Kent State in Bryant-Denny Stadium at 11 a.m. CDT Saturday.