By Rob Ketcham
The Cullman Times
The newfangled targeting rule reared its head against Alabama for a second time this season Saturday night.
And once again, a subsequent review resulted in a reversal of an ejection, firing up the already-rowdy fans at Bryant-Denny Stadium, as well as the top-ranked Tide en route to a 25-0 victory over red-hot Ole Miss.
With 4:41 remaining in the third quarter, a Bo Wallace pass glanced off Evan Engram's hands before Alabama defensive back Eddie Jackson collided with the Rebel tight end just outside the right sideline.
A flag was thrown, and Jackson was immediately disqualified for targeting a defenseless receiver.
But just like in the Texas A&M game with HaHa Clinton-Dix, officials reviewed the call and ultimately overturned the ejection. Replays showed helmet-to-helmet contact was made, but it appeared incidental on Jackson's part.
And also like in the College Station showdown, the 15-yard penalty associated with targeting still stuck, giving Ole Miss a fresh set of downs at Alabama's 15.
With the crowd in a frenzy, the Tide D responded in the biggest way possible, proceeding to kill not just one, but two fourth-down conversion attempts by the Rebels deep in Alabama territory.
Linebacker C.J. Mosley heroically swatted away a pass on the first, while Deion Belue and Clinton-Dix combined to do the same on the second.
There were no shortage of big plays made by the Tide's dominant defense, which capped off a near-flawless performance with a safety around the six-minute mark in the fourth quarter and a Denzel Devall forced fumble and Ed Stinson recovery the next time the unit took the field.
Clinton-Dix upended wide receiver Laquon Treadwell with a low hit to cause a short spot on fourth-and-short on the Rebels' first drive of the night, and Jackson halted their third with his first career interception on a trick pass by Treadwell.
% Pushing their buttons: Apparently Eddie Lacy left another spin button in Tuscaloosa before heading to the NFL.
And T.J. Yeldon was the running back to push it Saturday, instantly turning around a sluggish first half of offense for Alabama with a snazzy 68-yard scoring scamper on the second play of the third quarter.
The speedy sophomore began the sequence by bursting through a hole up the middle, heading right and spinning around the Rebels' only potential tackler before sprinting untouched the rest of the way to the end zone.
The carry was a career long for Yeldon and gave the Tide a much-more comfortable 16-0 cushion.
While the spin button belonged to Yeldon, its turbo counterpart was later called upon by Kenyon Drake.
On the first play following Alabama's safety, the sophomore turned on the jets and quickly got out in the open field for a 50-yard score, the Tide's last of the night.
Yeldon wrapped up the battle of unbeatens with 121 rushing yards on 17 carries, while Drake came up just short of triple-digits with 99 on 12.
% A leg to stand on: Senior kicker Cade Foster provided all of Alabama's points in the first half, connecting on a career-high three field goals, including a career-long 53-yarder that had just enough to clear the uprights past the midway point in the second quarter.
Foster also connected on kicks of 28 and 42 yards.
The last was set up by a heads-up sequence from AJ McCarron.
After a false start pushed the Tide back five yards and forced a furious Nick Saban to call a timeout to avoid a 10-second runoff on a penalty called within the final minute of a half, the senior signal-caller threw a short pass over the middle to Yeldon, who took it right and tried to hurdle a set of defenders before being tackled just short of the first down.
With the clock quickly approaching zero, McCarron calmly completed a sideline pass to Kenny Bell, leaving Foster with two seconds on the clock, more than enough to boot through the 42-yarder.
% Injury update: A knee injury forced sophomore center Ryan Kelly to make an early exit in the first half. Junior Chad Lindsay took over the role for the rest of the contest.
After the game, Saban said Kelly suffered a stressed MCL and is likely to be out for two or three weeks.
% Rob Ketcham can be reached at 256-734-2131, ext. 138 or at email@example.com.