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October 15, 2011

Getting Defensive

OXFORD, Miss. | For the second time in two Southeastern Conference road games, the University of Alabama defense allowed a touchdown on the opening drive Saturday in a 52-7 win over Ole Miss. And for the second time in those very games, the Crimson Tide offense immediately responded with points.

On Saturday, the Crimson Tide marched 79 yards on nine plays, capped by the first of Trent Richardson's four touchdowns, to tie the game 7-7 on its first possession.
"I think that's critical, especially on the road, to get the momentum of the game back," UA coach Nick Saban said.

Ole Miss opened the scoring and energized its crowd with a short touchdown run by Jeff Scott on the opening drive. But the key play was a 59-yard pass from Randall Mackey to freshman receiver Nickolas Brassell to put the Rebels offense in short-yardage range of a touchdown.

"We busted a coverage, the simplest coverage that we've got, because they were in a two-man stack and we just didn't play it right," Saban said. "Probably a little miscommunication. Something we didn't practice a lot, but a simple call. But when you have a good team you've got to overcome adversity on the road. You have to have the perseverance and poise to do that. I think it was critical that we took the ball down and scored."

Just as Ole Miss' opening touchdown was keyed by a long pass, Alabama's was as well. AJ McCarron found Michael Williams for a 34-yard reception on a third-and-2 play that gave UA a first down on the Rebels' 37. Four plays later, McCarron converted a third-and-10 with a 15-yard completion to DeAndrew White.

Richardson scored on a second-down play from the Ole Miss 8.

"That was very important. Like I told them, 'You know what we're in for,'" Richardson said. "The challenge came at us fast to win the football game. We had to come out and shut (the crowd's) mouths, and that's what we did."

UA offensive lineman Barrett Jones said teams with a bye week before playing Alabama tend to have a well-designed opening drive.
"That happens a lot in the SEC on the road, especially when teams have a bye week," Jones said. "They figure out the perfect plays that they're going to run against our defense. That happens sometimes. I think we did a really good job of answering."

Alabama faced a similar situation two weeks ago in Gainesville when Florida's John Brantley connected with Andre Debose on a long touchdown pass on the first play from scrimmage, igniting a capacity crowd at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium and opening an immediate 7-0 Gators lead. The Crimson Tide responded with a field goal on its first possession in Gainesville - after a 12-play, 52-yard drive - to settle both the crowd and its defense.

The Crimson Tide also allowed game-opening points in its only nonconference road game this season, at Penn State, when it fell behind 3-0 on the Nittany Lions' first possession. And although UA did not immediately respond with a score - its first drive ended with a quick punt - Alabama did take the lead by the end of the first quarter with an 11-play touchdown drive to help quiet the PSU crowd.

Reach Chase Goodbread at chase.goodbread@tuscaloosanews.com or at 205-722-0196.


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