TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) -- Southern Mississippi is the perfect
homecoming opponent for Alabama, even when it's ranked.
Kenneth Darby rushed for 197 yards and scored two touchdowns,
one on a run and one on a pass, as Alabama beat Southern
Mississippi (No. 25 ESPN/USA Today, No. 24 AP) 27-3 Saturday for its first win against a ranked
opponent in nearly two years.
Darby, filling in for the injured Ray Hudson, had eight straight
carries on one drive in the first half and finished with 6.8 yards
per rush on 29 carries. Darby said fatigue wasn't a factor because
he worked extra hard in practice knowing he would be the workhouse
against the Golden Eagles.
"It's a great win for us to beat a ranked opponent," Darby
said. "This will send a signal out to the rest of the teams on our
schedule that we're ready."
Southern Miss (4-1) had been averaging nearly 29 points per
game, but the Golden Eagles never got untracked against Alabama
(5-2). The Crimson Tide limited Southern Miss to 148 yards rushing
and only 23 yards passing.
"Offensively we didn't get anything done with consistency,"
said Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower. "I thought we showed signs at
times of being able to run the ball, but you're got to be able to
throw it, and we could not."
Alabama last beat a ranked team on Nov. 16, 2002, a 31-0 victory
at then-No. 11 LSU under former coach Dennis Franchione. The Tide
lost four times to Top 25 opponents in 2003, coach Mike Shula's
Shula didn't celebrate too long: He wasn't happy with the Tide's
penalties -- seven for 65 yards.
"It just felt like we beat ourselves there with a lot of
penalties," said Shula. "We've got to do a better job there."
Despite being ranked for the first time since 2000, Southern
Miss was the homecoming opponent for Alabama. The Golden Eagles
have won only six times in 42 games against the Crimson Tide, which
scheduled them for six previous homecoming games.
Darby seemed to get stronger as he went along, gaining big
chunks of yards all game. He scored on a 12-yard pass from Spencer
Pennington in the third quarter and a 9-yard run set up by a Tide
interception in the fourth.
Alabama's only other TD came on a 1-yard run by Tim Castille.
The defense also set up that score when Freddie Roach forced a
fumble by Anthony Harris and Mark Anderson recovered at the
Southern Miss 3.
Brian Bostick added field goals of 45 and 37 yards for Alabama,
but he missed from 46 yards.
Pennington, who started the year as a third stringer but moved
up after starter Brodie Croyle was injured, was 4-of-9 for 72 yards
with an interception.
Filling in for injured Southern Miss starter Dustin Almond,
Damion Carter went 5-of-20 for 16 yards with one interception.
Jeremy Young completed one of three pass attempts for 7 yards.
Alabama still needs one more win to be eligible for its first
bowl trip since 2001. During that time, the Tide has been through
NCAA sanctions and a series of coaching changes. It won't be easy --
four of the Tide's last five games are against ranked Southeastern