Just as no tourist headed for the casinos expects to lose, almost no one expected Alabama’s football trip to Ole Miss to end the way it did. The Crimson Tide seemed to have victory in its hands, but tossed it away in the final six minutes with defensive breakdowns and turnovers. Mississippi, ranked 11th in the nation, defeated Alabama, ranked first in the Coaches Poll and third by the Associated Press, 23-17.
Alabama fell to 4-1 on the season and 1-1 in Southeastern Conference play. Mississippi stayed undefeated at 5-0 and 2-0 in the SEC.
Alabama continues on the road and in SEC play next week when Bama goes to Arkansas. Arkansas had an open date. The Razorbacks are 3-2 overall, 0-2 in SEC games.
Alabama had a 17-10 lead with under six minutes to play when Bama had to punt from its end zone and the Rebels set up at their 44. It took less than a minute for Mississippi to tiee the score. Bo Wallace hit Vince Sanders, who was behind the Bama secondary, on a 34-yard touchdown that tied the game with 5:29 to play.
The Tide seemed to have a break when an unsportsmanlike penalty on the Rebels meant a good chance for favorable field position after the kickoff. As it turned out, it was Mississippi getting the favorable field position. Christion Jones, who has been an outstanding kick return man, was hit at the 31 and fumbled, with Kailo Moore recovering for Ole Miss.
Two plays got a first down at the Alabama nine and then two plays were sour for Ole Miss. On third down, though, Wallace hit an unguarded Jaylen Walton for the touchdown.
Alabama still had a chance to win the game after the extra point failed. The first attempt for the Rebels hit the upright and failed to go through, but the Tide roughed the kicker. The second was blocked by freshman Tony Brown leaving the Rebs with only a six-point lead, 23-17, with 2:54 to play.
Alabama was guilty of a block in the back on the kickoff return, meaning the last hope drive started at the Tide 13. Blake Sims was at his best for the first part of the remaining moments. He completed a 17 yard pass to Christion Jones to get it started. T.J. Yeldon ran for eight yards. Amari Cooper made a miraculous catch in the middle of the field and turned it into a 30-yard gain to the Ole Miss 29. A seven-yard run by Yeldon to the 22 and Bama had a chance.
But a Sims scramble for a first down was wiped out by a holding call. That put the Tide at the 32 with under a minute to play and Sims went for the touchdown. O.J. Howard was double covered and the man behind him, Senquez Golson, made the interception that sealed the win for the Rebels.
Alabama had a little the better of it statistically except for having one more turnover and an uncharacteristic eight penalties for 52 yards. The Tide had 20 first downs to 16 for the Rebels. Bama rushed 44 times for 168 yards, Mississippi 32 times for 72 yards. Sims completed 19 of 31 passes for 228 yards with one interception for the Tide, Wallace 18 of 31 for 251 yards for three touchdowns with no interceptions for the Rebels. Bama, which frequently used a no-huddle offense, had 75 plays for 396 yards, 5.3 per play, and Mississippi 63 plays for 323 yards, 5.1 per play. Bama converted 6-16 third downs and its only fourth down try, the Rebels 6 of 14 third downs. Bama had an advantage in time of possession, 33:21 to 26:39.
Yeldon led Bama in rushing with 20 carries for 123 yards. Cooper was the Tide’s top receiver with nine catches for 91 yards, while O.J. Howard had three receptions for 81 yards. J.K. Scott had a good day punting, six for a 51.8 yards average and a 43.7 net yards per punt.
The defense was led by Nick Perry with 10 tackles (7 primary). Reggie Ragland was in on 9 tackles (3 primary) and was in on two tackles for loss. Xzavier Dickson has Bama’s lone sack and was in on six tackles, as were Trey DePries and Landon Collins. Cyrus Jones had two pass breakups and caused and recovered a fumble for a touchdown, that looked like it would be the play of the game until late in the fourth quarter. D.J. Pettway had a tackle for loss and pass break-up.
Alabama was having all it could handle and maybe more from the Ole Miss Rebels before the Tide was able to get a pair of touchdowns in the final minutes of the first half. One came on a fourth down gamble by the Bama offense, the other after Mississippi bet it could make something happen in the final minute.
The result was Alabama going from a 3-0 deficit to a 14-3 halftime lead.
Ole Miss got off to a good start, returning the opening kickoff into Alabama territory and getting a 46-yard field goal from Gary Wunderlich for a 3-0 lead that lasted until late in the first half.
Alabama’s offense found a vulnerable spot on the right side of the Ole Miss defense late in the second half and exploited it with a no-huddle drive. Sims got it started with a 10-yard pass to Chris Black and and 12-yard completion to Amari Cooper. T.J. Yeldon then had a 22-yard gain. A Sims pass to Cooper and two runs by Yeldon set up first-and-goal at the Rebels 4-yard-line. Two Yeldon runs around an incomplete pass left the Tide inches short of the goalline. Instead of going for the tying field goal though (Adam Griffith had already missed a 46-yard try), Bama gambled.
Sims faked the handoff to Yeldon at left guard, then bootlegged it around left end for the touchdown. Griffith kicked it to 7-3. The 12-play, 68-yard drive took 3:27 and left only 3:44 in the half.
Bama forced an Ole Miss punt and had the ball with 1:44 at its 20. The Tide seemed content to run out the clock, but the Rebels used two first downs and forced an Alabama punt. Freshman JK Scott nailed a 68-yarder over the head of the Mississippi return man and the Rebels set up at the 18 with only 51 seconds to play.
Ole Miss tried a run around right end by I’Tavious Mathers. He was hit by Cyrus Jones, fumbled at the 13, and Jones scooped it up at the nine and took it in for a touchdown with 42 seconds left in the half.
Although the partisan home crowd thought Jones might have committed a facemask penalty, there was no flage and Bama had a 14-3 lead at intermission.
A chance to put real pressure on Mississippi was missed when Alabama’s opening drive of the second half reached a first down at the Rebels 24, but ended with three bad plays and a missed 51-yard field goal.
The failure by the Tide offense was nothing compared to the Alabama defense on the change of possession. Bo Wallace completed a 50 yard pass to tight end Evan Engram and two plays later Wallace connected with Laquon Treadwell, who pulled out of the grasp of freshman cornerback Tony Brown and into the end zone to complete a 14-yard touchdown. The four-play, 68-yard drive had taken only 1:15 and pulled Ole Miss to within four points, Bama 14, Rebels 10.
Alabama’s offense had a big play, Sims hitting tight end O.J. Howard for a 53-yard gain to the Rebels 19. But from there is was disaster, including a play on which Bama was flagged for holding but the penalty was declined because Derrick Henry was caught for a nine-yard loss. Moreover, center Ryan Kelly was injured on the play, bringing in back-up Bradley Bozeman. On first down there was a false start.
Placekicker Griffith bailed it out to some extent with a 44-yard field goal that gave Alabama a 14-7 lead with 3:54 left in the third quarter and that would be the score going to the final period.
An exchange of punts to start the fourth quarter certainly favored Ole Miss. The Rebels punted Bama back to the 1-yard line with eight minutes to play. After the Tide punt, it was all Mississippi until the end.
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