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Alabama decided this game in the first six minutes.

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A string of early mistakes put Ole Miss in a corner that they couldn’t help themselves out of.

Mississippi v Alabama Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

No one actually thought Ole Miss had a real shot in Tuscaloosa Saturday, but there was a reasonable amount of hope that they’d at least put up a fight for some time until Alabama inevitably pulled away.

For this game to be competitive at any point, the Rebels needed to win the field position battle, take advantage of big plays, and have some turnover luck, because they sure weren’t going to move the ball as consistently as the Tide.

To have anything resembling a chance of upsetting Nick Saban, you have to put his team in a state of enough desperation that they deviate from their planned script. A handful of slip-ups in the first quarter prevented that from happening, and it was made clear from the get-go how the night would shake out.

Listing out everything that went wrong for Ole Miss wouldn’t be constructive or even interesting, but the way this team dug its own grave so quickly has to be acknowledged.

Ole Miss gifted Alabama with a shortened field far too often.

The importance of field position to a team’s prospects isn’t made apparent until someone screws up terribly. Part of Bama’s advantage here can be attributed simply to forcing constant three-and-outs from Shea Patterson and the offense, but Matt Luke’s squad didn’t help themselves out on special teams.

Thanks to some questionable kickoff return decisions, the Rebels started on average at their own 15-yard line over the first four drives, and that figure only improved to the 21 when looking at the whole game. That, combined with offensive stagnation, directly led to the Tide enjoying an average starting field position at their own 38. If you stretch that gap of 17 yards across Alabama’s 13 drives, that adds up to 221 hidden yards.

Considering all the other ways that Bama dominated this game, it’s not like the outcome can be blamed solely on field position, but those early screw-ups certainly didn’t help. It’s generally a bad idea to return kicks against this team (unless you know you’re going to score, of course).

The Tide continued their turnover-less streak.

Saban’s crew entered Saturday’s game riding a 30-quarter, 550-play streak of turnover-free football, and Ole Miss obviously failed to break it. Outside of a missed interception opportunity for Myles Hartsfield on Bama’s second drive, the Rebels just didn’t create a ton of chances for takeaways.

Jalen Hurts only needed to throw 19 times against a nonexistent pass rush, and the secondary was rarely in position to make a play on the ball, totaling just three breakups. He had struggled converting on passing downs in the past, but Brian Daboll’s group stayed on schedule enough to minimize that weakness (3-7 for 31 yards on passing downs).

Meanwhile, a maddening pick-six intended for DaMarkus Lodge put the Rebels in a 14-0 hole. Given that Ole Miss needed every fortuitous bounce of the ball they could find, the game was essentially over at this point.

Big plays wouldn’t have been enough to make a difference.

Because of those early mistakes, along with the fact that the defense couldn’t make a stop, there’s nothing the offense could have done to put a dent in an ever-widening deficit.

In a way, Longo’s unit did check off a box by taking advantage of the success they found with 19.2 yards per successful play, but the offense’s severe lack of movement (24% success rate) made that explosiveness far too sporadic. Their brightest spot came on consecutive passes to Lodge and Metcalf that totaled 60 yards, but that drive ended in only a field goal (and their only points).

Considering Bama entered Ole Miss territory on all but two drives, the offense’s ceiling this game would have been to make the final score slightly less embarrassing, and they couldn’t even do that.

Heading into 2017 with no shot at a postseason, some fans found comfort in the potential for fun and excitement in this team, but the only lasting moments have come against opponents outside of the Power Five. With the rest of their conference slate staring at them, they’ll have to show some life soon to keep anyone remotely interested.