Each week, The Rebel Walk’s Jeff Tetrick takes a look at the Ole Miss Postgame Points, examining five takeaways from the Rebels’ most recent football game. Here are his Postgame Points from the Alabama game.
1. Never Quit
Ole Miss fell to No. 2 Alabama, 59-31, on Saturday afternoon at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa. The Rebels stand at 2-3 (1-1 SEC) on the season, while the Crimson Tide improves to 5-0 (2-0 SEC) and ascends to the top spot in this week’s AP Top 25 Poll.
While the final score might appear lopsided, anyone who watched this game knows that the young Rebels put up a fight for sixty minutes against the mighty Crimson Tide. From start to finish, Ole Miss never quit playing hard in this contest.
After Alabama jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, Ole Miss responded by scoring 10 unanswered points and lead 10-7 after the first quarter. It marked the first time all season that Alabama trailed at any point in any game. That is significant for a young squad! The Rebels were not intimidated by the Crimson Tide or the 99,590 fans inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama blew the game open in the second quarter and held a commanding 38-10 halftime lead. Rather than throw in the towel, Ole Miss came out in the second half and matched the Crimson Tide point for point. Ole Miss accounted for 21 points in the second half, the same as Alabama. The Rebels continued to fight until the final whistle, and Alabama kept the starters in the game late into the fourth quarter. The youthful Ole Miss players never quit and fought like champions against the second-ranked team in the country in their house. The future looks extremely bright for Ole Miss football!
2. Run Defense
Ole Miss played excellent run defense against Alabama on Saturday. In Nick Saban’s tenure at Alabama, his teams have featured a run-first offense. The Crimson Tide came into Saturday’s contest averaging 179 rushing yards per game. The Rebels limited Alabama to just 155 yards on 30 attempts. That is an impressive performance against one of the nation’s best teams.
Ole Miss kept its opponents to under 100 yards on the ground in the previous three games. It took the second-ranked team in the country to end the streak, and the Crimson Tide did not eclipse that mark until early in the fourth quarter. The Rebels still have some work to do in pass defense, but the run defense has been outstanding since the Memphis game. Saturday’s effort against Alabama should give this unit more confidence knowing they can slow down the run game against anybody in the Southeastern Conference.
3. Big Day
The offense had a big day and piled up some incredible statistics against No. 2 Alabama. The Rebels put up offensive numbers that have not been given up by the Crimson Tide defense in quite some time. It is worth mentioning that Ole Miss got most of the offensive production from freshmen and sophomores. In fact, freshmen accounted for all 4 touchdowns and 446 of the 476 yards gained against Alabama. While Ole Miss did not win the game on the scoreboard, the Rebels showed where this program is headed in the near future.
Ole Miss gained 25 first-downs against the Crimson Tide. The Rebels are just the fourth team in the last three seasons to go for 25 or more first-downs against the vaunted Alabama defense. Auburn (25-2017), Oklahoma (26-2018), and South Carolina (31-2019) are the other teams to accomplish this feat. Further, the Rebels gained 14 of those first-downs on the ground. It is the most rushing first-downs for Ole Miss since getting 15 in a win over Arkansas last year. The most rushing first-downs allowed by Alabama this season coming into the game was 7 by New Mexico State. The last team to earn more rushing first-downs against the Crimson Tide than Ole Miss was national runner-up Auburn, who gashed Alabama for 17 during the infamous 2013 Iron Bowl victory.
Ole Miss only completed 12 passes against Alabama, but the Rebels made each of them count. Ole Miss produced 197 yards through the air, good for 8 first-downs and 3 touchdowns and averaged 16.4 yards per completion. Think about that for a second! That is an amazing stat line against No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. It stands out even more when considering the two Rebel quarterbacks who put up those numbers were freshmen in John Rhys Plumlee and Grant Tisdale.
In addition to the 197 passing yards, Ole Miss had a historic day on the ground against the Crimson Tide. The Rebels rolled up 279 rushing yards on 58 attempts for an average of 4.8 yards per run and scored 1 touchdown. It is the most yards on the ground for Ole Miss since netting 309 yards last season against Louisiana-Monroe in Oxford. Alabama entered this contest allowing just 104.8 yards rushing per game. The Rebels nearly tripled that average, and 249 of the 279 yards on the ground came from freshmen.
To put that into perspective, the last time Alabama’s defense was dominated on the ground came courtesy of national champion Ohio State in 2014. The Buckeyes exploded for 281 rushing yards in their 42-35 semi-final victory over the Crimson Tide in the inaugural College Football Playoff.
As mentioned previously, several freshmen were responsible for most of the offensive damage Ole Miss did against Alabama. The freshman class accounted for 4 touchdowns and 446 of the 476 total yards on Saturday. Those 476 yards of total offense represent the most surrendered by the Crimson Tide since Clemson notched 482 in last year’s national championship game. The last time Ole Miss put up that many yards against Alabama came in 2016 when Chad Kelly and the Rebels racked up 522 total yards in a thrilling 48-43 loss in Oxford.
Quarterback John Rhys Plumlee made his first career start a memorable one. The Hattiesburg native ran the ball 25 times for 109 yards and his first career score against Alabama. Plumlee completed 10 of his 28 pass attempts, but those 10 completions went for 141 yards and 2 touchdowns. Freshmen Jerrion Ealy and Jonathan Mingo caught touchdown passes from Plumlee. These were the first career touchdown passes for Plumlee and the first touchdown receptions for Mingo and Ealy. Mingo finished the day with 3 catches for 74 yards.
Quarterback Grant Tisdale saw his first action as a Rebel late in the game. Tisdale completed both of his passes to fellow freshmen for 56 yards and a touchdown. Dannis Jackson caught Tisdale’s first pass for 28 yards, while the other pass was hauled in for a 28-yard touchdown by Jadon Jackson. That connection marked the first career touchdowns for both Jackson and Tisdale.
Finally, freshmen running backs Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner paced the Rebel rushing attack. Ealy ran the ball 11 times for 68 yards, while Conner rushed 10 times for 62 yards. Both backs averaged a nice 6.2 yards per attempt.
5. Red Zone
Ole Miss was a perfect 3-for-3 in the red zone against Alabama. The Rebels notched 2 touchdowns and a field goal in the red zone in Tuscaloosa, accounting for 17 points on the day. It is the fourth game this season in which the Rebels have been perfect in the red zone, with the lone exception being a 4-for-6 effort against Cal last week.
Coming into the contest, Alabama had held opponents to just 5 scores (3 touchdowns) in 8 trips into the red zone this season. The fact that Ole Miss found all of its success in the red zone against the Crimson Tide’s first-team defense speaks volumes!
The Rebels have produced points on 16 of 18 opportunities in the red zone through 5 games. Ole Miss has 9 touchdowns (5 rushing, 4 passing) and 7 field goals in those situations.
Ole Miss (2-3) returns home to play host to Vanderbilt (1-3) on Saturday night at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. The Commodores defeated the Rebels 36-29 in Nashville last year. Ole Miss has won the past two meetings with Vanderbilt in Oxford, including a 57-35 victory in 2017. The Rebels lead the all-time series over the Commodores 49-40-2 in a series that dates back to 1894. Hotty Toddy!