Tide flubs fourth quarter lead

Alabama's football team supposedly had its best week of preparation, but the Crimson Tide played by far its worst game of the year Saturday, falling to Ole Miss, 27-24, in Oxford.

The loss dropped Alabama to 3-3 on the season. And the loss also left Bama at 2-2 in Southeastern Conference play with much more difficult games to come.

Next Saturday Alabama will host 13th ranked Tennessee at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Kickoff will be shortly after 2:30 p.m. CDT with television coverage by CBS. Tennessee, 3-1 overall and 2-1 in SEC games, was idle this week.

The game was reminiscent of another close loss at South Carolina earlier this year. In both contests Alabama had solid fourth quarter leads and was unable to put the game away.

Bama entered the fourth quarter against the Rebels leading 24-14. Ole Miss scored two touchdowns in the final period to takes its first win over Alabama since 1988.

Late in the fourth quarter it appeared Bama had staved off defeat. Ole Miss had a chance to take the lead with 3:47 to play but a pass to a wide open receiver in the end zone on a fourth down play was overthrown and incomplete. The Rebels were out of timeouts and Alabama seemed to be in control. However, the Alabama offense was unable to make the one first down it needed to wrap up the game and punted back to the Rebels with 1:42. to play.

Even after having one big play nullified by a holding penalty, Mississippi had no trouble moving against Alabama's defense for the winning points. The Rebels marched 59 yards in five plays and took only 56 seconds to get the winning touchdown pass.

Alabama's trick play on the ensuing kickoff was typical of Crimson Tide ineptness on this day. A lateral play was a forward pass, and so Alabama started at its own four-yard line with just 40 seconds to play. A pass interception two plays later and the game was over.

Also, much as in the South Carolina loss, Alabama quarterback Tyler Watts had a decent day. But in the fourth quarter the play of Mississippi's quarterback, Eli Manning, and the rest of the Ole Miss offense, defense and special teams was superior to anything Alabama had.

Alabama took the lead with a picture perfect first quarter drive, 86 yards in 12 plays with tailback Ahmaad Galloway going in from six yards out. Bama had a chance to open up a nice lead later in the quarter, but a first down opportunity was squandered and Neal Thomas' 40-yard field goal attempt was just wide.

The Rebels took a 14-7 lead midway through the second quarter, but the Tide battled back to a 17-14 halftime advantage. Bama tied the game at 14-14 when Watts connected with Sam Collins on a 58-yard scoring play. Thomas' 31-yard field goal with under two minutes to play in the second quarter gave Bama the lead at intermission.

Watts and back-up tailback Santonio Beard ran Alabama down to the Mississippi goalline midway through the third quarter and Watts' pass to Triandos Luke in the end zone gave Alabama a 10-point lead going to the fourth quarter.

However, in the fourth quarter the Alabama offense managed only 17 yards and no first downs. Meanwhile, Ole Miss eight first downs and 184 yards of offense.

Although Watts was far and away Alabama's best offensive weapon, he finished with only seven completions in 24 attempts. He did not complete any of his seven fourth quarter passes, and his last attempt was intercepted to end any faint hopes the Tide had of a comeback. In Watts defense, his receivers were responsible for several of his incompletions, but he was off target, too. His passes were good for 136 yards. He was also Bama's leading rusher as he had his third straight game with over 100 yards rushing and passing. He finished with 13 carries for 110 yards. Galloway had 16 carries for 61 yards and Beard four runs for 49 yards.

Manning had a field day against Alabama's defense. Although Bama broke up the occasional pass, most of the incompletions were just misses. But Manning did hit on 22 of 41 throws for 325 yards.

The Rebels finished with 80 plays for 430 yards, an average of 5.4 yards per play, while Bama had 62 plays for 363 yards, 5.9 per play.

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