Alabama smothers Snead, Ole Miss 22-3

Published 1:39 am Sunday, October 11, 2009

OXFORD (AP) — No. 3 Alabama is positively old-fashioned.

Other teams may have their shiny new spread offenses and pass-first mentality. The Crimson Tide just keeps getting it done with special teams and defense.

Alabama picked off four Jevan Snead passes and scored twice after special teams miscues to smother No. 3 Mississippi 22-3 on Saturday.

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‘‘This was the most complete win we’ve had all year, in a difficult situation,’’ Alabama coach Nick Saban said. ‘‘It’s like climbing a mountain. The higher you go the more treacherous it gets.’’

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt had won two of his last three and three of five against Top 5 teams, giving the Rebels hope they could re-enter the race for the Southeastern Conference Western Division with an upset. But the Rebels (3-2, 1-2 SEC) wasted a strong defensive performance with early offensive mistakes and never had the kind of consistency needed to rattle one of the nation’s top defenses.

Alabama (6-0, 4-0) couldn’t generate much offense against the Rebels defense, but didn’t need it. Mark Ingram rushed for 172 yards and the game’s only touchdown and Leigh Tiffin hit five short field goals, one shy of the school’s single-game record.

The defense made it stand up, forcing Snead into the four interceptions, which matched a career high. The Crimson Tide’s Cory Reamer also blocked a punt and recovered a fumble on a punt return.

Snead completed 11 of 34 passes for 140 yards, missing badly occasionally but also suffering from dropped balls. Twice Alabama defenders ripped the ball away from Ole Miss receivers who were bobbling it.

‘‘We had a couple of new wrinkles for the game and I think he knew what we were doing,’’ Alabama linebacker Cory Reamer said. ‘‘But our defensive line was in his face. And that’s tough for any quarterback.’’

Saban said the Tide hit Snead on practically every pass attempt in the first half and it showed in Ole Miss’ production. Alabama held the Rebels to 19 yards and one first down in the first half on the way to a 16-0 lead and allowed them past the 50 just four times overall.

The Rebels’ offense was in complete disarray in the first 30 minutes and some of the school-record 62,657 fans booed the home team as it ran off the field. Snead completed just 2 of 12 passes for 14 yards with two interceptions and Alabama held the run-happy Rebels to 5 yards on the ground.

‘‘That was as fine a defensive performance in the first half as I’ve been around,’’ Saban said.

It would have been far worse had the Rebels defense not come up with big play after big play despite being on the field for more than 35 minutes.

They were especially good after turnovers. The Rebels forced a field goal with a goal-line stand after Reamer’s blocked punt gave Alabama the ball at the 5. But with the Ole Miss offense holding the ball for just 8:57 in the first half, Alabama used 47 plays for 237 yards to tire out the Rebels.

That helped Ingram score untouched from 36 yards out on fourth-and-1 with 55 seconds left in the half to make it 16-0.

‘‘The fourth-down play was a special play we have,’’ Saban said. ‘‘It was an unbalanced overload. We did a great job blocking and sealing. Mark did a great job running.’’

The Alabama defense came up big again late in the third quarter after Reamer stripped Dexter McCluster on a punt return and recovered the fumble, giving the Tide the ball at the Ole Miss 40. Ingram picked up its third fourth-down conversion, then carried the ball to the 3 with a 24-yard run.

The Rebels, however, held the Tide to Tiffin’s fourth field goal.

After Kareem Jackson returned an interception deep into Rebels territory in the fourth quarter, the Ole Miss defense forced a fumble. Ole Miss defensive backs also knocked two passes away from Julio Jones in the end zone.

‘‘Our defense was outstanding all night,’’ Nutt said. ‘‘They were just playing so hard. They put us in a position to win.’’

Alabama has now held four of six opponents under 88 yards in the first half.

With Auburn losing to Arkansas and LSU up against No. 1 Florida later Saturday, the Tide has a chance to take control of what appeared to be a very tight SEC West race.

The Rebels were ranked as high as No. 4, their highest ranking since 1970, but have looked bad on offense for much of the season. They could drop out of the poll this week.

The five turnovers against Alabama were more than half Ole Miss’ season total of nine entering the game.

‘‘It’s just too hard a mountain to climb when you do that,’’ Nutt said.