By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – Alabama’s very good running game and a struggling run defense for Ole Miss, personalities that had already developed this season, were on full display Saturday night.
The No. 2-ranked Crimson Tide piled up 615 net yards, 389 yards on the ground, and had an easy time with the Rebels in a 52-7 SEC win before 61,792 fans, the fourth-largest crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
It was the Rebels’ worst loss in 30 years. Florida defeated Ole Miss 49-3 in Gainesville in 1981.
Junior running back Trent Richardson led Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) with 183 yards and four TDs on 17 carries. Backup Jalston Fowler added 125 yards and two scores on nine attempts.
Three different Alabama players had runs of at least 45 yards, Richardson’s 76-yard run the longest.
“Nobody’s been able to tackle him consistently, Florida, Arkansas, I don’t care who it is,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “Nobody’s been able to tackle him for four quarters.”
Ole Miss (2-4, 0-3 SEC) struggled to tackle Richardson in the first half, too. He had 84 yards then, off-setting a quick Ole Miss start that had the Rebels in front 7-0.
Set up by a 59-yard pass play from quarterback Randall Mackey to freshman Nick Brassell, Jeff Scott scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
With 12 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first quarter, the Rebels led 7-0. That drive covered 72 yards, but Ole Miss finished the first half with 72 total yards.
“They were just better than us, and we couldn’t match up,” Ole Miss offensive coordinator David Lee said. “They’re good. They’re better than we are right now. That’s the reality of it.”
No run accentuated the differences more than Richardson’s 76-yard gallop at the 7:37 mark of the third. He started left, broke a tackle from Senquez Golson in the backfield, ran across the field and later juked Golson at the 15 before scoring at the right pylon.
“They had a wall for me,” Richardson said. “I just had to make a play out of it. I had a few more good blocks up-field, and I didn’t want those blocks to go to waste.”
It wasn’t the first time Richardson has had a big night against Ole Miss.
In Alabama’s 23-10 win in Tuscaloosa last year, Richardson carried 11 times for 45 yards but ran 85 yards with a screen pass to give the Tide a 23-3 lead midway through the third.
“When I was watching film, I watched his highlights the whole week trying to figure out the best way to tackle him. There really is no way to tackle him,” Ole Miss linebacker Serderius Bryant said. “Everybody has to be there to tackle him to get him on the ground.”
Other numbers proved true, too. Alabama began the night with the nation’s No. 1 rush defense, giving up just 39.83 yards a game.
An Ole Miss run game without star tailback Brandon Bolden managed just 28 yards on 31 carries. The Rebels had just 141 yards on 52 plays.
Bolden, starting center A.J. Hawkins, and wide receiver Philander Moore and guard Alex Washington, both reserves, were suspended on Thursday, a one-game sentence for breaking team rules.
QB Randall Mackey, in his first SEC start, had two turnovers that led directly to 10 points. His second-quarter interception resulted in a short field goal, but his fumble when sacked at his own 15 proved more damaging.
Two plays later, Alabama scored on an 8-yard run by Fowler and led 38-7 with 6:44 left in the third. Fowler would later score on a 69-yard run to get the Tide over 50 points.
Nutt said Saban responded to the Rebels’ early success with more blitzing. That forced Ole Miss to throw shorter routes, which played into another Alabama strength, the quickness of its linebackers.
“When you can’t run the ball that kills you,” Nutt said. “We tried to mix it up. Our first drive was executed, it was awesome. I hoped we could get more of the same, but we just couldn’t.”