My sincerest apologies for this being a tad bit tardy; we were loaded with #content yesterday anyway, and I was dealing with the type of exhaustion that only Ole Miss football fandom can deliver. Late kickoffs really take a lot out of us, particularly when we actually have some expectation of success. Like any fans, we want our team to be great, but being that we've not experienced much greatness, we tend to err on the side of extremely nervous pessimism. We're always waiting on the other shoe to drop, because something just has to go wrong in our understanding of Ole Miss football. Saturday night, when the Rebels saw their 20-point lead in Tuscaloosa dwindle to just six late in the fourth quarter, we all had that sinking feeling that somehow we'd see them lose late. It's the same feeling we had last year just before Senquez Golzon leaped over O.J. Howard to pick off Alabama in the endzone in the game's final minute. It's the same feeling we had two seasons ago just before Andrew Ritter's late field goal beat a top-10 LSU team in Oxford. It's the same feeling we had three seasons ago when Ole Miss needed an Egg Bowl victory to earn bowl eligibility.
We expected a letdown that didn't happen. Hugh Freeze's Rebels beat Alabama for the second straight year, something that has never happened in Ole Miss football history. Alabama was ranked No. 2 in the AP poll before this past weekend, making them the highest-ranked team Ole Miss has ever beaten (last year, they were No. 1 in the Coaches poll when Ole Miss defeated them, marking the first time in program history that the Rebels had beaten a top-ranked team from any major poll). Ole Miss was without the best left tackle in college football because the NCAA doesn't like Laremy Tunsil using his football fame to his benefit, Chad Kelly was facing his first SEC opponent on the road, and Alabama's defensive front is a proven and terrifying bunch. But the Rebels won due to heady defensive play early, offensive prowess late, and, in the most un-Ole Miss fashion, a little bit of good fortune.
I was nervous enough to shake a little bit right before kickoff. I have no doubt many of you were the same way. This team though? They weren't nervous. They've got swagger and resolve unlike any Ole Miss team I've ever seen. They are the new normal, and we all need to catch up to them.
These types of things aren't supposed to happen in our favor.
Ole Miss quarterbacks aren't supposed to pluck a bad snap out of the air, heave it towards Laquon Treadwell and pair of defensive backs, and have them tip drill the ball into the hands of the fastest Rebel receiver since Mike Wallace. We knew things would get weird with Chad Kelly under center, but this play is transcendent.
"That Didn't Sit Well"
It's really tough to complain about any aspects of a win against Alabama in Tuscaloosa, but I think we all have some concerns about the defensive depth and conditioning. The Landsharks did a great job of forcing turnovers and keeping Alabama from scoring for the first three quarters of the game. It was during the final fifteen minutes of the quarter where they were clearly running out of steam. Because of turnovers, Ole Miss scoring quickly, and Alabama's plodding style of play, the Tide ran over 100 plays on Saturday night. That really put the defense in a tough spot late in the game, and it showed with Alabama scoring 20 of it's 37 points in the game's final frame.
Against lesser competition, I would expect the coaches to slow the offense down and give the defense plenty of rest. I would also expect to see a lot of the backups in action this Saturday against Vanderbilt. The first team D will need more than a week to recover from Saturday's win.
"Going Back for Seconds"
Robert Nkemdiche is terrifying
Big Bob had a huge game on Saturday doing exactly what we've expected him to do since 2013's National Signing Day. He was very disruptive, commanding double teams to free up other defenders to pursue the play. He also made several excellent plays of his own, forcing his way into the backfield to hurry the Tide quarterbacks or drop opposing halfbacks for a loss. It's been said numerous times before, but it's worth repeating just how astoundingly athletic he is. Watching him burst through the line to get his mitts on a fleeing halfback is football pornography.
We've made a lot of the Ole Miss receiver situation this year, calling them perhaps the best group of wideouts in the country due to their size, hands, speed, and experience. It's tough to give them that title outright after just three weeks, but after Saturday's win they are easily in the conversation. Laquon Treadwell, Quincy Adaboyejo, Cody Core, and Damore'ea Stringfellow were all invaluable to the Rebel effort on offense, combining for 297 of Ole Miss' 341 total receiving yards. Spencer Hall called that group a group of "speedy trees" who were capable of "outpacing Alabama's secondary," which is as apt a description as any of us could come up with. Ole Miss has two of the best secondaries in the country remaining on its schedule in LSU and Florida, but if these receivers can match up well against them then the Rebs will be a tough out for both the Tigers and Gators.
Kendarius Webster is a very good cornerback
The Landsharks hardly missed Tee Shepard this week, who sat out the first half of the game due to a targeting call in the second half of the Rebels' win over Fresno State. Cornerback Kendarius Webster showed why he, to the surprise of many, is listed in the depth chart as a co-starter with Shepard. He's a heady ball player and a fearless, tenacious tackler. He had two big pass breakups (one of which he should have easily intercepted), three assisted tackles, and three solo tackles. Like Mike Hilton at rover or Senquez Golson before him, Webster seems to be in on almost every defensive play. With his play, it wouldn't be surprising to see Tee Shepard - who was penciled in as a starter before a foot injury after last year's fall camp - move into a situational role or come in as a nickelback, because Webster's too damn good to not have on the field.
Take it away, Miley: