No. 19 Ole Miss built a 21-point lead only to see it reduced to seven almost instantly, but still the 19th-ranked Rebels have taken a 24-17 lead over No. 1 Alabama to the half in Oxford.
Ole Miss opened the game by accepting the ball and promptly moving 75 yards in seven plays, and 63 yards in the final three snaps of the drive — a 25-yard Chad Kelly strike to Evan Engram, a 15-yard connection to Quincy Adeboyejo and, finally, a 23-yard scoring dash by Akeem Judd.
Alabama responded with a typical Alabama drive, chewing up 17 plays and 7:13, but settling for a field goal when Jalen Hurts overshot a wide open Hale Hentges for what would have been an easy 14-yard touchdown.
It was that kind of half for Alabama’s offense, though. Their next possession concluded with an Adam Griffith field goal that sailed wide left, and the Tide’s next three touches concluded in punts.
But when Alabama’s offense went to sleep, Ole Miss’s awakened. After two three-and-outs of its own, the Rebels moved 50 yards to set up a Gary Wunderlich field goal, then found pay dirt again when Kelly, one play after a roughing the passer that negated a would-be 3rd-and-8 situation, nailed a wide open Engram for a 63-yard snatch-and-dash touchdown.
Alabama was seemingly aided by a 15-yard penalty by Ole Miss on its next possession — pass interference, this time — but a Breeland Speaks sack of Hurts tuned into an Ole Miss touchdown.
Speaks on the play got away with an apparent targeting hit and, inexplicably, an excessive hit that occurred before John Youngblood crossed the goal line, yet the score was allowed to stand.
The Tide, though, answered. Oh, did they answer.
Aided by the 15-yard flag on Speaks and a kickoff out of bounds, moving 50 yards in three plays and just 37 seconds, when Calvin Ridley took the snap on a jet sweep and raced in from six yards out with 2:10 to play in the first half.
After forcing a three-and-out by Ole Miss, Eddie Jackson raced the ensuing punt 85 yards for a touchdown, and the Rebels’ 21-point lead was cut to seven in just one minute and five seconds.
Even with the late touchdowns, Alabama’s offense has looked like a unit with trouble running the ball and helmed by a true freshman quarterback. Which it is, of course. Hurts has thrown for just 89 yards on 23 attempts — 3.9 per pop — and leads the club with nine carries for 52 yards, plus a fumble that was returned for a touchdown. Damien Harris has pounded out just 29 yards on six carries, and Joshua Jacobs leads the Tide’s running backs with 33 yards on three carries, though 25 came on one attempt.
Kelly led Ole Miss by hitting 9-of-14 passes for 167 yards and a touchdown while rushing a team-high six times for 38 yards. Judd carried eight times for 36 yards.
Alabama will receive to open the second half.