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September 30, 2012
Alabama sluggish but handles Ole Miss
TUSCALOOSA | The University of Alabama football team didn't come close to anything like a mortal wound on Saturday night - but it did look mortal at times.
The No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide raised its record to 5-0 (2-0 in the Southeastern Conference) with a 33-14 win over Ole Miss but did not play to the overwhelming level it had reached in earlier wins. The Crimson Tide generated just two offensive touchdowns, the same as Ole Miss, with the difference coming on special teams, thanks to four Jeremy Shelley field goals and a dazzling Christion Jones kickoff return for a score.
"I don't think people give Ole Miss enough credit," Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said. "They are physical and tough to defend. But nobody listens to me until after the fact.
"We need to get better without something bad happening.
"Defensively, we were in some tough spots out there, although I thought we got better as the game went on."
Alabama controlled play in the first quarter, but two drives stalled just short of the Ole Miss 20-yard line, resulting in a pair of 38-yard Shelley field goals.
Ole Miss (3-2, 0-1) briefly took the lead in the second quarter, marking the first time that Alabama has trailed during regulation since the 2011 Tennessee game. The Rebels went on a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown march, capped by Jeff Scott's 1-yard touchdown run with 13:40 remaining in the first half, putting Ole Miss up 7-6.
That slim deficit lasted just 15 seconds, though. Crimson Tide sophomore Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 99 yards up the right sideline for a touchdown, putting Alabama ahead once again. The rest of the quarter was more domination by Alabama, as Ole Miss threw three interceptions in a stretch of less than four minutes, with Alabama converting two of those into AJ McCarron-to-Amari Cooper touchdowns, one from 16 yards out and the other covering 12 yards. That gave the Crimson Tide a 27-7 halftime edge, and another one-sided win seemed imminent.
Instead, Alabama moved the ball laboriously in the second half, failing to score at all in the third quarter.
Ole Miss, meanwhile, added its second touchdown on a 12-yard run by Randall Mackey.
Shelley added his third field goal with 12:19 remaining in the final period.
The Crimson Tide drove deep into Ole Miss territory late in the game but capped its scoring with a fourth Shelley field goal.
McCarron was 22 of 30 in the game for 180 yards and two scores and also set a new school record for consecutive attempts without an interception, a streak now at 206. Cooper finished with eight catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns.
Eddie Lacy led Alabama with 82 yards rushing on 19 carries.
The win was Alabama's ninth straight against Ole Miss, although a 2007 win was later vacated.
UA will not play again until Oct. 13, when it travels to Missouri.
Reach Cecil Hurt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 205-722-0225.