Column: Rebels Are For Real

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - It's been a long time since the Ole Miss Rebels defeated Alabama here - 1988 to be exact, but that streak is over and the Rebs showed the nation they are for real."

27 long years. . .

. . . Over a dozen failed trips to Tuscaloosa since 1988, the last time the Rebs won here.

No more.

That streak is dead and buried with a 43-37 scintillating Rebel victory, proving not only that last year's upset of the Tide in Oxford was not a fluke, but that this Ole Miss team has fangs and claws and grit and a lot of other important championship ingredients.

Spurred by a pair of special teams forced fumbles on kickoff returns that resulted in 10 Rebel points, and a Trae Elston pick and nice return that set up another score, Ole Miss took a 17-10 edge into intermission and never looked back.

But they did have to look over their shoulder a couple of times.

The game was supposed to be a classic and by all measures, it qualified.

It did not come without drama, and nobody thought it would. After all, this is the "new normal" of Ole Miss and Alabama.

The Rebels never gave up the lead, but Alabama never threw in the towel. The Tide looked sunk two separate times in the second half, down 30-10, cutting it to 30-24, then the Rebs scored two quick times for 43-24 and then the Tide answered again for 43-37 with the ball late in the game.

Fortunately for Ole Miss, JUCO CB Tony Bridges picked off an underthrown Jacob Coker pass, forced by pressure by DE Marquis Haynes, and the Rebs finally secured the win.

Bridges' interception was the fifth turnover of the game for Alabama while the Rebels had none, yet the Tide was still able to make it a one-score game.

There were fortuitous moments for the Rebs, such as a high snap, a desperation pass off Laquon Treadwell's hands into a streaking Quincy Adeboyejo's arms for a long score.

There were lucky breaks for Alabama - such as covering an onside kick that was covered by the Tide, resulting in Alabama's final score and keeping everyone in suspense until the last possession.

But in the end, the Rebels prevailed and did so while nobody really had a spectacular game.

Everyone did their part including the special teams, but we'd be hard-pressed to name an MVP other than to give the whole team the game ball.

How did this happen?

Easy.

This Rebel team is real.

From the stingy defense to plenty of weapons on offense to a scrappy offensive line to an opportunistic secondary to a well-schooled special teams contingent to a new quarterback who seems to have the grit it takes to lead an SEC team to great heights.

Many people called last year's win over Alabama a fluke. If anyone says that this time around, shame on them.

Make no mistake, Bama is Bama - a real good team, but the Rebels deserved this one and it really shouldn't have been as close as it ended up being.

Most felt the team that came in and won the turnover battle would win the game.

Mistakes are killers. Ask the Tide.

They had five of them.

Yes, Alabama outgained the Rebs 503 to 433, but they didn't make their opportunities count like the Rebs did and that's why they came up on the short end, rightfully so.

Alabama has been pointing to this game since last spring.

So have the Rebels.

Both had something to prove.

On this night, the Rebels proved they are for real.

Alabama is too, but just not as real for now.


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