CATEGORY: FOC College Football
TIDE TOPPLED REBELS
By Todd Vinyard
OXFORD - When it rained it poured Saturday in Ole Miss' 29-20 loss to Alabama.
After building a 14-0 lead, No. 25 Ole Miss saw Alabama rain down 29 straight points. With four minutes left in the SEC game, the skies in Oxford let loose a huge thunderstorm on the crowd of 41,548 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium as a Rebels rally fell short.
Alabama wiped away a two-game losing streak to up its record to 4-3 overall and 2-3 in the SEC. The loss left Ole Miss with the same record one week after upsetting then-No. 8 LSU.
"We didn't get the job done. Last week, we did," Ole Miss head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "The effort was there, we just didn't execute well."
Alabama executed well with 526 yards total offense. Of those yards, 313 came behind the running game of Curtis Alexander (141 yards on 16 carries), Dennis Riddle (90 yards on 10 carries) and Shaun Alexander (56 yards on five carries). The Crimson Tide switched between I' and split backs to keep Ole Miss off balance, washing in with 200 second-half rushing yards.
"I felt we needed to run the football better and I felt we could run against them," Alabama coach Mike DuBose said. "Ole Miss did a good job adjusting to our running game and I thought our backs did a good job adjusting to their adjustments."
Riddle figured things out with a 68-yard fourth-quarter touchdown to give Alabama a 29-14 lead with 6 minutes, 23 seconds left. The score was set up when Alabama recovered a fumble by running back John Avery. Ole Miss lost three fumbles on the day.
Avery redeemed himself with a darting, cutting 100-yard touchdown run on the ensuing kickoff to cut Alabama's lead to 29-20. However, he dove into the end zone to cap the dash and Ole Miss was penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct under the taunting or celebration rule.
The penalty kept Ole Miss from going for a 2-point conversion and instead, place kicker Steve Lindsey's 35-yard extra point attempt was blocked.
Ole Miss had one last chance when Nate Wayne recovered an Alabama fumble at the Rebels' 18. Stewart Patridge, who threw for 257 yards with 22 completions on 37 attempts and one TD, connected on three passes to get to the Alabama 36-yard line.
Kecalf Bailey recovered a Rufus French fumble after a completed pass to secure the Alabama win.
Alabama began the comeback when quarterback Freddie Kitchens engineered an 80-yard, 11-play touchdown drive with a no-huddle offense to end the first half. Kitchens who had 229 yards on 15 of 22 passes and one TD had three pass completions before running the final 8 yards himself. Ole Miss' lead was 14-7 at halftime.
"We would've had momentum at halftime if they hadn't scored," Ole Miss linebacker Walker Jones said. "But we gave them the momentum. It kind of turned the tide."
The Tide was rolling again on a 12-play drive to open the second half. Ole Miss stiffened and Alabama settled for a 21-yard Brian Cunningham field goal. The Rebels still led 14-10.
Alabama took the lead, 17-10, on Curtis Alexander's 56-yard run up the middle.
Kitchens kept things going in the fourth quarter by hooking up with Ed Scissum on a 13-yard TD strike. Rebel defender Timothy Strickland blocked the extra point after he had earlier deflected a field goal attempt.
Ole Miss jumped out 7-0 in the first quarter when Patridge located French for a 16-yard TD. The Rebels led by 14 points after Avery went in from 10 yards out on the left side in the second quarter.
Both teams missed field goals on their first drives.