Tide quickly answers challenge

Jones' kickoff return restores order and sparks Bama to 33-14 victory

Updated: September 30, 2012, 3:44 AM ET
By Alex Scarborough | TideNation

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- For 15 seconds, it looked like No. 1 Alabama was beatable.

For 15 seconds, the Crimson Tide were just that.

[+] EnlargeDeAndrew White
AP Photo/Dave MartinSophomore receiver DeAndrew White left with a knee injury after this first-quarter reception.
For the briefest of moments, Ole Miss gave the rest of college football hope, taking a 1-point lead after what was just the third touchdown allowed by the Alabama defense this season.

Then, Alabama return man Christion Jones didn't spare a minute -- he took 15 seconds, to be exact -- to soothe the superficial pain of trailing an opponent for the first time all year, sprinting 99 yards with the kickoff return for a touchdown.

All was right with the world again, the scoreboard in Bryant-Denny Stadium no longer askew. Alabama scored and scored and scored again, taking Ole Miss' hopes of an upset to the woodshed. The Crimson Tide's 33-14 victory restored order for a team accustomed to having its way on the football field.

"Coming in for the return, I kind of wanted to change the atmosphere of the game, the flow of the game," Jones said. "In my mind I was thinking, 'Let's go ahead and get this one to the house.' "

Jones' return settled an anxious crowd and propelled a worn-out defense. Adrian Hubbard and Dee Milliner combined for a sack on the Rebels' next possession, and Milliner followed that with an interception on the following play, picking off a pass from quarterback Bo Wallace.

Milliner said it felt odd to play from behind. It was the first time Alabama had trailed in regulation since Tennessee sent a field goal through the uprights with 3:58 left in the first quarter last season. That streak spanned more than 40 quarters of play.

"We knew that we would have to overcome adversity in the game, and I felt like we did that," Milliner said.

UA safety Nick Perry came away with his first sack of the season. The defense got after Ole Miss all night, finishing with five sacks and eight tackles for loss. Wallace, Barry Brunetti and Randall Mackey completed 19 of 33 passes for three interceptions and no scores.

"Those turnovers were really the difference in the game," Alabama coach Nick Saban said.

Despite giving the ball away in key situations, the Ole Miss offense tested the Crimson Tide. Alabama allowed double-digit points for the first time since the season opener against Michigan. The Rebels' no-huddle offense was able to put together a handful of drives in Tuscaloosa and left Saban with a favorable impression.

"It was a hard-fought win for us," Saban said. "I don't think the people give Ole Miss enough credit."

Perry said Ole Miss was a test the team had to pass if it's to move forward and get ready for the long road ahead.

"We pretty much had to bow our backs a little bit and show that we can still come back," Perry said.

"We're going to get every team's best from now on. We're going to have to show that we're up for the challenge every Saturday."

The win over Ole Miss was just the first bite into the meat of Alabama's SEC schedule. A road date against Missouri comes next, followed by consecutive games against Tennessee, Mississippi State, LSU and Texas A&M.

But first, Alabama gets a week off to dissect what has gone wrong through five games. The touchdown to put the Rebels ahead on Saturday night will no doubt be a part of the highlight tape players will see during the bye week.

For Perry and his teammates, learning and responding will be the key. The time waiting for the scoreboard to return to their favor against Ole Miss on Saturday night was 15 seconds longer than any of them would like to see again.

"Everybody wants to be perfect," he said, "But we're going to have a few mess-ups, and we're going to have to show we can overcome it."

Alex Scarborough | email

Alabama/SEC reporter