Before Saturday night, the last time the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 SEC) had trailed anybody was the Game of the Century last year against LSU (the first one). Of course, that was before a spunky Ole Miss Rebels team (3-2, 0-1 SEC) took an early 7-6 lead against the Tide with 13:40 left in the second quarter.
Hopefully the Rebels savored the feeling, because it didn’t last long.
With the Ole Miss sideline still buzzing, Tide receiver Christion Jones took the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown — ticking off just 15 seconds, regaining the lead and killing any momentum the Rebels might’ve had to pull off the upset.
“The way he kicked it, it was kind of squibbish, but I think our kickoff team did a heck of a job blocking up front,” Jones said. “I think we did a great job standing and doing our assignments. We were trying to get one real bad, and we finally got one when the team focused in on it, and we finally got one return back, so I thank them for the blocks they did.”
On a night where the Tide offense sputtered early, kicker Jeremy Shelley was perfect with two 38-yard field goals, a 26-yarder and a final 24-yard score to close out the game, which helped buoy an offense that stalled almost every time it got close to the end zone.
“We got the stops on defense but then went three-and-out and never really put a drive together and kicked two field goals,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We need to do a little better job of finishing games as well. You have to give Ole Miss a lot of credit. They played hard and with a lot of toughness.”
Coupled with Jones’ game-changing return, special teams actually accounted for more overall points than the Tide offense in the 33-14 win.
But, considering the Tide’s secondary snagged three interceptions on the night, they didn’t really need to score that many points. Bama cornerback Dee Milliner snagged an errant Bo Wallace pass early in the second quarter, while safety Robert Lester and cornerback Deion Belue added their own picks before halftime.
“We played a good game today; we knew they were going to throw the ball up a lot, and we just had to make plays while the ball was in the air,” Milliner said.
The Tide pass rush gave Ole Miss fits for much of the night, getting to the quarterback for five sacks that contributed to many of the Rebels’ miscues. Lineback C.J. Mosley led Alabama with 10 tackles, with fellow ‘backers Vinnie Sunseri and Trey DePriest close behind with six apiece.
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