Alabama’s late stand stops Ole Miss, 24-20

Published 5:45 pm Saturday, October 18, 2008

TUSCALOOSA – John Parker Wilson threw for a season-high 219 yards and a pair of touchdowns and No. 2 Alabama made a late defensive stand to hold off Mississippi for a 24-20 victory Saturday.

The Crimson Tide stopped the Rebels on fourth-and-5 from its 43-yard line in the final minute, when Jevan Snead’s pass to Dexter McCluster fell incomplete. He was well covered by Javier Arenas.

Alabama (7-0, 4-0 Southeastern Conference) scored 24 consecutive points after falling behind for the first time this season, 3-0, and allowing its first points in an opening quarter. Then Ole Miss (3-4, 1-3) answered 17 straight points and closed to within 24-20 on Joshua Shene’s 35-yard field goal with 6:09 left.

The Tide pushed the ball across midfield on its next possession aiming to put the game away but the drive stalled. P.J. Fitzgerald’s short punt gave Ole Miss the ball at its own 24 with 3:03 left.

Snead ran it on the first three plays, including one 5-yard gain on a pass that was batted right back into his arms by Bobby Greenwood. Brandon Deaderick then had a sack, Snead threw an incompletion and hit McCluster for a 10-yard gain to set up fourth down.

The Tide has won its past two games by a total of seven points since rising to No. 2 with a series of easy victories. It was also another in a series of close calls with Ole Miss. The Alabama had won each of the past three meetings by a field goal, but holds a commanding 23-1 advantage in Tuscaloosa.

The Rebels were going for their second road upset of a top-five team after beating Florida three weeks earlier.

Houston Nutt’s team cashed in on two big gambles on the opening drive of the second half to make it 24-10. Snead ran up the middle for 17 yards on fourth-and-4. Then, Ole Miss faked a field goal, with blocking back Jason Cook taking a shovel pass from holder Rob Park for a 9-yard touchdown.

A later fourth-down try in Alabama territory didn’t pay off, when Don’ta Hightower stuffed Davis on fourth-and-inches late in the third. Ole Miss got more chances, though.

After the teams exchanged fumbles in the fourth quarter, Snead hit Shay Hodge for a 17-yard touchdown with 9:27 left. Snead had fumbled at the end of a long run on the previous drive.

Alabama went three-and-out to give Ole Miss the ball back near midfield. Snead kept the drive alive with a 31-yard pass to Lionel Breaux on third-and-11. His next two passes fell incomplete, forcing the Rebels to settle for Shene’s kick.

Wilson was 16-of-25 passing and was intercepted once. Mark Ingram ran for 73 yards and Glen Coffee was held to 52 yards on 13 carries and lost a fumble.

Enrique Davis gained 70 yards on 11 carries for Ole Miss, most of that coming on a 62-yarder that set up Shene’s first field goal. It was the longest play from scrimmage yielded by Alabama this season.

The Tide had outscored opponents 88-0 in the first quarter before that.

Snead was 16-for-31 for 192 yards.

Alabama got rolling quickly after the early deficit with 24 consecutive points before halftime.

Wilson hit Marquis Maze on a perfectly thrown fade route for a 26-yard touchdown to start it. The Tide then ran the ball on the final six plays of its next scoring drive, capped by Ingram’s 2-yard touchdown midway through the second quarter. Terrence Cody, a 365-pound noseguard, played his first snap on offense as a lead blocker on the play.

The key cog in Alabama’s run defense, Cody was carted off the field with an apparent right leg injury in the third quarter, and his status wasn’t immediately known.

Justin Woodall and Rashad Johnson each picked off two passes in a 3-minute span and returned them well into Ole Miss territory — one thrown by Snead and another by McCluster on the “Wild Rebel” play where he lines up at quarterback. The Tide scored on Leigh Tiffin’s 41-yard field goal and Wilson’s 30-yard pass to Mike McCoy, splitting two defenders after a handoff and pitch-back from Glen Coffee.