Bama on the rebound for a change

Mark Ingram didn’t want No. 8 Alabama to spend the week mourning

the death of its perfect season.

The Crimson Tide tailback figured that time would be put to

better use soul-searching and working to avoid a repeat Saturday

night against Mississippi.

”Every person just needs to look in the mirror,” Ingram said.

”It’s gut-check time and everybody needs to improve.”

The Rebels (3-2, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) know all about

gut-check time, having rebounded from a season-opening upset by

Jacksonville State and a two-touchdown loss to Vanderbilt.

But Alabama (5-1, 2-1) has lost touch with the word ”rebound.”

Sustaining and carrying on have more been the buzzwords for the

defending national champions the past few years.

The Tide had won 19 straight and navigated two perfect regular

seasons in a row before falling at No. 10 South Carolina, 35-21,

last weekend. It gives the Rebels a dose of confidence. Yes,

Alabama really can be beaten.

”If we can go out and be the second team to beat them, it’d be

as sweet as being the first team to beat them,” Ole Miss defensive

tackle Jerrell Powe said.

Maybe the Tide will use the unfamiliar experience as a tool for

growth like coach Nick Saban wants and come back even better. Or

perhaps the aftermath will linger into Saturday night, but

quarterback Greg McElroy thinks the team is mature enough to make

that unlikely.

”I don’t think it’s much of a danger,” McElroy said. ”Each

week is a different, separate identity and each team is motivated

in different ways. Our team will learn from this. I feel strongly

with the leadership that we have, I feel strongly with the coaching

that we have, we will get things figured out. I really do.

”I don’t think there’s going to be a hangover from it.”

Saban has liked how the team responded in practice this

week.

”I think we have a little better sense of urgency, intensity in

what we’re doing,” he said. ”I think when the game comes,

everybody has the will to win. But the important thing is that you

have the will to prepare yourselves to be able to play

successfully, and that’s through preparation.

”You’ve got to play winning football for 60 minutes in a game

… which I personally don’t think we’ve done all year.”

Public perception hasn’t changed much except to emphasize that

the Tide really isn’t unbeatable. Alabama is still a

three-touchdown favorite over the Rebels in its homecoming game and

remains very much a force in the SEC Western Division and on the

national scene.

Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt is preparing for the Ole Alabama,

not the team that looked so vulnerable a week ago.

”I think we have an awesome respect for coach Nick Saban and

his staff and his players and how they approach things and how they

play,” Nutt said. ”Either way, we know what we’re in for. Youre

in for a 60-minute, physical, tough game. You have to match that

intensity, especially when you go to their home.”

Ole Miss could give a tutorial on recovering from difficult

losses. The Rebels have ridden an offensive explosion behind

quarterback Jeremiah Masoli to a two-game winning streak, scoring

55 points against Fresno State and 42 against Kentucky.

Chances are, it will be more of a shootout than last year’s 22-3

game that marked Alabama’s sixth straight win over its SEC West

foe.

It’s certainly another test for a Tide defense that appeared

uncharacteristically vulnerable in a 35-21 loss in Columbia,

S.C.

”Ole Miss is a really good team and very difficult in

preparation because what they’re doing offensively now is not

anything like what we’ve seen to this point,” Saban said. ”The

quarterback really creates a lot of problems and issues with his

ability to run. He’s a great runner and can throw it.”

Masoli accounted for four touchdowns against Kentucky, three

passing and one rushing. Saban said he is probably ”the best

combination guy we have seen for a while around here” and a

dangerous threat in the option.

”The guy has a great feel for running the offense they are

running, which is more of an Oregon-style of offense, but still has

a lot of that typical Houston Nutt, downhill power kind of stuff,”

Saban said.