TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — A broken left hand was no reason for Julio Jones to miss the start Saturday night.
It may have been the culprit behind his early exit, though.
Jones broke his left hand in the first half of last week’s loss at South Carolina but played through the injury to catch eight passes for 118 yards and a touchdown.
After surgery last weekend, Jones returned to the starting lineup against Mississippi with a plate and screws in his left hand.
The junior receiver was a blocker for most of the first possession before having the first pass thrown his way on third down at the Mississippi 20.
Quarterback Greg McElroy’s pass was a little high, and it went off Jones’ hands in the end zone. The Tide still ended up scoring a touchdown when the Rebels were flagged for running into kicker Jeremy Shelley on the following play and Preston Dial caught a McElroy touchdown pass three snaps later.
Jones’ first catch came on a screen pass on the right sideline and appeared to tenderly fend off a blocker with his injured hand for an 8-yard gain and a first down. Three plays later, though, he dropped another pass.
After that, he went to the bench for the rest of the first half.
On his Thursday night radio show, Alabama coach Nick Saban said Jones would be a game-time decision, though he never said he was ruled out at any point in the week.
Slowing the start
The lessons of the past three weeks made an impact on the Alabama defense against Mississippi, at least on its first appearance of the night.
The Tide surrendered long drives to open each of the past three games against Arkansas, Florida and South Carolina.
Mississippi ran three plays and punted after receiving the opening kickoff. The Rebels’ first touch netted just 1 yard on two running plays and a third-down pass.
The dominating play didn’t stop there. The first three Mississippi possessions ended in punts after three plays gaining a combined 7 yards.
Only the Gators failed to cash in during the Tide’s string of slow starts. Alabama linebacker Nico Johnson intercepted a fourth-and-goal jump pass to keep the Gators out of the end zone.
No bear sightings
The votes are in, and the new mascot was selected this week.
But the black bear that Mississippi students selected to represent the Rebels on game days was nowhere to be found Saturday in Tuscaloosa.
The school is still months away from introducing the new mascot that beat a shark and “Hotty and Totty” in voting that concluded last week. The Mississippi nickname will remain the Rebels, but a costumed black bear will be the embodiment on game days, replacing Colonel Reb, who was retired in 2003 by the school’s administration.
The first edition of the Bowl Championship Series standings will be released today. Televised live on ESPN, the all-important combination of human polls and computer rankings will become public at 8:15 p.m.
The formula for the standings is split in thirds. The USA Today coaches poll and the Harris Interactive poll account for two-thirds of the equation while a combination of six computer polls provide the remainder.
Alabama was ranked eighth in both the Harris and USA Today polls last week.
Shackelford off bench
D.T. Shackelford didn’t get the start for Ole Miss, but he made an early impact.
The linebacker stopped Mark Ingram for no gain on Alabama’s second possession. He added another on an Alabama kickoff return just before halftime.
Shackelford earned his first career start two in the Rebels’ last outing a win over Kentucky in which he had three tackles and forced a fumble.
Alfred McCullough started his first game. The Alabama right tackle replaced D.J. Fluker who went down at South Carolina with a groin injury that Saban called serious.
Fluker dressed Saturday night, but rode the exercise bike on the sidelines instead of seeing action between the lines. McCullough was tested right away when McElroy ran a keeper to McCullough’s side on the first play that gained nine yards.
A sell out?
The late kickoff (9:15 p.m.) and homecoming festivities apparently didn’t hurt attendance in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
All corners of the stadium appeared to be packed for the fourth time this season. By halftime, though, the top corners of the end zone bleachers started to thin out.
Alabama was one of six SEC teams who entered Saturday’s games with at least 100 percent sellouts of all home games this season. The announced crowd of 101,821 is the exact capacity of the expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium since Alabama counts paid attendance instead of the actual number who passes through the turnstiles.
There is a new queen in Tuscaloosa.
Shellie Street of Mobile was crowned UA’s homecoming queen at Friday night’s pep rally on campus. The senior accounting major was sponsored by the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.
She beat out fellow court members Chelsea Banks of Tuscaloosa, Pandora Austin of Starkville, Miss., Anna Foley of Richardson, Texas, and Bethany Travis of Kennesaw, Ga.
Alabama clearly controlled the starting line of scrimmage for possessions in the first half.
The best starting position for Ole Miss was its own 34 and averaged starting on the 18 1/2 yard line in its first six possessions.
Alabama on the other hand started no further than its own 35 and as deep as the Rebel 8.
Five minutes late
Originally scheduled for an already-late 9:10 p.m. kickoff, the festivities had to wait an extra five minutes Saturday night thanks to television.
Built into ESPN’s contract with the SEC is a provision that allows for a five-minute hold to placed on a game following another game on the network.
With South Carolina’s game at Kentucky running late leading into to Alabama/Ole Miss on ESPN2, the call was made and kickoff in Tuscaloosa was pushed back to 9:15 p.m.
Still, viewers missed the kickoff and the first two plays from scrimmage when Kentucky’s upset of the Gamecocks ran a few minutes long.
Dareus slowed (sorta)
Marcell Dareus limped on the sidelines but didn’t leave the game for very long after needing assistance following the second play of the game. He still collected his second sack of the season among his three first half tackles.
Dareus suffered an ankle injury three weeks ago at Arkansas, but didn’t much playing time since.