Rebs Have Experience Edge At Quarterback

Other than, perhaps, from every other position player, there is general agreement that the most important man on a football team is the quarterback. Moreover, the more experienced a quarterback, the more valuable he is.

When Alabama goes to Oxford this weekend, the Crimson Tide will have a distinct disadvantage in the “experience at quarterback” category against Ole Miss. Bama and the Rebels will kick off at 2:30 p.m. CDT Saturday with CBS televising the game.

The primary story line is not that both teams are undefeated (both 4-0) and nationally ranked (Alabama first in the Coaches Poll and third in the Associated Press ranking, Mississippi 11th in both). It is not that Bama has a 10-game winning streak in the series and is 50-8-1 on the field all-time against the Rebels.

The story is that Ole Miss will be starting a third-year quarterback and Alabama will be starting a fourth-game quarterback.

For Ole Miss, Bo Wallace, a 6-4, 217-pound senior who has set records for total offense and pass completions in a season at a school where Archie Manning and Eli Manning played, has been a three-year starter and taken the Rebels to back-to-back bowl games. He was named the MVP in both of them.

For Alabama, it will be Blake Sims, a 6-0, 208-pound senior who was involved only in mop-up duty until this season.

In last year’s Alabama-Mississippi game in Tuscaloosa, the Tide took a 25-0 win as Wallace completed 17-31 passes for 159 yards and was sacked twice. Sims took part in mop-up duty with two runs for five yards.

This year, Wallace is continuing his outstanding production, though he has been less the dual threat quarterback than advertised. Just as he did last year, Wallace does his damage primarily as a passer. Last year he passed for 3,346 yards and 18 touchdowns and ran for 355 yards and six touchdowns.

Through four games this season, Wallace ranks fourth in the Southeastern Conference in total offense with 1,271 passing yards and only 7 yards rushing. He averages 319.5 yards per game. Wallace has completed 93 of 131 passes for 11 touchdowns with six interceptions.

Right behind him though is Bama’s Sims, who has 1,091 yards passing and 141 yards rushing, an average of 308 yards per game. Sims has completed 71 of 97 passes for eight touchdowns with two interceptions.

Alabama Coach Nick Saban took note of the experience Wallace has and also pointed to his leadership and him being a competitor. Saban said, “His ability to execute his position based on his experience probably minimizes a lot of bad plays, which makes them much more effective, makes him much more effective.

“They’ve made a lot of explosive plays on teams throwing the ball down the field. They’ve got great play-action passes. He’s done a really good job. Bo has done a very good job of executing those things. So I just think the experience is something that you can’t instill. It’s something that you have to go through and learn and it’s a tremendous advantage.”

As for Sims making his first start at quarterback in a road game for Alabama, Saban said, “We don’t want to see anything different from him this week. We want to see him be well prepared for what he needs to do. I think the big thing about playing on the road that you have to deal with is the noise factor offensively in terms of being able to manage the game — silent count, those kinds of things are a little different. We practiced it when we played in Atlanta in the first game, did it some in the game, didn’t have to do it the whole time in the game because that wasn’t truly an away game. It was a neutral-site game. So I think that’s the biggest challenge and we have to create some of those situations in practice so the players have to learn how to communicate and that we can execute with noise not affecting us.”

Asked if Sims is earning the respect of his teammates, Saban said, “I don’t think there’s any question about it. I think if you watch the games you see that. I think our offensive team has responded to whatever quarterback has been in the game but I do think there has been a chemistry there. Blake’s been around these guys for a long time. They know him well. He’s performed well. I think their confidence in him has gone up and I think that when the leaders on the team are good people and they play effectively, I think it enhances their ability and capacity to affect other people, which is what leadership was all about. I think that’s been good.

“Some of the things that I’ve talked about before — from the game management standpoint, the penalties standpoint, too many negative plays, self-inflicted — that part of what we do on offense, we have to all contribute to getting better.”

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