By Scott Latta
UA Media Relations
OXFORD, Miss. ?? Alabama scored 10 fourth-quarter points at Ole Miss, erasing a seven-point deficit to earn a comeback win over the Rebels, 27-24 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Saturday's win marked the first time since 1999 Alabama won a road game when trailing entering the fourth quarter. It was the fifth consecutive week Alabama's game was decided by a touchdown or less, with three of the five coming down to the final play.
"Obviously, I'm very pleased, happy and proud for our team and players," Alabama coach Nick Saban said. "They did a great job of competing today for 60 minutes. That is something that I wanted to create an identity with. We certainly did that today."
Alabama and Ole Miss changed leads six times in Saturday's contest, with the Rebels taking a 24-17 lead into the fourth quarter before a key 54-yard punt return by Alabama sophomore Javier Arenas set up a three-yard touchdown run from freshman Terry Grant to tie the game at 24 with 7:11 remaining.
On Ole Miss' next drive, Tide junior Ezekial Knight stepped in front of a Seth Adams pass for the first interception of his career, returning it to the Ole Miss five-yard line to set up the go-ahead field goal by sophomore kicker Leigh Tiffin.
The 24-yard field goal put the Tide up 27-24 with just over five minutes to go.
After an unsuccessful fake field goal from the Tide gave Ole Miss the ball at its own 14 with 4:09 to go, Adams led the Rebels into Alabama territory by completing passes of 21, 20 and 19 yards.
But on 4th-and-22 with 40 seconds to go, an illegal touching penalty on Ole Miss negated what would have been a completion inside the Alabama five-yard line, giving the Tide the ball back to run out the clock and seal the win.
"I called the timeout to get the review," Saban said. "They said that they were reviewing it anyway, and I told them I wanted a timeout to get a better look at it anyway. I saw the player go out of bounds."
Through the air, junior quarterback John Parker Wilson was 26-of-40 for 265 yards with one interception and a rushing touchdown for the Tide while senior DJ Hall caught 11 passes for 140 yards, tying a career high for receptions, and junior Matt Caddell had seven catches for 49 yards.
On the ground, Grant had 16 rushes for 62 yards and a touchdown and sophomore Glen Coffee had 12 runs for 41 yards and a score. Grant's fourth-quarter score tied him with former Alabama tailback Shaun Alexander for touchdown runs by a freshman, with six.
Alabama took the game’s opening drive to the Ole Miss 10, setting up a 27-yard field goal from Tiffin for the early 3-0 lead. After an eight-yard touchdown pass from Adams to Dexter McCluster put Ole Miss up 7-3, Alabama answered with a touchdown drive that ended with a one-yard sneak from Wilson to go up 10-7.
An Ole Miss field goal tied the game at 10 before Coffee's three-yard touchdown run put Alabama up seven at the half.
Alabama picked off three Ole Miss passes in the game, with junior safety Rashad Johnson, senior cornerback Simeon Castille and Knight picking off Adams. Johnson's third-quarter interception extended his team-leading total to four on the year.
Johnson was Alabama's leading tackler on the day, with nine. Freshman Kareem Jackson also had nine, and senior Wallace Gilberry had three tackles for loss, two sacks and a pass breakup.
"Defensively, we didn't play as well in the first half as we needed to," Saban said. "In the second half, we got some stops, got some big plays and made some interceptions. Special teams did a fantastic job today, especially in the second half."
Ole Miss scored 14 unanswered points in the third quarter to reclaim the lead on a three-yard touchdown run by Adams, which tied the game at 17, and a 17-yard pass from Adams to Michael Hicks that was set up by a blocked Alabama punt. The score gave the Rebels a seven-point lead going into the fourth quarter before Alabama began its comeback.
"On offense, we know that we can score as long as we execute our game plan," Hall said. “When they went ahead not a lot of our guys panicked. We stuck with it. We were just so anxious to get back on the field and get the ball again."
Alabama (5-2, 3-1 SEC) returns to Tuscaloosa next Saturday when the Tide hosts the Tennessee Volunteers (4-2, 2-1 SEC). Kickoff has yet to be determined.
"If we can get another win against UT, that would be huge," senior linebacker Darren Mustin said. "It would be one of our biggest wins. Every time we play UT it is going to be a dog fight. We just need to get grinding and get ready for practice next week, because that is going to be huge."