TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Lane Kiffin kept rolling the dice even when Alabama’s defense showed snake eyes. Meanwhile, the crime of the Crimson Tide had no problem making Ole Miss pay for his shortcomings.
Spurred on by three fourth-down stops in the first half, No. 1 Alabama along No. 12 Ole Miss, 42-21, in front of a packed crowd at Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. The win gives the Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 in the SEC) an early position on the SEC West, while also extending Nick Saban’s record to 24-0 over former assistants.
Ole Miss (3-1, 0-1) entered the matchup with the nation’s biggest offense, but was unable to capitalize when it mattered most, failing fourth-down conversions pick up on three of the first four possessions.
The Rebels opened the game with a drive of 17 play, picking up two fourth-down conversions before falling back. Jerrion Ealy was stopped by Jordan Battle and Tim Smith on a fourth-and-1 from the Alabama 6-yard line.
After Alabama marched across the field for a touchdown, Kiffin chose to go for it again on Ole Miss’s second possession as the Rebels faced a fourth and 2 of their own 47. That decision also backfired when quarterback Matt Corral was forced into an incomplete pass from linebackers Drew Sanders and Henry To’o To’o. The Tide made the Rebels pay again with a touchdown on the subsequent possession.
Desperate to take offense in the second quarter, Kiffin tried his luck on a fourth and 1 of the Ole Miss 31. Again, no dice. To’o To’o stuffed Ealy and gave the Tide the ball deep into enemy territory to set up a third touchdown drive to bury the rebels early.
Ole Miss came in fourth place 12 of 14 (85.7 percent) over the first three games in the match. Meanwhile, Alabama took advantage of three of its four fourth-down attempts, including a 1-yard touchdown run by Brian Robinson Jr. and a 3-yard touchdown pass from Bryce Young to Cameron Latu.
Robinson ran rampant through a porous Ole Miss defense, with a career of 171 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. It was the first 100-yard game of the fifth-year senior’s career.
Saturday’s match featured the top two contenders for the Heisman Trophy as Corral and Young started the day with the two best bets for the prize.
Young completed 21 of 27 passes for 241 yards and two touchdowns with an interception. Corral went 22 of 30 for 213 yards and a touchdown while adding another score on the ground.
Alabama travels to No. 15 Texas A&M next Saturday for a CT kickoff at 7 p.m.
After missing last week’s game against Southern Miss with a rib injury, Robinson was the one who caused the pain on Saturday. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound running back tossed steadily over an Ole Miss defense who often chose to drop eight defenders into cover.
Robinson took 12 first downs in the afternoon and converted a couple of third-down runs in addition to his fourth-down score. The starting full-back has now recorded career-high games in back-to-back outings after running 78 yards and a touchdown, while also racking up a 7-yard score against Florida two weeks ago.
Robinson’s four scores on the ground mark the ninth time an Alabama player has racked up four or more touchdowns in a single game. In last season’s game against Ole Miss, Najee Harris ran five touchdowns and 206 yards.
Two weeks ago, the Alabama defenses were caught off guard by a one-dimensional attack in Florida as the Gators piled 245 yards to the ground while averaging a whopping 5.7 yards per carry. Faced with an Ole Miss who came in at number 4 in the nation in hasty offense (298.67 yards per game) and seventh in yards per carry (6.18) in the day, Alabama didn’t suffer the same fate on Saturday.
Led by To’o To’o and Will Anderson Jr. Alabama’s defense held the Rebels to just 78 yards on 34 carries, averaging 2.3 yards per attempt.
To’o To’o scored 10 tackles, including one for a loss while playing a part in two of Alabama’s fourth-down stops. Anderson finished the day with nine stops, including 2.5 for a loss with a sack and two quarterback rushes.