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Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, Alabama Attendance: 100,077
Jalen Milroe, No. 13 Alabama's defense key 24-10 win over No. 15 Ole Miss
By JOHN ZENOR
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Jalen Milroe was planted on his back just after he delivered his biggest pass of the season.
When the Alabama quarterback finally got to his feet, it only took a moment to realize the result: a 33-yard touchdown strike to freshman Jalen Hale that helped the 13th-ranked Crimson Tide beat No. 15 Mississippi 24-10 on Saturday.
Milroe didn't get up quickly, but he was celebrating when he did.
“I heard the crowd," Milroe said, “I looked at the ref a little bit. He put his hands up and OK, it’s a touchdown.”
The play helped ignite an offense that has badly needed a spark.
The Tide (3-1) scored 18 points in a 14-minute span - one more than the team managed against South Florida last weekend - to pull away from the Rebels (3-1) in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.
“We told the players that we believe in our team and it was important for them to believe in each other,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “But there’s a responsibility that comes with that belief.”
That means playing physically and cutting down on the costly “my bads” among other things, he said.
“I thought the team did a fantastic job of that in the second half,” Saban said. “The guys competed. Played really physical. Dominated the line of scrimmage.”
The result was Alabama's eighth straight win over Ole Miss, but not the kind of performance that assuaged concerns about the shaky offensive play. The Tide's eight-year streak in the top 10 of the AP poll ended this week.
“Our whole team felt like this was the year to get them,” Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart said.
“Obviously (the Tide) battled through a lot this week and a lot of people questioned them,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “But they came out really physical, did a great job on defense.”
Milroe reclaimed the starting job after watching two backups split time last weekend. He responded with enough positive plays to overcome an interception in the end zone.
The biggest was the strike to Hale in the back of the end zone. After Milroe got up, he danced off the field in celebration to cheers from the stands. Backup Ty Simpson dove over the line for a 2-point conversion and a 17-7 lead.
Hale had only one catch for 5 yards in the first three games but had two for 63 yards in this one.
Jase McClellan's tackle-breaking, 8-yard TD made it 24-10 with 12:10 left.
Dart and the Rebels weren't quite done. Dart led them downfield despite heavy pressure by completing two fourth-and-long passes. He couldn't deliver a third in a drive that consumed eight minutes but ended with an incompletion.
“Wish we would have hit that last pass to get it to one score with three timeouts and see what happened there," Kiffin said.
Milroe completed 17 of 21 passes for 225 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also had runs of 20 and 18 yards on the opening drive before the Rebels wiped out most of those gains with four sacks.
Dart was 20-of-35 passing for 244 yards with an interception on a deep ball near the goal line. Dayton Wade had five catches for 88 yards.
McCellan ran 14 times for 94 yards to outgain Ole Miss star Quinshon Judkins (13 carries for 56 yards).
Dallas Turner had two of Alabama's five sacks.
Ole Miss: An offense that had been prolific against lesser competition - and then-No. 22 Tulane - couldn't solve the Alabama defense or protect Dart.
Alabama: The offense continued to go backward and blow scoring chances way too often in the first half. Milroe was sacked four times before halftime, though the protection was better in the second half. The Tide couldn't get in the end zone on first-and-goal from the 1 and had a touchdown negated by a penalty for the fifth time this season.
Ole Miss got reinforcements from two offensive transfers to help make up for the absence of injured receiver Tre Harris (knee). Tight end Caden Prieskorn and receiver Zakhari Franklin both played for the first time. Both had a catch.
Alabama figures to at least move closer to the top 10, where it had resided in 128 consecutive polls before this week. The Rebels shouldn't drop far.
Ole Miss hosts No. 12 LSU in another big SEC West game.
Alabama visits Mississippi State.
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll
Updated September 23, 2023