No. 1 Tide continues to quiet more critics with shutout win over No. 21 Rebels
Remember those early-season knocks against this Alabama football team? First, it was the offensive line. Then it was the defense. Last week, it was the team’s killer instinct.
Well, after Saturday night’s 25-0 silencing of No. 21-ranked Ole Miss in front of a packed house at Bryant-Denny Stadium, the knocks are becoming more and more faint. Fact is, this Alabama team, now 4-0 on the season and 2-0 in SEC play, actually is looking more and more like recent Alabama juggernauts.
And looking more and more deserving of its current No. 1 ranking too.
“All in all, I was really pleased and proud of the way our players competed in this game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We knew this was going to be a dog fight, and we knew it was going to be a tough game. Our players did a really, really good job of being relentless out there with their effort, their toughness, the way they competed in the game.”
The fast-paced Rebels, which entered the game averaging 38 points and 490 yards of total offense per game, were supposed to provide another stiff test for this seemingly vulnerable squad — similar to the one Texas A&M threw at it a couple of weeks ago. Instead, Alabama won easily … and impressively.
The defense, which stifled Ole Miss’ main offensive weapon, running back Jeff Scott (28 yards rushing), pitched a shutout, thanks in part to a pair of forced turnovers and some key stops on a pair of attempted fourth down conversions. Heck, the Bama D even threw in a safety for good measure. That embarrassment of a performance against the Aggies a couple of weeks ago? That’s looking more and more like ancient history. Or at least a complete aberration.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix highlighted the Bama D with a team-leading 14 tackles, including registering that aforementioned safety on quarterback Bo Wallace. Yes,that Bo Wallace. The one who made some bold pre-game comments about the success the Rebels (3-1, 1-1) would have against the Bama defense. Wallace finished the night 17-of-31 for 159 yards and no TDs.
“We looked at it as a challenge, as we were being hunted,” Alabama defensive lineman Jeoffrey Pagan said afterwards. “With all the things that Ole Miss was saying, we took it personal, and we wanted to come out and dominate the game and the line of scrimmage.”
And the once beleaguered Alabama offensive line? The one that couldn’t seem to get Bama’s normally vaunted rushing attack going this season? It did all right against a ranked and undefeated opponent Saturday night. And it did all right with its No. 2 center, Chad Lindsay, subbing for an injured Ryan Kelly for much of the night. The O-line paved the way for 254 yards rushing for Alabama. And the two most explosive plays for the Bama offense Saturday weren’t passes. They were runs — a 68-yarder by T.J. Yeldon and a 50-yarder by Kenyon Drake.
“We gave up some explosive plays you can’t do when playing (Alabama),” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “But that’s a very good football team, and they did a good job of switching things up on us. They had the right call every single time when it seemed like we had an answer.”
Yeldon finished with 121 yards rushing, while Drake totaled 99.
As solid as Alabama looked Saturday night, the contest wasn’t necessarily a blowout. It was more of a slow strangulation. It was only 9-0 at halftime, thanks to three Cade Foster field goals — one a 53-yarder. Yeldon’s TD run early in the third made it a 16-point margin, but it still wasn’t like the lead was insurmountable. The safety with 5:43 remaining in the fourth quarter pushed the lead to 18 points before Drake’s TD 11 seconds later concluded the scoring.
And there was more bad news for future Bama opponents. It looks like the Tide may have found its next star cornerback in true freshman Eddie Jackson, who played well against the highly regarded Ole Miss receiving corps, even registering a nifty interception.
Looking for something new to worry about now? Alabama did commit a couple of scary near-turnovers. But both times Bama put the ball on the turf it was able to recover.
Better to be lucky than good? Right now, it’s looking more and more like this Alabama team is both.
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