Possible signal stealing and other reasons Alabama football allowed record offensive performance

Brett Hudson
Tide Sports

OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss gashed Alabama for at least one play of 25 yards or more in all four quarters Saturday, and the pace did not slow down as the game wore on. The Rebels had two such plays in the third quarter and three in the fourth.

As Alabama coach Nick Saban put it, “It seemed like everything we did, they had an answer for.”

Then, Saban presented a theory on how those adjustments were made.

In gaining more yards on Alabama (647) than any other team in the Nick Saban era, the Rebels wreaked havoc on the UA defense in a way that had never been done to Saban before, albeit in Alabama's 63-48 win. Kiffin may have had an advantage none of the others enjoyed.

“I don’t know if they had our signals or what, but that’s not anything unusual,” Saban said. “It seemed like every time we called something they had the best play they could have against it.”

Inside linebacker Dylan Moses thought Ole Miss, “definitely,” had UA’s defensive signals, pointing to Kiffin’s tenure at UA (3-0) as an easy path to familiarity.

“It didn’t help that Coach Kiffin was our coach for three years: he knows the ins and outs of our defense, he knows what we do,” Moses said. “There’s a lot of things we have to change up, our signals and all that. We have to do better at all of that.”

Moses insisted Alabama presented Ole Miss (1-2) with a wide variety of defensive looks to solve. Some of them were obvious in nature, such as UA playing most of the first half with two defensive linemen and four linebackers making up its front. Saban said UA went with that approach to have extra athleticism on the field in hopes of containing Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral, but it came with a price: Ole Miss ran for 6.6 yards per carry in the first half, gaining 160 yards on 24 carries.

For the second half, UA transitioned to its traditional nickel package, one with three defensive linemen and three linebackers. Ole Miss responded by completing its first nine passes in the second half for 217 yards, over 24 yards per attempt.

Saban also referenced different coverage schemes, all busted in one way or another. UA tried making a chance at safety, bringing DeMarcco Hellams into Daniel Wright’s place, and will have to do it again with Jordan Battle out for the first half of the upcoming Georgia game after a targeting ejection.

Alabama was victimized situationally, as well, as Ole Miss covered nine of its 17 third downs and all four of its fourth downs.

In nearly every way, it was not what UA expects of its defense, and the same could be said for nearly every game UA has played dating back to the 2018 postseason, if not earlier. Yet, Saban is not relenting on the potential of the unit.

“We’ve never played this way on defense it’s certainly not what we aspire to try to be as a defensive team and we’re going to work hard with our players,” Saban said. “I believe in our players. I think we have to get our players to play better. I think we’re capable of that.”

Reach Brett Hudson at 205-722-0196 or bhudson@tuscaloosanews.com or via Twitter, @Brett_Hudson.