3:30 PM ET, October 18, 2008
Bryant-Denny Stadium, TUSCALOOSA, AL
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Turns out No. 2 Alabama plays pretty well from behind. It's playing from ahead that gave the Crimson Tide fits Saturday.
'Bama surged to a big halftime lead after trailing for the first time all season, then let most of it slip away before coming up with a late defensive stand to hold off Mississippi for a 24-20 victory.
• Nick Saban improved to 7-0 for the first time in his head-coaching career as the Crimson Tide held on by stopping Ole Miss on a fourth down late.
• Alabama trailed for the first time all season (3-0), scored 24 straight to take a 24-3 halftime lead and then barely held on because the offense went interception, fumble and four punts in the second half (Alabama was outgained 359-326 for game).
• The Rebels fell to 1-23 all-time in Tuscaloosa. Alabama has now beaten them by 3, 3, 3 and 4 over the last four years.
• Alabama QB John Parker Wilson threw for a season-high 219 yards and two touchdowns.
-- ESPN research
"That hadn't happened to us yet this year," quarterback John Parker Wilson said. "It was good to see us respond."
In the end, it was another down-to-the-wire win for the Tide (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) over the Rebels, who dominated the second half and still had a shot at the upset approaching the final minute.
The Tide has won its past two games by a total of seven points since rising to No. 2 with a series of easy victories. It was also another in a series of close calls with Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3). Alabama had won each of the past three meetings by a field goal, but holds a commanding 23-1 advantage in Tuscaloosa.
Low: Bama plugs alongThe relief outside the Alabama locker room was spliced with frustration following Saturday's win over Ole Miss. If the initial diagnosis is correct, nose tackle Terrence Cody won't be lost for the season, writes Chris Low. Blog
"I said it all week long: Ole Miss is really a good football team," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "I believed it. I don't know if our players believed it, but I think they do a fantastic job and they've got good players."
Wilson threw for a season-high 219 yards and a pair of touchdowns and helped Alabama race to 24 straight points after facing a 3-0 deficit and giving up points in the opening quarter for the first time all season.
Then Ole Miss answered with 17 straight points and closed to within 24-20 on Joshua Shene's 35-yard field goal with 6:09 left.
The Tide pushed the ball across midfield on its next possession aiming to put the game away but the drive stalled. P.J. Fitzgerald's short punt gave Ole Miss the ball at its own 24 with 3:03 left.
Snead ran it on the first three plays, including once for a 5-yard gain when a pass that was batted right back into his arms by Bobby Greenwood. Brandon Deaderick then had a sack before Snead threw an incompletion and hit McCluster for a 10-yard gain to set up the fourth-down play.
"I felt like I had to get rid of the ball, and unfortunately I wasn't able to get it where I wanted to go with it," Snead said.
The Rebels were going for their second road upset of a top-five team after beating Florida three weeks earlier.
"The reason we're able to play in this environment is you reach back to a game like Florida," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "A lot of teams can't stay on the field with Alabama, a lot of teams."
Nutt's team cashed in on two big gambles on the opening drive of the second half to make it 24-10. Snead ran up the middle for 17 yards on fourth-and-4. Then, Ole Miss faked a field goal, with blocking back Jason Cook taking a shovel pass from holder Rob Park for a 9-yard touchdown.
"It's something that we've had for a while and could never find the right opportunity to run it," Cook said. "Finally the opportunity presents itself and next thing you know I'm in the end zone for the first time in my career, so it was pretty cool."
A later fourth-down try in Alabama territory didn't pay off, when Don'ta Hightower stuffed Davis on fourth-and-inches late in the third. Ole Miss got more chances, though.
After the teams exchanged fumbles in the fourth quarter, Snead hit Shay Hodge for a 17-yard touchdown with 9:27 left. Snead had fumbled at the end of a long run on the previous drive.
Alabama went three-and-out to give Ole Miss the ball back near midfield, but the Rebels had to settle for Shene's kick.
The Tide has the league's top running game and rush defense, but was outgained 158-107 on the ground.
Enrique Davis gained 70 yards on 11 carries for Ole Miss, most of that coming on a 62-yarder that set up Shene's first field goal. It was the longest play from scrimmage yielded by Alabama this season.
Snead was 16-for-31 for 192 yards.
Alabama got rolling quickly after the early deficit.
Wilson hit Marquis Maze on a perfectly thrown fade route for a 26-yard touchdown to start it. The Tide then added Ingram's 2-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter with 365-pound nose guard Terrence Cody as lead blocker on his first offensive snap.
"I don't think there's any rocket science to it," Saban said. "The guy's a great big guy who's very powerful and took almost the whole side of the line and moved it."
The key cog in Alabama's run defense, Cody was carted off the field with a right knee injury in the third quarter. Saban said surgery didn't appear to be necessary, but Cody would likely miss a couple of weeks.
Justin Woodall and Rashad Johnson each picked off two passes in a 3-minute span during that 24-0 spurt and returned them well into Ole Miss territory -- one thrown by Snead and another by McCluster on the "Wild Rebel" play where he lines up at quarterback. The Tide scored on Leigh Tiffin's 41-yard field goal and Wilson's 30-yard pass to Mike McCoy, splitting two defenders after a handoff and pitch-back from Glen Coffee.
Top 25 Overview
It was over when... Jevan Snead's pass on fourth-and-5 fell incomplete with just more than a minute left, ending Ole Miss' comeback attempt.
Gameball goes to... John Parker Wilson, who threw for 218 yards and two touchdowns.
Stat of the game... 3-0. Bama trailed for the first time all season when Ole Miss went ahead on a first-quarter field goal, but the Crimson Tide responded with 24 straight points.
Team Stat Comparison
|3rd Down Conversions||2-14||3-11|
|4th Down Conversions||2-4||0-0|
|FG||05:25||Joshua Shene 25 Yd||3||0|
|TD||04:10||Marquis Maze 26 Yd Pass From John Parker Wilson (Leigh Tiffin Kick)||3||7|
|TD||06:34||Mark Ingram 2 Yd Run (Leigh Tiffin Kick)||3||14|
|FG||04:45||Leigh Tiffin 41 Yd||3||17|
|TD||02:51||Mike Mccoy 30 Yd Pass From John Parker Wilson (Leigh Tiffin Kick)||3||24|
|TD||10:37||Jason Cook 9 Yd Pass From Rob Park (Joshua Shene Kick)||10||24|
|TD||09:27||Shay Hodge 17 Yd Pass From Jevan Snead (Joshua Shene Kick)||17||24|
|FG||06:09||Joshua Shene 35 Yd||20||24|