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October 10, 2009

Notebook: Special teams have pretty-special day

OXFORD, Miss. _ Although Houston Nutt is known for being a coach to try almost anything and everything with his play-calling, the University of Alabama's Nick Saban showed he can have a few things up his sleeves as well Saturday night.

The Crimson Tide successfully executed a fake punt to get its initial first-down of the game, and on the subsequent play ran out of the wildcat formation.

Although the drive didn't leads to any points, the fake-punt helped spark an impressive game for the special-teams units.

"We called it and then I thought it was called off, so I looked and saw it was there and just threw it," said senior punter P.J. Fitzgerald, a former high school quarterback. "It wasn't as pretty as I wanted it, but it worked out."

Senior Cory Reamer was able to block a punt near the Ole Miss end zone, and also caused and recovered a fumble on a third-quarter punt-return. Both led to field goals.

"I just got a big hit on him and knocked the ball loose," Reamer said about his hit on Dexter McCluster. "Really had a breakdown in coverage, he got past a lot of guys and was about to break free. I got a good lick on him and the ball fell right in my lap."

The punt came on what Alabama called a bulldog formation, which Ole Miss ran last year but hadn't shown yet this season.

"Nobody really touched me," Reamer said.
Senior kicker Leigh Tiffin was 5-for-5 in field goals, all between 21 and 31 yards. He now has 67 field goals for his career to move ahead of Michael Proctor (65, 1992-95) and into second on the Tide career list behind Philip Doyle (78, 1987-90). He's third in attempt (92).

Tiffin's 16 points gave him 317 for his career, moving him ahead of his father Van (312, 1983-86), into third. Doyle holds the record with 345.

The biggest negatives were the Tide also had another big return nullified by a penalty, and Kentucky had a 34-yard kick return along with a 21-yard punt return.

"Could have …" Fitzgerald said.

No linebacker shuffle
After essentially moving three linebackers into new roles last week to try and compensate for the loss of sophomore Dont'a Hightower at the weakwide spot, Alabama put everyone back into their regular roles against Ole Miss (Reamer at strongside and at weakside on passing downs, senior Eryk Anders at Jack, and sophomore Courtney Upshaw as a pass-rusher).

Instead, true freshman Nico Johnson played weakside on the few plays the Tide was in its base formation, playing the majority of the game in dime in nickel packages.

"I really think about last week moving everyone around we ended up worse in three spots," Coach Nick Saban said. "Not that everyone didn't do a good job, they did a good job in what they were doing. But Cory was better in his position, Anders was better in his position. But it did give us a week to work with Tana Patrick and Nico Johnson, both, at that position.

"Nico did a pretty good job out there today."
However, it may not stay that way, and sophomore Jerrell Harris will be eligible to return next week for South Carolina.

"Could change next week," Reamer said. "After that you never know."

Tide-bits
True freshman running back Trent Richardson's fumble in the fourth quarter was Alabama's first turnover in 267 plays dating back to the North Texas game on Sept. 19. Junior quarterback Greg McElroy hasn't had a pass intercepted in 141 attempts, which Is now the third-longest streak in Alabama history (Brodie Croyle 190, Jay Barker 155).

Junior cornerback Kareem Jackson's 79-yard interception return was the 10th-longest in Tide history.

Among the representatives attending the game were from the Rose, Sugar and Capital One bowls. … Ole Miss set an attendance record at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with 62,657. The previous record was 62,552 against LSU in 2003. … Alabama's team captains were McElroy, Rolando McClain, Mike Johnson sand Javier Arenas. … Ole Miss held a moment of silence for former Rebels linebacker Tony Fein, who died last week.


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