The game was Alabama's fourth consecutive non-conference game to start the season. Next week Bama enters Southeastern Conference play, traveling to Fayetteville to meet the Arkansas Razorbacks. Kickoff time and television arrangements will be announced Sunday or Monday. Arkansas was open this week after having crushed a couple of creampuffs, Boise State and South Florida.
Watts suffered a sprained foot on Alabama's first possession. The first announcement after the foot was X-rayed said he was expected to return, but moments later that decision was reversed and it was announced he would not play. Redshirt freshman Brodie Croyle quarterbacked the rest of the way. The seriousness of Watts' injury is not known, and it is the policy of Bama Head Coach Dennis Franchione to not discuss injuries unless they are season-ending. Watts has suffered season-ending injuries the past two seasons.
Although Alabama never trailed in the game, the Tide had some nervous moments when Croyle lost the handle on the football and Southern Miss returned it 54 yards for a touchdown. The play was listed as an interception as the ball slipped from Croyle's hand while he was attempting to pass or fake a pass or stop from throwing a pass.
Alabama had taken a 14-0 lead on the strength of two nice drives. Ahmaad Galloway scored from six yards out to cap an 11-play, 89-yard drive on that first possession when Watts was injured. Shaud Williams had a 43-yard burst off left tackle to set Bama up at the six, and Galloway went over right end for the touchdown.
Bama made it 14-0 midway through the second quarter as Croyle finished off a 12-play, 79-yard drive with an 11-yard run, out-racing the defense around right end after the called play, an option to the left, was stopped.
Michael Ziifle kicked the first two extra points, but after Ziifle missed his fourth field goal of the year -- a 37-yard attempt in the second quarter -- Brian Bostick got the call to kick a couple of game-clinching fourth quarter field goals. Bostick hit from 39 yards with 10 minutes to play to give Alabama a 17-7 lead, then tacked on the final points with a 29-yard field goal with 5:48 to play.
Shaud Williams continued his fine running from the A-Back position. Alabama ran a number of delay plays against the Southern Miss defense, which is known for its movement just before the snap. The delays enabled the running backs to have a chance to see where holes were developing. Williams had 21 carries for 135 yards. The only disappointment was that Alabama recovered a Southern Miss fumble in the final minutes near the Golden Eagles' goal line, and Williams was unable to punch it over in three tries from the one-yard line. Bama allowed the clock to run out rather than try another play.
Franchione said the Tide defense played "great." He said it was a total team effort by the defense. He cited Bama holding the Golden Eagles excellent back, Derrick Nix, to only 57 yards on 14 carries. The Tide defense turned in five turnovers. Southern Miss had only eight first downs.
Franchione said Croyle "got some great experience. He made some plays. Other than two or three plays I thought he played a solid football game. The one interception they returned for a touchdown was unfortunate. I think this is a game Brodie will say he will learn from."
Franchione was pleased that the Bama rushing game produced 351 yards of offense.
Bama dominated the game statistically. The Tide had 20 first downs (17 rushing, only two passing and one by penalty) to eight by Southern Miss (three rushing, five passing). The Tide had 64 rushes for 351 yards, Southern Miss 26 runs for net rushing of only 35 yards. Tide quarterbacks were not sharp. Alabama completed only five of 17 passes and Croyle was intercepted twice. Bama had only 21 yards passing. Southern Miss completed eight of 27 passes for 110 yards.
Alabama had 81 plays for 372 yards, an average of 4.6 yards per play. The Golden Eagles had 53 plays for 145 yards, an average of 2.7 yards per play. Alabama had nearly double the time of possession of Southern Miss. Alabama kept the ball for 39:11, while the Golden Eagles had the ball for only 20:49.
Alabama was good in the penalty department, only four penalties for 29 yards. The Golden Eagles were victimized by their mistakes, nine penalties for 67 yards, including a couple that negated big plays for Southern Miss.
In addition to Williams, Bama got good rushing from Ahmaad Galloway, who had 14 carries for 89 yards and a touchdown. Galloway suffered an injury -- thought to be a serious knee injury -- late in the game. Santonio Beard had 12 runs for 53 yards.
Watts tried only two passes before going out. He completed one of them for six yards. Croyle was able to connect on only four of 15 attempts for only 15 yards. As a result, Alabama's leading receivers had paltry totals. Sam Collins caught two passes for 10 yards, Triandos Luke two for five yards, and Dre Fulgham one for six yards.
Lane Bearden had a good night. In addition to punting five times for 206 yards, when it appeared a punt might be blocked he pulled it down and ran for 19 yards and a first down. Williams did a good job on punt returns, four for 42 yards. Ray Hudson had one kickoff return and it was a good one, a 39-yarder after the Golden Eagles' touchdown to get Bama started on its first field goal scoring drive.
Kenny King caused two fumbles and recovered one and had a sack. Waine Bacon had seven tackles, recovered two fumbles and broke up a pass. Charlie Peprah turned in an interception, which he returned seven yards. Freddie Roach had five tackles, including one sack and one for lost yardage, and recovered a fumble.