TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- It's hard to keep No. 8 Alabama's tailbacks and defense down.
Super sub Trent Richardson took a screen pass 85 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter and the Crimson Tide's defense was back to form in a 23-10 victory over Mississippi on Saturday night that was a successful bounce-back game, if not resoundingly so.
The Tide (6-1, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) rebounded from a loss to South Carolina that halted a run at No. 1 and ended a 19-game winning streak by smothering Jeremiah Masoli and the league's top scoring offense.
"The goal of this game was for us to get back to playing with the kind of effort and toughness ... play with the intensity that you need to play with," Tide coach Nick Saban said. "We probably hit on the toughness part.
"We did a better job all the way around. I thought we gave much better effort in this game."
The Rebels (3-3, 1-2) came in averaging 37 points and had scored 97 in their previous two games. Their waning comeback hopes ended with Mark Barron's interception in the final 5 minutes. Marcell Dareus tipped the ball at the line and then DeQuan Menzie batted the ball into the air before Barron caught it.
"I believe we didn't quit," Ole Miss linebacker D.T. Shackleford said. "The objective of the game is to win, but you just have to find the good in what happened. The good tonight was that we didn't quit."
Greg McElroy completed 17 of 25 passes for 219 yards and two touchdowns for the Tide, which has won the last seven meetings and is 32-1-1 against Ole Miss in the state.
It was a drama-free if not altogether pretty win for Alabama, which had appeared to be the odds-on favorite to repeat as defending national champions until losing last week. The race was further muddled this week when replacement No. 1 Ohio State lost to No. 18 Wisconsin.
Alabama won its 18th straight game at Bryant-Denny Stadium, matching the school's third-longest home streak and longest since 1935.
Receiver Julio Jones started despite having surgery six days earlier to repair a broken left hand. But he had only one catch for 8 yards and didn't play in the second half, after aggravating the injury when he couldn't bring in a ball on one play.
"Julio could have actually played in the second half of the game," Saban said. "The ball missed, hit his finger and bent his finger back, which kind of hurt his hand a little bit. In the second half, we just decided we weren't going to play him unless we had to play him."
Mark Ingram and the Alabama running game were largely stymied by Ole Miss. Ingram, whose hopes for a repeat Heisman Trophy absorbed a huge blow with a rough game against the Gamecocks, was held to 60 yards on 15 carries.
The Tide's backfield did manage the one explosive play midway through the third quarter that effectively put it out of reach. Alabama's offense appeared stalled on third-and-11 when McElroy threw to Richardson, the other half of a formidable tailback duo that is suddenly struggling as opposing teams stack defenders near the line.
Richardson shook off tacklers at the line and sprinted down the left sideline for a 23-3 lead.
"They gave me the corner," said Richardson, whose daughter Taliyah turned 4 on game day. "I set them up with a block, then I just kept running."
It was more than enough cushion with Alabama's defense staging a nice comeback a week after giving up 35 points to the Gamecocks.
The Tide defenders swarmed and kept Masoli in check on the ground and in a hurry to get rid of the ball. Ole Miss had just 41 yards and two first downs by halftime before starting to move the ball at times in the second half.
Masoli was 18-of-40 passing for 110 yards with a touchdown and interception.
The Rebels finally got into the end zone with Masoli's 15-yard pass to Melvin Harris with 4:40 left in the third quarter. It came on third-and-7, but by then thousands of Alabama fans had already headed for the exits.
Ole Miss didn't help its cause by committing 12 penalties for 106 yards.
"We were the least penalized team in the league coming in and then man, we just can't help a good team," Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. "We helped them there. I felt we had the momentum."
One of those penalties came when Ole Miss was flagged for a false start on an onside kick attempt after the touchdown.
"There was a time we had the momentum there in the second half, and we didn't get that onside kick," Nutt said. "That hurt.
"I was proud of how hard our guys fought. I thought our defense really came to play tonight. We've got to do a better job of catching some balls. There were some opportunities we had there, but I just don't like foolish penalties. We've got to do better at that."
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