Ole Miss ran 88 plays on Alabama, the first team to reach that mark against Alabama since Clemson ran 99 in the national championship game of the 2016 season. Yet, Ole Miss needed more; Alabama averaged 8.6 yards per play over 67 plays and beat the Rebels 59-31.
Tweet length review of the game
Part of me wonders if, with the benefit of hindsight, this will be the game that encouraged the fan base to recalibrate its expectations for defensive play. A top 10 defense, while typically the norm, probably isn’t in the cards in 2019.
Did you know?
– Teams generally don’t run as often on Alabama as Ole Miss did: 58 times, and 43 percent of those carries handled by quarterback John Rhys Plumlee. The last time a team (not named The Citadel) ran 58 or more times on Alabama was in 2004, when Minnesota ran 72 times for 276 yards (3.8 yards per carry) in winning the Music City Bowl.
– The 31 points in the second quarter were the most UA has scored in a quarter since 35 against Texas A&M in 2014, also in the second quarter. DeVonta Smith scored three touchdowns in the period, plus a Tua Tagovailoa rushing touchdown and Joseph Bulovas’ 36-yard field goal.
– This is the first time in the Nick Saban era that an Alabama team committed 10 or more penalties twice in a three-game span: 11 for 92 yards against South Carolina and 10 for 76 yards against Ole Miss. The last time this happened was September and October of 2006 in a double-overtime loss to Arkansas and a win over Duke.
– Of Alabama’s 34 scoring drives this year, 17 have lasted six or fewer plays and 17 have lasted seven or more. Most of them — 20 of the 34 — lasted between four and nine plays.
– One of the coolest stats from Smith’s big day: the cutoff to make the top 100 in receiving yards is 283. If Smith only played this game, where many others have played four or five, he would seven yards shy of being a top 100 receiver in the nation; but of course, he has played the other games, and his 537 receiving yards rank fifth in the nation. Jerry Jeudy is 13th with 488.
– Alabama finished last season ranked 128th out of 130 FBS teams in punting average, and is currently ranked 128th in punting average this year. UA’s current longest punt is a 44-yarder; there are 37 teams averaging more than 44 yards per punt so far.
What about this game will be remembered in January?
The day Smith did more as one wide receiver than many teams can do as an entire unit through the air, setting school records that are going to be tough to beat for years, if not decades.
Quoting Nick Saban
– “We didn’t stop the run very well on defense. We have up a couple of explosive plays at the end of the game, which, we were really giving other people an opportunity to play, but you know, those people need to play and we probably ought to protect them a little bit in those situations, as well.”
– “Terrell (Lewis) was able to play a little bit today, which we were happy about that. But it’s always going to be a little bit day-to-day with how he can go about what he has to do.”
– “I think you can look at the bye a couple of different ways: you can say it’s a week off, or you can look at the bye week and say there’s a lot of things we need to improve on. That’s certainly the approach we want to take with our team.”
Quoting the Crimson Tide
– Safety Xavier McKinney on Plumlee: “I thought he played well for a freshman. I thought he was athletic, thought he was pretty fast. We tried to do a better job of keying him and knowing where he’s at, because we knew they were faking and running him on the perimeter. We knew that going into the game that they were going to try to run those things.”
– Tagovailoa on his rushing touchdown: “Running it is good, but the coaches want to take hits off me. I feel like I was five yards, maybe seven yards into the end zone before I got hit. I don’t know. It doesn’t matter, as long as you’re scoring.”
Quoting the opponent
– Ole Miss coach Matt Luke on defending Alabama: “We tried several different things: some zone, playing off them, and we tried to press them and bring some pressure. Give them credit, they executed. We tried to run the ball early to try to make this a four-quarter game, but the middle of the second quarter got away from us and we never recovered.”
– Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez on Plumlee, according to Nathanael Gabler of The Oxford Eagle: “For a true freshman, in his first start, in this environment against that quality of a team, I thought he acquitted himself very well. There were probably a few plays he’d like to have back. But I was probably as impressed, talking with him after every series, as to what he was seeing. His eyes were in the right spot and he knew what was going on. For his first time starting, that was pretty good.”
– Luke, according to Nick Suss of The Clarion-Ledger: “There’s too many seniors in that room to say we’re just going to build (for the future). We have a fan base that wants to win. So that’s what we’re going to try to go do.”
One man’s very arbitrary top four players of the game, in no particular order
– Smith: 11 catches for 274 yards and five touchdowns. This feels like the kind of game where you see someone go for a big game and say, ‘This has to be getting close to a record,’ then you open the record book and find the game you’re watching isn’t even within striking distance of the record.
– Tagovailoa: 26-36, 418 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions and a rushing touchdown. Only Tagovailoa could have a game end with a 224.8 quarterback rating and still have Saban feel like the offense, “left some money on the table today.”
– McKinney: 13 tackles, 10 of them solo, one quarterback hurry. Doesn’t it feel like McKinney is always the one there to clean something up when it goes wrong, as in always the one to stop a run at 12 yards instead of going for 25? Another great game for a guy who is going to have a respectable All-American case at the end of the season, at this pace.
– Plumlee: 10-28, 141 yards, two touchdowns, one interception; 25 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown. I’m not thrilled with myself for putting both quarterbacks in this (one day I hope to do one that doesn’t feature either), but he was the guy for Ole Miss as it put some atypical numbers up against Alabama.
Against the spread
Ole Miss put up far too many points to be in danger of missing the cover on the 38-point spread. The most common over/under, in the 63-64 range, was surpassed with the blocked punt touchdown — which came with over 20 minutes left in the game.
This is a season where the calendar falls the right way for the entire sport to get at least two open weeks. Alabama’s first is this week, the next being in between Arkansas and LSU games, the first weekend of November. After this open week, Alabama travels to Texas A&M.
Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or email@example.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson