TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama (5-0, 2-0 SEC) squared off against Ole Miss (2-3, 1-1) Saturday in Tuscaloosa, and after the Rebels took a 10-7 lead in the first quarter, the Crimson Tide used a blistering second period to to defeat the Rebels, 59-17.
Quick Starts on Both Sides
Right out of the gate, No. 2-ranked Alabama took an early lead over the Rebels on a 4-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that would give Nick Saban’s team a 7-0 lead. On the score, QB Tua Tagovailoa rifled a slant to DeVonta Smith for a 74-touchdown reception after a broken tackle with just over one minute elapsed in the game.
Many might have expected for this game to spiral out of control; however, the Rebels did not quit.
After a quick three-and-out by the Rebel offense, true freshman safety A.J. Finley recovered a muffed punt return by Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle and ran it in in for what was originally ruled a touchdown. Unfortunately for the Red and Blue, a muffed punt cannot be returned and the Rebels’ TD was reversed with Ole Miss having possession at the spot of the muff.
With Matt Corral out with a rib injury, true freshman John Rhys Plumlee then led the Rebel power running game on a 7-play 30-yard touchdown drive. The drive was capped off by Plumlee’s one-yard touchdown on third down for the first of his career, tying the game at 7-7.
John Rhys Plumlee keeps it himself for the touchdown!
We think Matt Luke is kind of excited. pic.twitter.com/VvqEALvKLR
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) September 28, 2019
Alabama stalled out in Rebel territory and was forced to punt. Plumlee then orchestrated another 13-play scoring drive that culminated in a 33-yard Luke Logan field goal that gave Ole Miss a 10-7 lead near the end of the first quarter.
After one quarter of play, an elusive Plumlee had tallied 9 carries for 43 yards.
Second Quarter Blues
Soon into the second quarter of play, Tua lead the Crimson Tide offense on a 9-play 66-yard touchdown drive that ended as he punched in a rushing TD from the 7-yard line. Following the PAT, Alabama led the Rebels, 14-10.
With his second touchdown in the game, Tua surpassed AJ McCarron for touchdown responsibility in a career at Alabama. He now leads the Alabama career touchdown responsibility list with 84 career touchdowns, a number that includes 75 career scoring tosses and nine rushing scores in 29 games.
In the second quarter, the Tide began to roll, while the Rebels’ offense began to stall. The following four possessions for the Tide led to points with a field goal and three successive touchdowns.
After a strong first quarter of power running off the tackles and scrambles from Plumlee, the Rebels were stymied by Alabama the remainder of the first half. Defensively, the Tide loaded the box and forced Plumlee to make throws. The true freshman finished the first half 5-of-11 for 43 yards through the air and tallied 15 rushes for 68 yards.
Alabama scored 31 unanswered points in the quarter behind its electric passing attack, taking a 38-10 lead over the Rebs into halftime.
Alabama’s High Flying Offense
Simply put, Tua gave a passing clinic in the first half. He eclipsed 301 yards and scored 5 touchdowns in the first two quarters. Despite a few overthrows, he looked sharp, and showed why many believe he will be the 1st overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. He is able to elude pressure and drive the football down the field with ease.
In the first half, Tua connected with DeVonta Smith 8 times for 221 yards and 4 touchdowns. The run defense for the Rebels held Alabama to 155 yards, but Tua and his wide receivers had their way with the Ole Miss passing defense.
Alabama receiver Jerry Jeudy made some big plays for the Crimson Tide, and although his numbers were not as gaudy as those of Smith, he still finished with 5 catches for 62 yards, helping to keep the chains rolling.
Fourth Quarter Fight
Although the Tide outscored the Rebels 14-17 in the third quarter, Ole Miss would rebound and reverse that in the fourth period, scoring two touchdowns in the process. It should be reiterated that these Rebels never quit. In the final period, Plumlee connected with true freshman Jonathan Mingo for the 26-yard TD pass, followed by a beautiful 28-yard TD pass from true freshman QB Grant Tisdale to true freshman receiver Jadon Jackson.
Takeaways from Today
Despite the fact the Rebels were beaten soundly, the team simply did not quit. You could see it on almost every possession.
On a 3rd and 15 play, Plumlee hurdled an Alabama defender to try and pick up more yards. The following drive, running back Jerrion Ealy caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Plumlee. Wide receiver Mingo also made a nice 32-yard snag down the sideline that was reminiscent of former Ole Miss stars Laquon Treadwell and A.J. Brown. Mingo also caught a 26-yard touchdown at the start of the fourth quarter. These could be combinations Rebel fans will be cheering for in the future.
The rest of the teams on Alabama’s schedule would take these points and offensive stats in a heartbeat. 25 first downs? Whoa! 3 for 3 in the Red Zone. 279 rushing yards and almost 200 passing. One turnover? That’s a good day against ANYBODY, much less Saban’s Tide Defense.
— David Walker (@DavidWalkerQB) September 28, 2019
It will be interesting to see how head coach Matt Luke handles the quarterback situation in the coming weeks as Plumlee came in and did a great job throughout the game. If Matt Corral is healthy, the Vanderbilt game could be very telling for the future at quarterback for the Rebels.
Defensively, Ole Miss needs to shore up its tackling, which has been an issue in the last few years. Although they had opportunities to get off the field on a number of third downs, the Rebs had some missed tackles and blown coverages that proved to be their Achilles Heel Saturday as Alabama took advantage and was able to produce first downs and touchdowns.
All in all, Ole Miss should leave Tuscaloosa with its head held high. Yes, the Rebels lost–but in the process they showed grit and determination that should serve them well as the season progresses.
Ole Miss QB John Rhys Plumlee (Video: Hays Dubberly, The Rebel Walk)