Alabama came into Saturday night looking to make a statement and exact a little revenge. In the end, it was the team on the other sidelines doing the former while impressively avoiding the latter — but not before surviving a significant scare. Or two.
Up 20 late in the third quarter, 15th-ranked Ole Miss withstood a flurry of Tide haymakers to head back to Oxford with a nail-biting 43-37 win over the second-ranked team in the country. The loss ends ‘Bama’s 17-game home winning streak, which had been tied with Baylor for the longest streak in the country.
Up 17-10 at the half, the Rebels extended that lead to 30-10 with just under four minutes remaining in the third quarter on a pair of field goals and a touchdown. The latter score was one of the wackiest you’ll see all season long as Chad Kelly channeled his inner Garo Yepremian, tossed up what amounted to a Hail Mary, had it bounce off a Tide defenders helmet… and right into the arms of Quincy Adeboyejo, who raced the remaining distance for what looked to be a dagger.
The score instead seemed to wake the Tide up as they drove 69 yards on the ensuing drive and capped it with a Jake Coker touchdown run. The Rebels’ next possession was a three-and-and-out that featured three plays that lost yardage. Another touchdown on the next drive, a Coker eight-yard pass to ArDarius Stewart, sliced the lead to 30-24 and seemed to leave the Rebels back on their toes and reeling.
Instead, the visiting team proceeded to connect on what appeared to be a one-two kill shot.
On a second-and-one from his own 27, Kelly took off on what looked like a run to the right side of the Tide defense and, at the last second, hit Cody Core on a pop pass, with the receiver racing 73 yards for the touchdown. An official’s review confirmed that nearly half of Kelly’s body was behind the original line of scrimmage and no penalty was warranted, although it also showed that at least one Rebel lineman was illegally downfield; that part of the play wasn’t reviewable.
On the next possession, Coker made a horrible throw and/or decision and was picked off. The very next play, Kelly sent a good chunk of the fans to the exits as he hit Laquon Treadwell from 24 yards out to push the lead to 43-24 with just over 10 minutes remaining. But wait, ‘Bama wasn’t done. Note even remotely close, as it turned out.
A Derrick Henry touchdown run with 6:36 remaining cut the lead to 43-30 (two-point attempt failed), then, following a successful onside kick — and perhaps an illegal batting forward of the ball by a Tide player — Coker hit Richard Mullaney on a two-yard touchdown pass that sliced the deficit to six points with 4:33 remaining. After forcing an Ole Miss punt and taking over the ball at their own seven-yard line with just over three minutes remaining, Coker’s 26-yard run on first down gave the Tide room and additional hope for those remaining in the stands.
The very next play, however, Coker made an ill-advised throw as he was being leveled that was picked off, the Tide’s fifth turnover of the game (three interceptions and no fumbles to zero turnovers for the Rebels) and what was certainly the absolute, final dagger. Except it wasn’t as the Tide got the ball back with :31 seconds remaining at their own 31-yard line.
Four straight Coker incompletions, though, finally, officially ended any hopes of a monumental comeback.
Record-wise and based on the “look” test, both Ole Miss and LSU appear to be the class of the SEC West, with Texas A&M potentially lurking in the weeds ready to ambush someone. The two teams will square off Nov. 21 in Oxford, although both will have to navigate a couple of obstacles before getting there — Ole Miss with road trips to A&M and a reeling Auburn, LSU on the road against ‘Bama.
Before you count out the Tide, just remember that ‘Bama lost to Ole Miss in Week 5 last season and still managed to find a seat at the College Football Playoff at season’s end. Like last year, though, the Tide will have to take care of their own business the rest of the way and rely on other SEC West teams for help.