A.J. Moore/Petre Thomas

Ole Miss had Alabama down big but it wasn't meant to be

Up 24-3 with a little over two minutes to go in the first half - deja vu from Florida State, the Rebs had another mental lapse or two and before you knew it, Alabama was only down 24-17 at halftime, the momentum had changed and the number one Tide went on to win 48-43.

In a game marred by way too many "rulings under review," the willing Ole Miss Rebels finally succumbed to number one Alabama 48-43 in a game that saw the Rebels squander another early lead to yet another dual-threat freshman quarterback, this one named Jalen Hurts, who put the hurts on the Rebels with 146 yards rushing and a pedestrian, but efficient, 158 yards passing.

In the end, it was the same story as the Florida State game - a contest the Rebels could have won just as easily as they lost, but some mistakes, on both sides of the ball, and a poor showing to end the first half, cost them dearly.

Echoing what Head Coach Hugh Freeze said postgame, Defensive Coordinator Dave Wommack said the Rebel coaching staff has to do a better job of imprinting in the players' minds the importance of every single snap.

"We gave up 334 yards rushing," said Wommack. "That's not a winning effort. We didn't do what we were supposed to do of getting off the field when we had opportunities to, either because we didn't fit things correctly or we made alignment, assignment or pursuit angle mistakes.

"Our guys have to start valuing every snap. They all count equally, but we haven't gotten that across to them good enough."

Hurts gave the Rebels fits, very similar to the way the rookie Florida State QB did in the opener.

"The dual-threat guys put a lot of pressure on you, plus we were trying to help our young secondary out with some different schemes," Dave continued. "It's a fair assessment that the situation was tough, but we still did not have our eyes in the right places at times in crucial situations.

"Our kids did a lot of things better today, but it's still not consistent enough for winning football. We had a fatigue factor again a little bit with some of the players we are missing, but the bottom line is that we have to get ourselves off the field better than we did, even late in the half or the game when we are tired. Both games, we have played pretty good defense for 28 minutes of the first half and then both games we give up easy touchdowns that swing the momentum. As coaches, we have to get that figured out and correct it somehow."

Dave said he has always felt comfortable making halftime adjustments and coming out with more focus after halftime, but he wasn't pleased with the second half of play by his group, who gave up nearly 300 yards of offense in the second stanza.

"We missed fits more than they schemed us up. We knew what to do, but we have to do a better job of coaching our kids up to executing what to do," he stated, shouldering the blame.

Wommack had no issues with the way the Rebel defense competed.

"We played hard. We challenged them physically, but it still comes back to executing fundamental football," he closed, "and certainly against a team the caliber of Alabama. We just did not get the job done for 60 minutes and while I liked a lot of things I saw out there, I know we can do better as coaches and players."

The defense was without DEs Victor Evans, Fadol Brown and Sean Curtis this week and DT Breeland Speaks was playing with a bruised shoulder, but Wommack is not selling, or buying, excuses.

"We have who we have. We have to coach them up better and they have to play better, even against the number one team in the nation. It doesn't make it any easier that they are perhaps the best team in the country," Dave closed. "We are here to win and we could have won tonight had we done things better as coaches and players."

OC Dan Werner didn't have much to say.

Despite gaining over 500 yards and scoring a bunch of points against what many Bammers are calling their best defense in a long time, which is saying a mouthful, Werner was not pleased, for an obvious reason.

"All we preach is taking care of the ball. We didn't do that - again. To me, the turnovers were the difference in the game, just like they were at Florida State," he stated. "The ball is the most important thing in the game."

Once again, the Rebel offense started off fast, but then sputtered.

"We started our really strong again and then messed around a little and didn't move the ball for three series," Dan noted. "Then we got some things going again and got back in the game, but had two critical turnovers. Ball game."

Werner stuck with the run game more against Alabama to keep them honest and he felt that opened up the passing game some, but it was too little too late with the turnovers.

"We averaged five yards a carry, which they had to honor," Werner added. "That gave us some passing lanes, but, again, the turnovers, one of which was a fumble for a touchdown, killed us."

Dan believes the Rebels will bounce back from his tough loss.

"We have positive feelings about this team and it starts with our head coach. Since we have been here, we have been able to bounce back from touch losses, keep our heads up and win some games. I think we will do the same thing again," he closed.

Really, correct the play of about six minutes - two minutes before half and a few minutes after halftime - and these Rebels will be hard to deal with, but in the meantime, they are 1-2 and looking for a needed 'W.'


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