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Alabama quarterback Blake Sims (6) throws under pressure from West Virginia safety Karl Joseph (8). Sims has been thriving with short passes turned into yardage by the Crimson Tide receivers.

TIDE, TAKE THREE

• 1. Alabama junior receiver Amari Cooper leads the nation in receptions (25), receptions per game (12.5) and yards (319).

• 2. The Crimson Tide lead the series with Southern Miss 33-6-2. Saturday will be their first meeting since 2005, when Tyrone Prothro made one of the most memorable catches in college football history.

• 3. Alabama's defense has collected three sacks in each of its first two games after averaging 1.7 a game last season.

Who knew "Power Football U" could develop into "Quick Screen U" so soon?

Alabama's first offensive play from scrimmage this season was a quick screen from Blake Sims to Amari Cooper that picked up 24 yards against West Virginia in Atlanta. Sims threw quick screens to Cooper and tailback Kenyan Drake that went for touchdowns this past Saturday in the Crimson Tide's 41-0 rout of Florida Atlantic.

"I think that those plays are all based on the look that you get on defense," Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday in his weekly news conference. "I think the thing that has made those plays successful is that the wide receivers who aren't catching the ball are doing a great job of blocking. We've had several occasions where we've actually got the guys on the ground.

"It's the look that you get on defense that makes that an effective play, and it's something we've been able to take advantage of to this point."

Alabama led Florida Atlantic 21-0 with time to spare in the first quarter, after Sims capped the Tide's first possession with a 7-yard keeper and watched Cooper turn a short gain into a 52-yard score on the second drive. Drake's touchdown on the third possession covered 39 yards.

"Receivers sometimes take what they do in a game literally, which means they're supposed to receive the ball," Saban said. "What we try to emphasize with them is that you've got to be a complete player at your position. If you have a really good day, you might catch five or six balls, but there are going to be 70 plays in a game, so there is something else you have to do on the other 65 plays that makes you a good player.

"When we run the ball, it's important that receivers are aggressive and block, and it's important they block effectively in some of the pass plays we run. The guys have done a good job of that so far this season. A defensive player has to read a block for high-low, and if a guy is really erect and not in good football position, he's probably not going to be able to play a cut block."

The quick screens certainly have enhanced the passing numbers for Sims, who threw for 250 yards against West Virginia and 214 against Florida Atlantic and ranks sixth nationally in efficiency.

"We're doing a lot of great things with the guys we've got on the outside," senior tight end Brian Vogler, who's yet to catch a pass this season, told reporters Monday. "It's something that is really working for us."

Alabama will host Southern Mississippi this Saturday in the 42nd meeting between the two. Southern Miss defeated the Crimson Tide in Bear Bryant's final season in 1982, spoiled the debut of Gene Stallings as Tide coach in 1990 and helped send Mike DuBose packing with a 21-0 skunking in 2000.

The Eagles faced the Crimson Tide annually from 1992 through 2005 and won Conference USA as recently as 2011. They have struggled since, going 1-23 during the 2012 and 2013 seasons and opening this year with a 49-0 loss at Mississippi State and a 26-20 escape of Alcorn State.

As is the case most weeks this season, Alabama is having to prepare for an up-tempo spread team.

"This is a much-improved team from what they had a year ago," Saban said. "Their quarterback started five or six games last year and is certainly developing into an effective player for them. They will have lots of four-wideouts, and four-wideouts is probably their No. 1 formation."

Tide tidbits

Senior receiver Christion Jones (ankle) was limited in Monday's practice, but Saban expected him at full strength today. ... Alabama's game against visiting Florida next week will be televised by CBS with a 3:30 kickoff. ... Redshirt sophomore kicker Adam Griffith from Calhoun, Ga., made two short field goals against Florida Atlantic and is 6-for-6 this season.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

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