Fueled by fourth-down stops, No. 1 Alabama rolls past No. 12 Ole Miss

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Lane Kiffin kept rolling the dice, even as Alabama’s defense continued to show snake eyes. Meanwhile, the Crimson Tide’s offense had no problem making Ole Miss pay for its shortcomings.

Spurred on by three fourth-down stops in the first half, No. 1 Alabama cruised past No. 12 Ole Miss, 42-21, in front of a packed crowd inside of Bryant-Denny Stadium on Saturday. The win gives the Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 in the SEC) an early foothold on the SEC West standing 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 top offense but was unable to capitalize when it mattered most, failing to pick up fourth-down conversions on three of its first four possessions.

The Rebels opened the game with a 17-play drive, picking up two fourth-down conversions before running 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 down the field for a touchdown, Kiffin elected to go for it again on Ole Miss’ second possession as the Rebels faces a fourth-and-2 from their own 47. That decision also backfired as quarterback Matt Corral was forced into an incompleted pass by linebackers Drew Sanders and Henry To’o To’o. The Tide proceeded to make the Rebels pay again with a touchdown on its ensuing possession.

Desperate to generate offense in the second quarter, Kiffin tried his luck on a fourth-and-1 from the Ole Miss 31. Once again, no dice. To’o To’o stuffed Ealy, giving the Tide the ball deep in enemy territory to set up a third touchdown drive to bury the Rebels early.

Ole Miss came into the game 12 of 14 (85.7 percent) on fourth down over its first three games. The Rebels went just 2 of 5 on the down Saturday. Meanwhile, Alabama capitalized on 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, recording a career-high 171 yards and four touchdowns on 36 carries. It was the first 100-yard game of the fifth-year senior’s career.

Saturday’s matchup featured the top two Heisman Trophy contenders as Corral and Young entered the day with the two best betting odds for the award.

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 will travel to No. 15 Texas A&M for a 7 p.m. CT kickoff next Saturday.

After missing last week’s game against Southern Miss with a rib injury, Robinson was the one delivering the pain Saturday. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound running back steadily bowled over an Ole Miss defense that often elected to drop eight defenders into coverage.

Robinson picked up 12 first downs on the afternoon, converting on a pair of third-down runs in addition to his fourth-down score. The starting back has now recorded career-high games in back-to-back outings after running for 78 yards and a touchdown while also pulling in a 7-yard score against Florida two weeks ago.

Robinson’s four scores on the ground mark the ninth time an Alabama player has run for four or more touchdowns in a single game. During last season’s game against Ole Miss, Najee Harris ran for five touchdowns and 206 yards.

Two weeks ago, Alabama’s defense was run over by a one-dimensional Florida offense as the Gators stacked up 245 yards on the ground while averaging a whopping 5.7 yards per carry. Facing an Ole Miss that came into the day ranked No. 4 in the nation in rushing offense (298.67 yards per game) and seventh in yards per carry (6.18), Alabama didn’t suffer the same fate Saturday.

Ledy by To’o To’o and Will Anderson Jr., Alabama’s defense held the Rebels to just 78 yards on 34 carries, an average of 2.3 yards per attempt.

To’o To’o tallied 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 hurries.

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