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Alabama Beats Mississippi, 24-20

ROLLTIDEDOTCOM Marquis Maze caught a 26-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.
Marquis Maze caught a 26-yard touchdown pass in the first quarter.

Oct. 18, 2008

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - No. 2 Alabama used a 24-point first half and just enough defense in the second half to keep its unblemished SEC record alive, winning 24-20 over Mississippi Saturday in front of a capacity crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The win takes Alabama to 7-0 overall, 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference on the year. Mississippi falls to 3-4, 1-3 in conference play.

"This is obviously a great win for us," said Alabama coach Nick Saban. "The crowd was fantastic. We got a lot of support, especially at end of the game, and I'm not sure it didn't affect momentum as much as anything. We're not just focused on winning, we're focused on how we win. It was a big goal for us today, we talked at the half to our team, that we go out and play and do better job in the second half and obviously we didn't do that. That was a goal for us, especially with a 24-3 lead at halftime."

After Alabama scored 24 unanswered points to take a 24-3 lead, the Rebels came back in the second half, scoring 17 unanswered points of their own to draw to within four. After adding a 35-yard field goal with 6:09 left in the game, the Rebels forced Alabama to punt and got the ball then at its own 23-yard line with just over three minutes to play in the game and a chance to win.

But after allowing the Rebels to drive the ball across the 50, the Alabama defense stiffened, holding Ole Miss to its second consecutive unsuccessful fourth down try in the game and preserving the four-point win.

"Defensively we gave up a couple of big plays and that contributed to them scoring," Saban said. "We also turned the ball over twice which affected field position in the second half. I'm very pleased and happy to win, but at the same time we've got work to do."

Alabama did all of its scoring in the first half of Saturday's game, scoring its 24 straight points after falling behind 3-0 for the first time this season. The Tide's first points came on a 26-yard touchdown pass from John Parker Wilson to Marquis Maze to take a 7-3 lead with 4:10 left in the first quarter.

Alabama then poured it on in the second quarter, getting a 2-yard touchdown run by Mark Ingram before two forced turnovers led to 10 points to close the half. An interception by Justin Woodall set up a 41-yard field goal for Alabama, and an interception by Rashad Johnson (his first of the year) led to a 30-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Mike McCoy.

"In the second quarter we made some big plays," Saban said. "That's the type of thing we have to do more of."

Ole Miss's first touchdown of the second half came on a 9-yard pass on a fake field goal to pull to within 24-10. An 18-yard touchdown pass from Jevan Snead to Shay Hodge that was set up by an Alabama turnover made the score 24-17, and a late field goal added the Rebels' final three points of the game.

Wilson finished the game 16-of-25 for 219 yards for the Tide, with two touchdowns and one interception. Tight end Nick Walker caught five passes for 65 yards and receiver Julio Jones caught three passes for 63 yards. McCoy had three catches for 45 yards and a touchdown. On the ground, Ingram finished with 17 carries for 73 yards and a touchdown, and Glen Coffee finished with 13 carries for 52 yards.

The Alabama defense forced three turnovers and sacked Snead twice, including once on Ole Miss's final drive of the game, which cost the Rebels six crucial yards. Johnson finished with nine tackles, one interception and a forced fumble while linebacker Dont'a Hightower had six tackles. Alabama heads to Knoxville, Tenn., next week for a road matchup with the Tennessee Volunteers (2-4, 0-3 SEC) at Neyland Stadium. Kickoff time has not yet been announced.