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
”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
”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
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
It’s certainly another test for a Tide defense that appeared
uncharacteristically vulnerable in a 35-21 loss in Columbia,
”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,”