"There is not a limit to he can do. We went into this season with Santonio and Ahmaad (Galloway) up there at the top of the depth chart.
Along with many other members of the Tide offense, Beard had performed poorly the previous game against Georgia. But Saturday the junior tailback ran wild, scoring touchdowns five of the 13 times he carried the football. "He certainly has had some tough days," Franchione acknowledged. "After the Georgia game we wanted him to be more of a vertical, North/South runner and to run aggressively. I believe he did that. Certainly he had some great blocking up front, and down field his receivers threw some great blocks."
Thanks to Beard's efforts, the Tide scored two early touchdowns before Ole Miss came back with a score of their own to narrow the margin to 14-7. But in an incredibly dominant second quarter, Alabama's defense held the Rebels to minus two yards of offense on six possessions. "We jumped out to a good start and got two touchdowns in our first two possessions," Franchione recalled. "Then we got into a little bit of a lull on offense. We had a turnover and a penalty that took us out of sync. We had to get Brodie into a rhythm when he came in.
"The defense did a great job in the second quarter. Our defense did a great job of taking advantage of when Lane Bearden pinned them down with a punt, keeping them backed up and not giving them anything. They held them in check until we could get a touchdown there before the first half."
Taking into account yardage lost to sacks, Ole Miss was credited with only four yards of rushing offense for the game. But even adding back in that yardage, the Rebels managed only a measly 41 yards on the ground. "It has to make a difference when you get to the point where you can't run," Franchione said. "Then a defense is able to pressure your quarterback and cover your receivers---choose how they want to pressure and choose how they want to cover. It makes you a one-dimensional offense.
More and more as the game wore along Ole Miss was forced to abandon the run. "When you become one-dimensional, defenses are going to be better at defending you," Franchione said. "It's difficult to quantify that. It's not that you can't win the football game, but it makes it very difficult. Just the threat of the run is very meaningful. When they were unable to run the ball it had to have had an effect, because we were able to do a lot of different things to pressure Eli."
The game was never really close, but twice after the half Ole Miss drove down into the red zone, only to give the ball up on downs each time. "The defense played big in the second half," Franchione said. "They had two stops inside our 15-yard line. Both were big swings in the game."
Late in the third quarter, the Rebels were set up first-and-goal at the Tide eight-yard line. But despite six shots at the end zone, Ole Miss came up short. Alabama's offense responded with a long-distance scoring drive to put the game away. Franchione recalled the sequence. "It was 28-7, and you'd like to think you have control of the game. But you can never assume that at this level. We got a big stop with our defense, and then our offense went 98 yards for the score. That was a good swing for us as a football team."
After going through the game film, Bama's defensive coaches could spot just one missed tackle. "That's a strong statement when you don't miss tackles," Franchione said. "Not only did we only miss one, but we made about three or four tackles that prevented Ole Miss from getting a first down. That was big."
Franchione listed Alabama's Players of the week:
- Offensive line: Marico Portis
- Offensive back: Santonio Beard
- Special teams: Lane Bearden, Chris James and David Scott
- Defensive line: Nautyn McKay-Loescher
- Defensive back: Charley Jones
- Offensive scout team: Brandon Avalos
- Defensive scout team: Brandon Dean, J.P. Adams and Brian Kilpatrick
In Eli Manning, the Tide secondary was competing against one of the top quarterbacks in the country. But the Bama DBs held him to only 219 yards passing, including an interception. "(Free safety) Charley (Jones) has been giving us a solid game week in and week out, just real good consistent solid play," Franchione noted. "That was very pleasing. And I want to point out that (cornerback) Gerald Dixon had a good game Saturday with an interception. He's really played well this season."
Two other Tide defensive backs garnered praise from Franchione for their play on special teams. "Chris James graded very high across four units, and David Scott graded high across three units."
Next up for the Tide is archrival Tennessee, a team that currently holds a seven-game winning streak over Alabama. "They're an SEC school that is always going to compete at the highest level," Franchione said. "That's the level that we want to compete at, too. In order to do that you're got to play with these people and beat them. We look forward to playing in these kind of games."
Franchione acknowledged that once again Tennessee will benefit from another open week before playing the Tide, but he's not concerned. "You've got no control over that. We all know this year there are benefits (to off weeks) and then there are some teams that have come off an open week and haven't played well."
The Tide was able to eliminate the Rebels' running game, but the Volunteer attack will be another story. Franchione commented, "Every time you go into a game you hope you can make the other side one-dimensional, but Tennessee down through the years has been effective running the football. If I know their program, I'd guess they probably worked very hard on that this past week. I would expect them to come out and be better in that area."
Depending on who you listen to, Vol quarterback Casey Clausen is either suffering from an injured shoulder or a cracked clavicle. But in their previous game James Banks played very well for Tennessee. "Casey is a veteran; he's been through a lot of big games," Franchione said. "He's very comfortable with the offense. He's got a lot of savvy, just as older quarterbacks have.
"But I'm sure whoever takes the snap is going to be prepared and play well. The Tennessee coaches will have a plan that will fit that player well. Now Banks has had a week or ten days that he will have had a chance to improve."
This season receiver Kelley Washington has probably been Tennessee's most talked about player. A former minor league baseball player, Washington has nicknamed himself "the Future," touting his supposedly dominant talent at wide receiver. "He's a great athlete," Franchione said. "He's a difference maker who can make big plays. Defenses are trying to account for him. They do such an effective job of moving him around that it's difficult to neutralize him."