Ole Miss faced third-and-1 from the Rebel 34-yard line in its opening drive of the second half at Alabama Saturday night. An errant snap soared over the head of quarterback Chad Kelly who, with two defenders sandwiching him, found a way to corral the football and heave a desperation throw in the direction of wide receiver Laquon Treadwell.
“I didn’t catch the snap right away,” Kelly said, “and I just figured Laquon’s 6-3, he can jump the highest out of anybody. I just gave him a chance, and the Lord is great.”
“I was thinking what are you doing, Chad?” head coach Hugh Freeze said. “He came over and I said, ‘Brother, you need to pray hard tonight and thank God. Let’s don’t do that again.’”
The pass was tipped in the air by Treadwell, and fell perfectly into the hands of Adeboyejo. He had raced 66 yards for a touchdown before the some 100,000 fans inside Bryant-Denny Stadium were able to process what the heck had just happened.
“I saw Chad fumble the snap a little bit, and I had a feeling he was just going to throw it up,” Adeboyejo, who finished with two catches for 71 yards, said. “I was running under the ball. I thought the other guys misjudged it. I thought from the start it was going over their head, I’m about to run under it. But once they got to it, they tipped it in the air, I grabbed it and I had to go score.”
Ole Miss only went on to make history with its second win in Tuscaloosa ever and first since 1988. The Rebels also claimed their second straight win over Alabama in school history. Their 43 points were their most ever scored in a game at Alabama, and tied for the second-most points against Alabama in the all-time series.
The play resulted in Adeboyejo’s fifth touchdown reception of the season.
“I was like, ‘This is our night. Things are going our way,’” defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. “It was amazing. I couldn’t even react it was so good. I was so happy for him, for everybody. Sometimes good stuff just happens to people who do good.”
“GASSED” DEFENSE HOLDS ON
The Ole Miss defense nearly ran out of gas.
The Rebels played brilliantly Saturday, forcing five Alabama turnovers for a total of 10 on the season. They lead the SEC and are ranked eighth nationally with 32 turnovers. They also held Alabama scoreless in the first quarter at home for the first time since 2012.
However, as the game wore on, they showed signs of fatigue. Alabama owned time of possession (35:26 to 24:34), especially in the second half when Ole Miss struggled to sustain offense. Two of its touchdown drives, in particular, were due to explosive plays - the Adeboyejo touchdown and a two-play march that mostly consisted of a 73-yard trick-play pass from Kelly to Cody Core.
“Oh my god, it was tough,” Nkemdiche said. “That’s a good football team, man. It was a fight to the end. My body’s so sore. I can’t wait to get in the cold tub. It was a great game. The team played well, and I’m happy we came out with the win.”
Ole Miss held Alabama to 10 points in the game's first two quarters. The Crimson Tide tallied 27 in the second half, with 20 coming in the fourth quarter.
“We were gassed,” senior safety Mike Hilton said. “They tempoed us, and then they started having long drives. We knew we had to stay out there and fight through it.”
The Rebels were able to dig deep in the second-to-last drive of the game for Alabama, coming up with a turnover to all but seal the win. The Crimson Tide was set up at its 33 with three minutes left after a 26-yard run by quarterback Jake Coker, but Ole Miss defensive end Marquis Haynes beat his man around the edge, pressured and hit Coker, whose pass was then intercepted by cornerback Tony Bridges.
“We just found a little left,” Freeze said. “We were drained. We’ll have to go back and I’ll have to talk to (the Ole Miss strength and conditioning staff) and make sure what did we do? Do we need to evaluate the plan we had? Because we were certainly gassed.”
Nkemdiche had arguably his most dominant game to date against Alabama.
His final stat line doesn’t tell the whole story. Nkemdiche finished with six tackles, including 2.5 for loss and half a sack, but his complete control of the lien of scrimmage was on display all night. He was a consistent presence in the Alabama backfield despite facing at least a double team on pretty much every snap.
“I feel like it was (dominant),” Nkemdiche said. “The defense did something special. We came together as a team like we’ve been building. That synchronization I’ve been talking about, that magnetism, that brotherhood showed, even in moments of adversity.”
Nkemdiche had an audience for his impressive night. NFL scouts from the Carolina Panthers, Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Houston Texans and Pittsburgh Steelers were all in attendance.
“In the first half, I thought he was pretty special,” Freeze said. “Maybe the first time that I’ve seen him finish plays when he had the opportunity to all the time.”
Attendance at Bryant-Denny Stadium was a capacity crowd of 101,821. … The Rebels now own an all-time record of 648-501-35 (.562 winning percentage) and a 27-15 record under Hugh Freeze (.643 winning percentage). … Ole Miss now has an all-time record of 33-46-3 (.421 winning percentage) in SEC openers. … Ole Miss starts the season 3-0 for the third straight year. … This is the first time in school history Ole Miss has scored 43 or more points in three straight games. … Ole Miss handed Alabama its first loss in Tuscaloosa since Texas A&M in 2012. … Ole Miss improved to 64-147-2 all-time against ranked teams and 6-10 under Freeze ... The Rebels are now 4-8 against top-10 teams and 3-3 against top-five foes in the Freeze era ... This was the Rebels’ second straight win over a top-five team (31-17 win over No. 4 Mississippi State last year). … Ole Miss is now 21-4 under Freeze when it leads at halftime, including a 3-0 mark this year. … Ole Miss won the toss and deferred to the second half ... The Rebels have won the toss in two of three games this year.