Tua, Smith lead No. 2 Alabama to 59-31 rout of Mississippi
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) — Tua Tagovailoa and DeVonta Smith hooked up for a 74-yard touchdown strike barely a minute into the game.
Turns out they were just getting started.
Tagovailoa and Smith partnered on five touchdown passes and between them set a few school records while No. 2 Alabama ran away from Mississippi 59-31 on Saturday.
“He was the person that was open pretty much all the time, so I just gave him the ball,” Tagovailoa said.
The Crimson Tide (5-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) actually trailed for the first time this season before flexing its muscles against the 37 1/2-point underdogs. The Rebels (2-3, 1-1) couldn’t even slow down Smith, who sometimes gets overshadowed in a loaded receiving group.
Not this game. Smith had 11 catches for school records of 274 yards and five TDs. He had 221 yards by halftime, and added a 27-yard score for another highlight in the biggest game of any Tide receiver.
Smith is certainly now known for more than being the guy who caught the game-winning touchdown in the national title game two seasons ago.
“That’s been a goal the whole time, just to get my name established just not as someone who caught the game-winning catch, just to get myself out there,” he said. The old school mark was three touchdown catches, and Smith also tied the SEC record last matched in 2006 by South Carolina’s Sidney Rice.
His yardage total was sixth-best in league history.
Tagovailoa passed for a school-record six touchdowns and rushed for a seventh. He had matched the record of five TD passes in two straight games but finally eclipsed it in the fourth quarter.
He completed 26 of 36 passes for 418 yards.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for the Tide, even with a blocked punt for a touchdown tossed in.
Ole Miss turned a muffed punt into a score and then took a 10-7 lead on Luke Logan’s 33-yard field goal. Alabama’s first deficit of the season lasted 3: 44.
Then Alabama scored 31 points in the second quarter.
“I guess a win is a win,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “We did some very good things out there today, but we also didn’t play some things very well. I think it’s pretty obvious that we left some money on the table on offense. We had some plays that we could have made that we didn’t make.”
The Rebels started backup quarterback John Rhys Plumlee with Matt Corral sidelined with bruised ribs sustained in a loss to California.
Plumlee passed for two touchdowns and ran for a third. He finished 10-of-28 passing for 141 yards with an interception, and ran 25 times for 109 yards.
“We came here to win,” Ole Miss coach Matt Luke said. “There are no excuses. The thing we’ve got to do is build on some of the positives out there, like some of the guys out there competing, some of the young guys making plays. We’ve got to build on that, but there are a lot of things we’ve got to get corrected, too.”
TUA’S RECORD WATCH
Tagovailoa’s touchdown run in the second quarter was the 81st TD passing and rushing of his career, passing AJ McCarron for the school record. He also ultimately tied McCarron’s 77 scoring passes.
“I feel like it’s just the guys I’m surrounded with, that’s all I can say,” Tagovailoa said. “Those are the guys that make me look good.”
Former starting kicker Joseph Bulovas replaced an injured Will Reichard (hip flexor). Bulovas made a 36-yard field goal and hit the right upright on a 28-yarder.
Mississippi: Rebounded from a tough loss to Cal by starting 4 of 5 on third-down conversions. Had 476 total yards and 279 on the ground against the Tide.
Alabama: Had some struggles defensively but the offense produced even more big plays than usual. Ale Kaho both blocked and recovered the punt for a touchdown.
Mississippi hosts Vanderbilt Saturday night.
Alabama gets its first open date before visiting No. 23 Texas A&M on Oct. 12.