By Scott Latta
UA Media Relations
TUSCALOOSA, Ala.- After the Alabama defense held Ole Miss to a field goal on the first possession of overtime, Crimson Tide sophomore quarterback John Parker Wilson hit senior Le'Ron McClain in the end zone from the 2-yard line for the game-winning score, as Alabama (5-2, 2-2) beat Ole Miss (2-5, 1-3) 26-23 Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
After ending regulation tied 20-20, the Tide defense stalled the Rebels at the 20-yard line in the extra period before orchestrating a nine-play, 25-yard drive on offense that led to the game-winning score.
The win brought Alabama's overtime record to 1-1 this season, and to 3-6 all-time.
"We knew we wanted to go down and score a touchdown," Wilson said. "We knew we didn't want to kick a field goal. We didn't want to hang around with those guys because they're so good. We wanted to take care of the ball first-off, come down and try to get in the end zone."
Trailing 20-13 with less than 10 minutes to play, Ole Miss tied the game on a 55-yard touchdown pass from Brent Schaeffer to Mike Wallace, set up by a fake punt on the Rebel 40-yard line. After the Tide defense forced a fourth-and-five, the Rebels gained five yards on a pass from punter Rob Park to set up first-and-10 at its own 45-yard line. On the next
play, Schaeffer hit Wallace to tie the score with 8:21 to play.
"We knew they were going to make plays at some point in the game," Alabama cornerback Simeon Castille, who led the Tide defense with 10 tackles, said. "Schaeffer was doing a good job of buying himself time and that's what happened on that play. (Wallace) went inside and then saw his quarterback rolling out. He just shot up the field. They threw it deep and he caught it. We bounced back and played it pretty well."
Alabama trailed 13-10 at halftime, but scored the first 10 points of the second half to take a 20-13 lead into the fourth quarter.
On its second drive of the third quarter, the Tide got the ball on its own 28-yard line. Alabama converted two crucial third downs on the drive, including a 36-yard pass from Wilson to Hall on third-and-23. After a 21-yard run by senior Ken Darby, Wilson hit junior Keith Brown on third-and-seven for 10 yards to the Ole Miss 12-yard line. The drive stalled at the 9-yard line, and Christensen tied things up at 13-13 with a 26-yard field goal from Christensen with 4:25 left in the third
The Tide started its next drive at its own 20-yard line and went 80 yards in nine plays, led on the ground by Darby, who carried the ball five times for 55 yards, including a 37-yard run-his longest of the year. A 2-yard touchdown run by senior Tim Castille with 10:32 left capped the scoring drive and put Alabama up 20-13.
"We still have some work to do," Castille said. "I don't know how many yards we had, but we still had a bunch of yards. I really don't think it should have come down to (overtime). I think we punted twice and we ended up with 20 points. We have to get it going on offense. It still wasn't as good as I thought we should be."
Alabama racked up 434 yards of total offense, 228 of which came on the ground, led by Darby, who carried the ball 25 times for 164 yards, his highest total of the season.
"The offensive line had one of its best games," said Alabama Head Coach Mike Shula. "Kenneth Darby made some great runs, especially against a defense that blitzes as much as they did. Darby had some good protection. It's hard not to give him the ball. He gets better as the game goes on. He has a lot of belief in himself and is very self-motivated."
Wilson was 16-of-28 for 206 yards and two touchdowns. Junior DJ Hall had a record-setting day, recording his fourth-straight 100-yard receiving game and seventh of his career, pulling in five catches for 119 yards and a touchdown. Hall's seven career 100-yard receiving games breaks the Alabama record of six 100-yard games set by Ozzie Newsome, and his
consecutive 100-yard game streak breaks Alabama's previous record of three set by Freddie Milons in 1999.
It took only four plays for Alabama to strike first in the game, when Wilson hit Hall on a 39-yard touchdown pass on third-and-five. The four-play, 56-yard drive put the Tide up 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
The Rebels answered with a nine-play, 82-yard drive that culminated in a 2-yard touchdown run from BenJarvus Green-Ellis to tie the score 7-7 with 6:53 left to play in the first.
Alabama and Ole Miss traded field goals in the second quarter, with junior Jamie Christensen booting a 26-yard field goal to give the Tide a brief 10-7 lead. The Rebels answered with a 36-yard and 23-yard kick from Joshua Shene to take the 13-10 lead at halftime.
Alabama travels to Knoxville, Tenn. next week to face the Tennessee Volunteers (5-1, 1-1). Kickoff is scheduled for 2:34 p.m. and will be televised on CBS.