Three Takeaways from the Rebels’ 30-24 loss to Alabama
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss came up just short in a 30-24 loss to Alabama Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway. The Rebels (8-2, 4-2 SEC) are now eliminated from SEC championship contention as LSU locked up the SEC West with a win over Arkansas this weekend.
Here are three takeaways from the loss to Bama.
Best performance of the year
I thought this was Ole Miss’ best game this season; the Rebs played a really good game against the Tide.
Hats off to the defense for a gutsy performance. They held Alabama to 317 total yards and forced the Tide to kick three field goals, two in the fourth quarter when Ole Miss was noticeably tired.
Quarterback Jaxson Dart made some nice throws and managed the Rebels’ game very well. He had no turnovers in the game, and I thought he played as well as one could have asked him to.
Quinshon Judkins finished the game with 135 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries. There’s just not much else that can be said about the Rebels’ true freshman running back at this point. He is an absolute force and tallied his 14th and 15th rushing touchdowns of the season, setting the school single-season record.
Judkins again out of the Wildcat for the score! It’s 17-7 Rebels! pic.twitter.com/CFzczjzDBL
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) November 12, 2022
Judkins, who now owns the freshman records for single-season rushing yards (1,171), sits at second on the Ole Miss single-season list for rushing yards, just 141 yards short of setting the record, regardless of classification.
The receivers were led by Malik Heath, who notched 123 receiving yards on six receptions. Jonathan Mingo finished with 7 catches for 59 yards and a touchdown.
Looked tired at the end
For three quarters, Ole Miss looked like a fresh team. The much-needed bye week clearly had the Rebels rested and ready to go for Alabama. The fourth quarter, however, was a different story.
The Rebels looked gassed out there late in the game. The defensive front seemed to lose a step after playing really well for most of the contest.
The depth many thought this team had at the beginning of the year just has not materialized. The starters are playing almost all of the snaps on both sides of the ball, and it was clear that hurt Ole Miss late in the game.
A couple of Judkins’ phenomenal runs set Ole Miss up on Alabama’s 14-yard line, trailing by six with under a minute to go. Judkins didn’t touch the ball again for the rest of the drive. In his postgame press conference, Lane Kiffin explained that Judkins was “really tired” on the last drive. The freshman received the majority of the workload in the run game.
With Zach Evans out with a concussion suffered earlier in the game, the Rebels couldn’t get Judkins off the field. Plus, Coach Kiffin did not want to allow the Tide the opportunity to make defensive substitutions.
“I wish we would have stayed with that but, if it was a normal situation, we would have got him (Judkins) out because he was so tired. You can’t predict everything. They played coverage. A lot of time after those explosive runs, they’ll come after you. And they didn’t. The head coach and defensive coordinator make a lot of money for a reason. They’re really good.”
Head coach Lane Kiffin
The lack of depth was a problem for Ole Miss late. It’s something the Rebels are getting better at building, but it’s just not quite where it needs to be yet, which brings me to my next point.
Ole Miss is so close
This program has come a long way over the past three years. LSU beat Arkansas by three points this week and the Rebels were just a few plays short of knocking off Alabama at home. Had a few plays in each gone gone differently, Ole Miss would be sitting at the top of the SEC West.
But the plays didn’t go differently, and things are what things are. This program is oh-so-close to taking that next step to compete for an SEC championship, but it’s just not quite there yet.
Depth is building, the talent level of the players is rising, and the overall atmosphere of the program is perhaps the best it’s ever been. Ole Miss keeps getting better and better. The Rebels are knocking on the door of competing for championships; they’re just not quite ready to bust through. But make no mistake, that day is coming.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
Dillon is from Yazoo City, Ms. He is a senior journalism major pursuing a career in sportswriting. He grew up an Ole Miss fan and has always followed Ole Miss sports as well as the Dallas Cowboys and Atlanta Braves. He played football and basketball in high school and enjoys spending time with friends and family.