- Greg Ostendorf, ESPN Staff Writer
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- The University of Alabama trailed for the first time all season when Ole Miss scored a touchdown early in the second quarter, but the Crimson Tide answered with two quick scores and held off the Rebels to win 33-14 Saturday night.
The offense looked efficient but not outstanding. The Tide never hit on the big play they’ve become accustomed to this season. Still, it was a coming-out party for freshman wide receiver Amari Cooper, and quarterback AJ McCarron was sharp yet again for the Tide.
Alabama’s defense gave up 218 yards to the Rebels’ up-tempo offense, but it continued to force turnovers with three interceptions. On the season, the Tide have forced 15 turnovers while giving the ball away only twice.
It was over when: Leading 30-14 in the fourth quarter, Alabama put the game away with a 13-play drive that resuled in a 24-yard field goal from Jeremy Shelley. The drive took more than six minutes and eliminated any chance for an Ole Miss comeback. Eddie Lacy started it with a big run, and Coooper made two key catches to convert on third down.
Game ball goes to: When wide receiver DeAndrew White went down with an injury in the first quarter, Alabama needed somebody to step up in his absence, and Cooper answered the challenge. The freshman wide receiver finished with eight catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Cooper’s performance shows how deep the Tide’s wide receiver corps is this year.
Stat of the game: McCarron passed Brody Croyle’s Alabama record of 190 consecutive pass attempts without throwing an interception when he connected with Brent Calloway on a short pass in the first half. McCarron finished 22-of-30 for 180 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He now has 206 consecutive pass attempts without a pick.
Unsung hero: Starting cornerback Deion Belue never returned from the locker room for the second half due to a shoulder injury, but he made his presence felt in the first half. Belue had five tackles, including one for a loss, and one of the Tide’s three first-half interceptions. His loss was a clear blow to UA’s defense, as Ole Miss moved the ball better in the second half.
What it means for Alabama: The nation’s No. 1 team had its moments. McCarron continued to be efficient. The defense gave up yards but forced turnovers. Even the special teams got a lift from Christion Jones’ 99-yard kick return for a touchdown. Still, it wasn’t a flawless game. The biggest thing to take away might be the injuries, though. No word yet on the severity, but both White and Belue left the game.
What it means for Ole Miss: The Rebels came into the game as a heavy underdog, but they weren’t intimidated by the hostile environment or the opponent. Ole Miss hung with the Tide throughout the game and put together quite a drive in the third quarter against Alabama’s defense. More than anything, the game should give Ole Miss confidence as it dives into SEC play.
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