TUSCALOOSA — Alabama faced a situation Saturday night it hasn’t had to deal with all season:
The Crimson Tide trailed.
Alabama coach Nick Saban was asked Monday how his team might respond if it got behind, and the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide offered a firm and definitive answer Saturday night in a 33-14 win over Ole Miss. Alabama came back with two touchdowns in 2 minutes, 50 seconds and roared from there.
“It was a tough, hard-fought game,” Saban said. “Ole Miss is a tough team. Nobody listens to me until after the fact. Then they say, ‘You’re right.’ “
After Ole Miss took a 7-6 lead on Jeff Scott’s 1-yard touchdown run, Alabama’s Christion Jones fielded the kickoff on one bounce at the 1-yard line, began running, found a hole and bolted through for a 99-yard touchdown return.
Then after a Dee Milliner interception, Alabama drove for another touchdown, which came on a 16-yard pass from AJ McCarron to Amari Cooper, a true freshman.
Alabama had gone 603:46 without trailing in regulation until the Ole Miss touchdown, going back to last season’s win over Tennessee. The Tide deficit lasted only 15 seconds.
Later in the half, Alabama got another touchdown on Cooper’s 12-yard catch from McCarron on a crossing route in the end zone for a 27-7 lead.
Although the Tide defense struggled at times to hold back Ole Miss’ no-huddle, fast-paced attack, Alabama had more than enough weapons to win this one. McCarron completed 22 of 30 passes for 180 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Cooper had a career-high eight catches for 84 yards in a career that’s only five games old.
“We had high hopes that Amari Cooper would find himself and do the things he does in practice all the time in the game, and I think he did that tonight,” Saban said.
After the Tide’s big first half, Ole Miss’ Randall Mackey cut the advantage to 27-14 midway through the third period with a 12-yard touchdown run. But that was as close as the Rebels could get. Alabama answered early in the fourth with Jeremy Shelley’s third field goal of the game. Shelley added a fourth 3-pointer with 1:41 to play.
Although the Crimson Tide won with a margin of comfort, the Ole Miss offense cut Alabama unlike it had been cut this season.
Only Michigan in the season opener matched the Rebels’ 14 points. Also, Ole Miss got both of its scores on long drives. The first covered 13 plays and 75 yards and the second went for 70 yards on 16 plays.
The Rebels played three different quarterbacks — Bo Wallace, Barry Brunetti and Mackey. All three threw an interception. Deion Belue, Robert Lester and Milliner each picked off one.
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