Coach Kiffin discusses the Rebels’ missed opportunities in 24-10 loss to Alabama
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Ole Miss lost its first game of the 2023 season, 24-10, on the road at Alabama. After the game, head coach Lane Kiffin talked about his team’s offensive struggles, especially on third down, and what Alabama did to the Rebels to get the win.
“A lot of credit to Alabama. They battled through a lot this week. A lot of people questioning if the dynasty is over. They came out and played really physical and did a great job on defense, especially in the secondary. We really struggled on third downs, which was a big part of the game.”
With the SEC going to 16 teams next season, Ole Miss does not have Alabama on the schedule for 2024, something Coach Kiffin mentioned postgame.
“I’m disappointed in the result. We came in here to win, and we didn’t do that today,” Kiffin said. “We don’t get these guys again until next year. Just more missed opportunities… I thought this was really our shot to beat these guys. I just thought there were things we could do, and we didn’t get it done.”
Although Ole Miss had flashes of potential Saturday, there were a lot of struggles, primarily on offense. Late in the first quarter, the Rebs moved the ball 75 yards downfield on seven plays, capitalizing with a 10-yard touchdown run from Jaxson Dart to give Ole Miss a 7-3 lead.
The game continued to be low-scoring through the first two quarters and Ole Miss led 7-6 at halftime.
Coach Kiffin said afterward he had full confidence in the second-half offense who had proven to be successful in every game thus far. Unfortunately, that was not the case Saturday.
“We have been a really good second-half team, 100-23 (outscoring opponents), I think this year. Obviously, a different quality of opponent today but I felt good about that. Then the play counts got off balance because we weren’t winning on third down, so that kinda got off balance there.”
As Lane discussed postgame, third down conversions were a problem against Alabama and have been throughout the season. In their two road games, the Rebs are 4-27 on third down conversions. They were 3-14 against Alabama.
“We have to coach better, these guys (Alabama defense) always for years and years being good on third down, you know you don’t come up with things, win in man-to-man, and they have good rushers, especially at home so, it kind of fed into that and a lot of the third downs were longer situations which certainly doesn’t help in this place,” Kiffin explained.
Two specific plays in the game that Coach Kiffin described as the turning point came in the third quarter when Alabama intercepted Jaxson Dart and followed up with a 33-yard touchdown pass and two-point conversion.
Ole Miss went from being down 9-7 to trailing 17-7 in a matter of two minutes and 38 seconds.
“We moved the ball past mid-field, we said we were going to play aggressive, so we took a shot, and their guy made a really good play. The next series they took a shot exactly the same over our safety’s head, so I think that’s really where it turned.”
Lastly, another struggle that should be highlighted from Tuscaloosa was the run game. Quinshon Judkins finished with 56 yards, Dart 12, and Ulysses Bentley IV three. Despite Judkins having 13 carries on the day, he only had three at halftime, one of them producing his longest gain of the day at 14 yards.
Furthermore, Bentley IV had one carry for the entire game after averaging 10.1 yards and a touchdown last week against Georgia Tech. Kiffin addressed the ground game issues against Alabama.
“These guys are hard to run the ball on. Some of those in the first half, the run carries were really low on handoffs. Totally not by design. You run the RPOs, they play an extra guy in front, which requires (Dart) to throw the ball. His numbers kind of got out of whack there, not on purpose. You can’t just turn and hand the ball off against these guys over time, you have to be able to hit those shots and make the plays when they’re there. They won’t give you a ton of them.“
Even though the outcome was very disappointing, one player who impressed and was a bright spot is freshman linebacker Suntarine Perkins.
The former five-star from Raleigh, Miss. did an excellent job spying Tide QB Jalen Milroe and finished the game with two sacks and five total tackles. Lane said after the game that watching Suntarine’s performance reminded him of another Perkins from the SEC — LSU star Harold Perkins.
“I thought Perkins made a lot of plays today. I was hoping kind of like the LSU guy (Harold Perkins) when we played them last year, he hadn’t started yet, the freshman, and all of a sudden they played him against us and the guy looked like the best player in the conference, so we were hoping he could give us that spark because he is one of the few players that can catch this guy (Milroe),” Kiffin said.
Taking the first loss of the year, especially against Alabama, is always a tough pill to swallow, but there is not much time to let this one sting. The 3-1 LSU Tigers are coming into Oxford next week, and while there are a number of problems to fix from week four, it is a new week for Ole Miss football.
Former Ole Miss wide receiver Donte Moncrief said it best, Saturday evening on Twitter.
Rebs put that game in trash watch film learn and come together as 1!!! Only way to win is as 1….
— Donte Moncrief (@drm_12) September 23, 2023
Ole Miss and LSU kick off Saturday, September 30 at 5 p.m. CT. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.