TUSCALOOSA | At first blush, the University of Alabama's offense didn't look so mighty Saturday night against the Ole Miss Rebels.
Upon further review, it was at least enough.
The Crimson Tide managed more field goals than touchdowns against an Ole Miss defense that was stacked to stop the run, and quarterback AJ McCarron was more efficient than spectacular, but did what it took to guide Alabama to a 33-14 victory.
McCarron passed for 180 yards, along the way surpassing Brodie Croyle's school record for pass attempts without an interception, but it was on third down that he really shined. The 6-foot-4 junior went 11-for-13 on third-down plays, throwing two touchdown passes and converting eight times. For the night he went 22-for-30, with freshman receiver Amari Cooper having a breakout performance with eight catches for 84 yards and both touchdown receptions.
"We really had high hopes that Amari Cooper would sort of one day find himself and do the things that he does in practice all the time in the game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I think that happened today."
For his part, McCarron characterized his performance as "mediocre, just mediocre."
"They did a good job stopping us," McCarron said. "They just had a good game. We've got to do better."
Alabama's opening possession gave the impression it was going to be a tough go against an Ole Miss team that gave up 66 points to Texas in its only previous loss. The Crimson Tide's running game netted just a yard on three carries and UA punted after one first down.
The Crimson Tide settled for field goals on its next two possessions before the offense got in synch. An interception set UA up at the Ole Miss 35-yard line, and four plays later McCarron threw over the top to Cooper heading out of bounds at the goal line. The play was ruled incomplete, but the call was overturned by the replay booth, giving Alabama a 16-yard touchdown completion.
Later in the second quarter, the Crimson Tide drove steadily to another score, 68 yards in 13 plays, capped by a 12-yard pass from McCarron to Cooper, who made a nice leaping grab to take the ball away from an Ole Miss defender.
Saban, however, wasn't satisfied at halftime. He wanted UA to do more to take advantage of Ole Miss' aggressive defense.
"We need to make some plays on offense," Saban said, "to counter what they are doing on defense."
Instead, Alabama's second-half scoring consisted of two field goals.
On the ground, UA was able to grind out just 125 yards, with Eddie Lacy gaining 82 yards on 19 attempts.
Receiver DeAndrew White will be evaluated for a knee injury and Dee Hart had a possible knee injury fielding a punt. Defensive back Deion Belue left the game with a shoulder injury that Saban characterized as "a week-or-two type deal."
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