Young’s 3 TD passes lifts No. 10 Alabama past No. 11 Ole Miss

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OXFORD, Miss. – Alabama coach Nick Saban wondered which Crimson Tide team would show up in Mississippi. As it turned out, he didn’t need to be worried, especially about quarterback Bryce Young.

Young threw three touchdowns passes and No. 10 Alabama scored on four consecutive possessions spanning the second and third quarters, rallying to beat No. 11 Mississippi 30-24 on Saturday.

“They have a lot of pride in what the standard of playing (at) Alabama is,” Saban said. “They were challenged to play to that standard, to take it personally, to understand they’re responsible for the identity that they create by how they play on the field.”

Will Reichard kicked field goals of 23 and 49 yards in the fourth quarter to snap a 24-all tie. Alabama (8-2, 5-2 SEC) secured the win by forcing an incomplete pass into the Crimson Tide end zone in the final minute to extend its seven-game winning streak over the Rebels.

“It was a tough night in a lot of ways, but it was a great night for us because I think we took a step in the right direction,” Saban said. “We didn’t get off to a great start, but the players just kept making one play at a time and at the end of the game that we needed to make.”

Young finished 21 of 33 for 209 yards, including touchdown throws to Jermaine Burton, Cameron Latu and Ja’Courey Brooks.

Alabama trailed 10-0 early and 17-14 at halftime. The Crimson Tide made efficient use of 317 yards of total offense and a defense that stopped three Ole Miss opportunities in the final quarter.

“It’s a shame. We had the ball in our hands at the end of the game and the crowd was in it, but we didn’t get it done,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “They’ve got great players and great coaches, too, but it’s just a shame.”

Ole Miss (8-2, 4-2) was led by Quinshon Judkins, who had 135 yards on 25 carries and a pair of 1-yard TD runs.

Judkins highlighted the game’s final drive with runs of 35 and 13 yards to get the Rebels to the Alabama 14-yard line before the Crimson Tide got the game-clinching stop.

Jaxson Dart was 18 of 31 passing for 212 yards with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jonathan Mingo. The Rebels finished with 403 yards of total offense, but finished 0 for 3 on fourth down conversions, including both of the final two offensive series.

SEC WEST STATUS

LSU (6-1), with the 13-10 win over Arkansas, locked up a share of the SEC West title and a berth in the SEC Championship game. Alabama (5-2) could earn a share of the title by defeating Auburn and a Texas A&M upset of LSU, but the Tigers hold the head to head tiebreaker for the berth in Atlanta opposite the SEC East winner.

THE TAKEAWAY

Alabama: Needing an impressive bounce-back performance, the Crimson Tide responded and remain in position for a major bowl game appearance, a 10-win regular season and a ranking in the top 10. Alabama was 4 for 4 in the red zone and had the edge in the kicking game with Reichard and punter James Burnip, who had a 44-yard average on four kicks.

“Making it 17-14 at halftime was good,” said Saban, regarding a Crimson Tide touchdown with eight seconds before halftime, setting off a 20-0 spurt that spanned the middle quarters. “No one even talked about the score at halftime, which is how we wanted it to be.”

Ole Miss: The loss eliminated any hopes of sharing an SEC West title, but the Rebels retain big incentives, including a prominent bowl game appearance, a high ranking in the poll and consecutive 10-win regular seasons. For that to happen, the defense that gave up four scoring possessions in the second half must be tightened.

DON’T TUG ON SUPERMAN’S CAPE

Kiffin made a concentrated effort to seek out Young on the field during postgame to offer congratulations. Kiffin did not reveal what he shared privately with last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, but said afterward: “Bryce Young put on that Superman cape and made plays at the end. He’s a special player.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The No. 10 Crimson Tide, ranked for 240 consecutive weeks in the AP Poll, the longest active streak in the nation, could move up on the strength of the road win. A minor drop is expected for No. 11 Ole Miss, ranked for 27 consecutive weeks in the poll.

UP NEXT

Alabama: Closes with consecutive home games, beginning with Austin Peay on Saturday.

Ole Miss: Visit Arkansas on Saturday. Ole Miss stopped a two-point conversion after regulation time to win 52-51 last season.

Washington QB Michael Penix Jr. returning for 2023 season

James Snook-USA TODAY Sports
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SEATTLE – Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. said Sunday he will return to the school for his sixth and final season of eligibility in 2023.

Penix announced his decision on social media and it was a surprising one at that. Penix was the national leader in passing this season, throwing for 4,354 yards and led Washington’s turnaround. The No. 12-ranked Huskies went 10-2 in the regular season, finished tied for second in the Pac-12 and will face No. 21 Texas in the Alamo Bowl.

Penix will have a chance at setting Washington’s single-season record for yards passing in the bowl game. He also threw 29 touchdowns this season. Because of his performance this season, Penix saw his NFL draft stock rise to where he was being expected to be a second-day pick at the latest.

In his announcement, Penix wrote, “As I look back on this special season we had, I realized there were so many great moments and things to celebrate, but I KNOW there is so much for out there for this team and the job is still not finished. I can’t wait to be playing in Husky Stadium for the 2023 season!”

Penix started his career at Indiana and showed flashes of stardom while also battling injuries. He transferred to Washington after the 2021 season, a move that reunited him with new Huskies’ coach Kalen DeBoer, who was Penix’s offensive coordinator for one season at Indiana.

North Texas fires Littrell after .500 record over 7 years

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports
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DENTON, Texas – Bowl-bound North Texas has fired coach Seth Littrell, who went 44-44 over seven seasons.

University president Neal Smatresk said Sunday night that the decision to make the move came after a thorough assessment of the program.

The Mean Green are 7-6 this season after losing 48-27 to UTSA in the Conference USA championship game Friday night.

Phil Bennett, their defensive coordinator the past two seasons, was named interim head coach. North Texas plays Boise State in the Frisco Bowl on Dec. 17.

The 44-year-old Littrell had one year left on his contract in what was his first head coaching job. He was the youngest coach in Conference USA and one of the youngest at the FBS level when he arrived after two seasons as offensive coordinator at North Carolina with UNT coming off a 1-11 season at the time.

While the Mean Green are going to their sixth bowl since Littrell first got there, they haven’t won any of those yet. The bowl in his debut season came after only five wins since there weren’t enough bowl-eligible teams to fill all of the slots. Consecutive nine-win seasons followed in 2017 and 2018, but they then had three consecutive losing records before this year.

North Texas also has an interim athletic director after Wren Baker was named as West Virginia’s AD last week.

Smatresk said Jared Mosley, the chief operating officer of UNT athletics, will serve as interim AD. The university is working with a search firm to find Baker’s successor.