October 13, 2007

BOL notebook: Arenas loose again

OXFORD, Miss. - Film review of Alabama's special teams play by the coaching staff this weekend will draw both praise and ire, as the Crimson Tide made big plays for both teams in a 27-24 win over Ole Miss Saturday.

On the positive side, Alabama punt returner Javier Arenas broke a 54-yard return in the fourth quarter to set up what turned out to be Alabama's final touchdown. After his returns over the previous three games amounted to very little yardage, the sophomore from Tampa served notice to the rest of the Southeastern Conference that he's not finished making noise in the return game this season.

Arenas credited his blocking on the key play.

"That is what initially sparked the return," said Arenas. "I have to have time to get the ball. The guys who hold the gunners up did a good job."

Arenas also broke a 17-yarder that became a net of 32 after an Ole Miss personal foul, and had a long kickoff return called back on an illegal block by Baron Huber. For the game, he finished with two punt returns for 71 yards and four kickoff returns for 93 yards. Arenas also got his first meaningful action in the secondary, playing the dime position on Ole Miss' final desperation drive.

That won't be all that stands out to coaches in the special teams area, however, as Alabama committed its first special teams disaster when Dustin Mouzon blocked an Alabama punt to set up a short field and eventual touchdown for the Rebels offense.

"We didn't block the right guys," Saban said. "So that's fundamental execution. Had nothing to do with the guys' willingness or want-to, or any of that stuff."

Mouzon blew through the Alabama protection unit so cleanly he could have tackled punter P.J. Fitzgerald as easily as blocking the kick. Fortunately for the Crimson Tide, the carom went toward the sideline rather than the end zone, which helped Ali Sharrief force the play out of bounds.

"The blocked punt was something big," said Mouzon. "Coach [Rippon] has assembled a great punt block team that I think is feared all over the SEC. ... I came in free and ran in and got the block."

The Alabama defense appeared to have responded well to the adversity in placing Ole Miss in a third and goal from the 17, but Seth Adams found Michael Hicks for a touchdown pass in front of Simeon Castille.

Kicker Leigh Tiffin also had an up-and-down performance, missing from 35 yards before the half despite getting two tries thanks to a late Ole Miss timeout, but also recording his first touchback of the season on kickoff duty.

CLOCK MANAGEMENT ISSUES - Alabama had one of its worst clock management problems of the season at the end of the first half. UA used a pair of timeouts on plays on which the clock would have stopped anyway, and was never able to take a shot into the end zone despite having all three timeouts and a first down at the Ole Miss 41. Tiffin missed a field goal try at the end of the drive.

ETC. - Alabama forged its first fourth-quarter comeback victory on the road since 1999, a 28-17 win over Auburn. The Crimson Tide trailed Ole Miss 24-17 entering the fourth quarter Saturday. … DJ Hall's 11 receptions tied his career high. … Terry Grant tied Alabama's record for rushing touchdowns by a freshman with his sixth. … John Parker Wilson was in danger of falling to .500 as a starting quarterback for his career Saturday, but the victory pushed his record as a starter to 11-9. … Alabama has scored on its first possession in all five of its victories this season.

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