Y’all, this one hurt a lot. Ole Miss absolutely kicked Alabama’s ass apart in the early goings, outgaining the Tide 308-129 in the first half (if my drunk addition is correct), only to limp into the locker room up 17-14.
Through the second half, Ole Miss got tired, and Alabama got confident, in no small part due to the realization that officiating was tilted heavily… HEAVILY in their favor. The talent and depth advantages Bama possesses on both lines, at linebacker, and at wide receiver came into play as the game wore on, as did the fact that Bryce Young is a Heisman winner, and Jaxson Dart is in his first full year as a starter (not to take anything away from Jaxson Dart, a quarterback with whom I will ride or die 4ever).
Coaching head-scratchers also came into play in the second half. The Ole Miss offense was incredibly well drawn-up for the most part, with the offense throwing out interesting wrinkles, then trying to set up big gainers off of those wrinkles… it’s always a joy to watch Lane Kiffin just toy with defenses. HOWEVER… the same defense that stymied Jahmyr Gibbs and harassed Bryce Young for 1.75 quarters of football, decided for much of the second half to sit back and watch what happens when a Heisman winner has 12 seconds in the pocket. And on the offense’s final two drives – both ending with a turnover on downs – Ole Miss abandoned the running game, leaving the ball largely in Jaxson Dart’s hands in a situation where the offensive line had shown they weren’t up to the task of protecting him. An injury to Zach Evans on a vicious helmet-to-helmet hit left Quinshon Judkins as the only running back that the coaching staff trusted to be on the field; and after Q carried the Rebel offense to the Alabama 14 yard line with a chance to win, he was deemed too tired to finish the job. On third down, Judkins was motioned out wide, leaving an empty backfield for Will Anderson, Byron Young and co. to pin their ears back and easily sack Dart to force a 4th and 16 prayer.
But honestly, it’s tough to write about this game without mentioning the preponderance of evidence that the officiating crew… just wanted Alabama to win. That may be a shitty, childish thing to say; I’ll have to evaluate in the cold light of the morning. But watching well-timed phantom holding calls against Ole Miss, easily a dozen Crimson Tide personal fouls of one variety or another go uncalled, even rankling Tide fetishists Gary Danielson and Brad Nessler… it’s tough to be too critical of the effort by Ole Miss. The Rebs spilled their guts out there on the field, dominated a team with much more talent on paper, and still came up short. Even with all that pain, a 10-2 season is still in sight, and the Rebels’ best days could still be ahead.