(24) Southern Miss 3

(4-1, 3-1 away)

Alabama 27

(5-2, 4-1 home)

Coverage: GamePlan

3:30 PM ET, October 16, 2004

Bryant-Denny Stadium, Tuscaloosa, AL

1 2 3 4 T
#24USM 0 3 0 03
ALA 10 3 0 1427

Top Performers

Passing: S. Pennington (ALA) - 72 YDS, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: K. Darby (ALA) - 29 CAR, 197 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: K. Darby (ALA) - 2 REC, 11 YDS, 1 TD

Tide wins first vs. ranked opponent since 2002

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 first year.

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 Conference opponents.