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Alabama struggles but wins

October 19, 2008|From the Associated Press

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Turns out No. 2 Alabama plays pretty well from behind. It's playing from ahead that gave the Crimson Tide fits Saturday.

Alabama surged to a big halftime lead after trailing for the first time all season, then let most of it slip away before coming up with a late defensive stand to hold off Mississippi for a 24-20 Southeastern Conference victory.

"That hadn't happened to us yet this year," quarterback John Parker Wilson said. "It was good to see us respond."

In the end, it was another down-to-the-wire win for the Tide (7-0, 4-0) over the Rebels (3-4, 1-3), who dominated the second half and still had a shot at the upset approaching the final minute.

This one wasn't decided until Jevan Snead's fourth-and-five pass to Dexter McCluster, who was well covered by Javier Arenas, fell incomplete with 61 seconds to play.

Alabama has won its last 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. Alabama had won each of the last three meetings by a field goal but holds a commanding 23-1 advantage in Tuscaloosa.

"I said it all week long: Ole Miss is really a good football team," Alabama Coach Nick Saban said. "I believed it. I don't know if our players believed it, but I think they do a fantastic job and they've got good players."

Wilson threw for a season-high 219 yards and a pair of touchdowns and helped Alabama race to 24 straight points after facing a 3-0 deficit and giving up points in the opening quarter for the first time all season.

Then Ole Miss answered with 17 straight points and closed to within 24-20 on Joshua Shene's 35-yard field goal with 6:09 left.

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

"The reason we're able to play in this environment is you reach back to a game like Florida," Ole Miss Coach Houston Nutt said.

"A lot of teams can't stay on the field with Alabama, a lot of teams."

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