By JOHN ZENOR AP Sports Writer
Jalen Milroe was put on his back shortly after delivering his biggest pass of the season.
When the Alabama quarterback finally got to his feet, it only took a moment for him to realize the result: a 33-yard touchdown strike to freshman Jalen Hale that helped the 13th-ranked Crimson Tide beat Mississippi on Saturday Beat No. 15 24:10.
Milroe didn’t get up quickly, but he celebrated when he did.
“I heard the crowd,” Milroe said, “I looked at the referee a little bit. He put his hands up and OK, it’s a touchdown.”
The play helped jump-start an offense that desperately needed a spark.
The Tide (3-1) scored 18 points in 14 minutes – one more than the team managed against South Florida last weekend – to pull away from the Rebels (3-1) in the opening game of the Southeastern Conference for both teams.
“We told the players we believed in our team, and it was important for them to believe in each other,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “But with that belief comes responsibility.”
That means, among other things, playing physically and limiting the costly “my mistakes,” he said.
“I thought the team did a fantastic job in the second half,” Saban said. “The boys competed. Played really physically. Dominated the line of scrimmage.”
The result was Alabama’s eighth straight win over Ole Miss, but not the kind of performance that could assuage concerns about the shaky offensive game. The Tide’s eight-year streak in the top 10 of the AP Poll ended this week.
“Our entire team felt like this was the right year to get her,” Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart said.
“Obviously (the Tide) struggled a lot this week and a lot of people questioned them,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “But they were very physical and did a great job on defense.”
Milroe reclaimed the starting spot after seeing two backups in between last weekend. He responded with enough positive plays to overcome an interception in the end zone.
The biggest was the hit on Hale in the back of the end zone. After getting up, Milroe danced off the field in celebration to the cheers of the stands. Substitute Ty Simpson jumped over the finish line for a 2-pointer and a 17-7 lead.
Hale only had one catch for 5 yards in the first three games, but had two for 63 yards in this one.
Jase McClellan’s tackle breakdown from 8 yards made the score 24-10 with 12:10 left.
Dart and the rebels weren’t quite finished yet. Dart led them upfield despite heavy pressure by completing two fourth-and-long passes. He failed to score a third goal in a drive that lasted eight minutes but ended with an incompletion.
“I wish we hit the last pass to get a score with three timeouts and then we’d see what happens there,” Kiffin said.
Milroe completed 17 of 21 passes for 225 yards with one touchdown and one interception. He also had runs of 20 and 18 yards on the first drive before the Rebels erased most of those gains with four sacks.
Dart was 20 of 35 passing for 244 yards and intercepted a deep ball near the goal line. Dayton Wade had five catches for 88 yards.
McCellan ran 14 times for 94 yards, passing Ole Miss star Quinshon Judkins (13 carries for 56 yards).
Dallas Turner had two of Alabama’s five sacks.
THE TAKING AWAY
Ole Miss: An offense that had struggled against lesser competition – and then-No. 22 Tulane – couldn’t solve the Alabama defense or protect Dart.
Alabama: The offense continued to decline and missed scoring opportunities far too often in the first half. Milroe was sacked four times before halftime, although the protection was better in the second half. The Tide failed to get into the end zone on first-and-goal from the 1 and had a touchdown wiped out by a penalty for the fifth time this season.
REINFORCEMENT OF THE REBELS
Ole Miss received reinforcements with two offensive transfers to compensate for the loss of injured receiver Tre Harris (knee). Tight end Caden Prieskorn and receiver Zakhari Franklin both played for the first time. Both had a catch.
IMPLICATIONS ON THE SURVEY
Alabama projects to at least move closer to the top 10, where it had been in 128 consecutive polls before this week. The rebels shouldn’t fall far behind.
Ole Miss hosts No. 12 LSU in another big SEC West game.
Alabama visits Mississippi State.
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