September 30, 2013 11:53:16 AM
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- Alabama's defense set the tone on the game's opening series when HaHa Clinton-Dix upended Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell inches short on fourth down.
"That started the whole thing," Crimson Tide linebacker C.J. Mosley said.
Top-ranked Alabama spent the rest of the night shutting down No. 24 Ole Miss' running game and making big stops, with a couple of forced turnovers tossed in, during Saturday night's 25-0 victory. It was a dominant performance that looked much like the two previous Alabama defenses, which were the nation's stingiest and powered Bowl Championship Series-title teams.
The Tide (4-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) held a Rebels offense that came in averaging 490 yards and 38 points to 205 yards and 11 first downs.
Alabama was motivated by perceived slights, including comments by Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace, who said he felt the Rebels could score on anyone. They seemed to grate on the defensive leader Mosley, who summed it up: "They called us out, we answered the bell."
"We were kind of getting into it going into the game," he said. "I kept telling everybody, 'Remember what they said, we're trying to play Alabama defense.'"
Clinton-Dix said Mosley, who had a fourth-down stop of his own and made a tackle for a safety along with Jeoffrey Pagan, was especially fired up before the game. That might have gotten the defense going, if it wasn't the safety's initial stop to halt a drive into Alabama territory.
"He started yelling. I saw it in his eyes," Clinton-Dix said. "I caught the chills just looking at him. I felt it for him."
Alabama hasn't allowed a touchdown in the two games since giving up a program-worst 628 yards to Texas A&M, limiting Colorado State to two field goals.
The Tide contained speedy tailback Jeff Scott and allowed Ole Miss only 46 rushing yards, while getting two sacks from Denzel Devall. Devall also forced a fumble by Wallace with 5 minutes, 15 seconds left.
"They beat us on some 1-on-1s up front, on runs that we thought should have been good," Rebels coach Hugh Freeze said. "When you're not running the ball effectively against great teams, it makes for a long night. It makes it very difficult.
"They did a really nice job of mixing things up, keeping us off balance and disguising things. It seemed like every time we thought we had a bead on them, we missed something we thought should have been good and they had it played perfectly."
Alabama freshman Eddie Jackson appears to have settled into the starting cornerback job opposite Deion Belue. Jackson, who didn't play in the first two games, has replaced John Fulton for the past two. He picked off a pass one play after getting burned for a long gain.
Belue said Jackson's emergence has helped bring the secondary together since the Texas A&M game.
"We finally found a piece to our secondary, so that we all can come together and mesh together and that was a big deal in that situation," he said. "It came out to be a big deal when we added Eddie Jackson to our secondary."
The performance came a week after Alabama turned in an unimpressive performance against Colorado State. That prompted players to speak up and coach Nick Saban to hold a series of meetings with individual players.
The Tide was limited to three field goals by Cade Foster in the first half, but instead of criticizing, Saban pointed to lofty standards having something to do with perception of events on the field.
"You can be critical about kicking three field goals, can be critical about a lot of things, but if you're critical it's only because you have expectations for something that this team still needs to improve," he said. "I think everybody is committed to trying to do that.
"That's what we're going to be committed to."