It’s Monday morning, and the strangest thing is happening: I’m watching the highlights from the Ole Miss/Alabama game Saturday, and Ole Miss is still winning it.
I’m sorry for any gaps in the recap, or maybe the speed it took to get it out. The issue is: there isn’t much precedence – as an Ole Miss fan – to write it. It’s been since Eli that the Rebels beat the Tide, and even then, it didn’t feel like this one. Similar to the feeling I had leaving Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in 2008, statistics and numbers are the second thing to come to mind after emotions.
Saturday turned the tide – pun intended – on the #WAOM jab. For those who don’t know, which I assume is few, that would stand for We Are Ole Miss. Over the last few years (extending beyond football), the fan base has joked (sadly) about having these WAOM moments. It’s the moment when things could go either way, but the bullet always tends to end up in a Rebel foot. Not this team. Not this year. Not anymore.
It was an interesting feeling leaving the stadium. Not only did we win, but it was clear that the better team won. The final score was 23-17, and I heard an Alabama fan say leaving the stadium: “If we only had one more quarter.” As Lee Corso would say, “Not so fast my friend.” Ole Miss outscored Alabama 20-3 in the second half. On top of that, the two touchdowns Alabama did score in the first half came on a fourth and 1 bootleg, and a fumble recovery with one minute left in the 2nd quarter – after when appeared to be a pretty apparent face-mask.
Blake Sims didn’t play badly. He was 19-31 for over 225 yards, T.J. Yeldon ran for over 100 on the ground to complement. Amari Cooper made an impact, getting nine receptions for 90 yards. The defense was solid; 23 points could be enough to win you a ball game. Bottom line unfortunately, they just weren’t the better team Saturday.
Since we are getting into numbers: for as much criticism as Bo Wallace has received, he was a star – and he became one by not forcing himself into the spotlight. Similar to Sims, he was also 19-31, with 251 yards. I’m sure any Ole Miss fan would tell you Wallace played his best game of the season, despite being three yards away from his lowest passing yard total of the year (248 against Memphis last week). Wallace was also 7-12 on passes of 10 yards or longer down the field.
When plays weren’t there Saturday, he tucked it and ran, threw the ball out of bounds, or worked his way back to the line; the plays weren’t forced. Though he only picked up 32 yards rushing, he made an impact on the ground, avoiding the rush, being a threat in the read option, and moving the sticks a few times. A 3-0 TD/INT ratio will keep Ole Miss in the hunt to win the West. As good as the defense has played, if Wallace doesn’t lose the game, the defense can win it. That’s not a knock on Bo more than at is a compliment to Tony Conners, the Nkemdiche brothers, Isaac Gross, C.J. Johnson, D.T. Senquez…… you guys see where this is going.
How fitting that Senquez Golson, who got dropped a few years ago by Trent Richardson (I’ll spare you all the link), got the game winning interception.
Alabama actually out gained the Rebels, possessed the ball seven minutes longer, more than doubled up the Rebels in the ground game, and converted the same amount of third downs. The difference came in the small things, the mistakes. Eight penalties for 58 yards hurts. Two turnovers hurt. Missing two field goals, allowing over 100 yards in kick return, not finishing; it all adds up, and it all hurts.
The sense before kickoff was that this was the biggest game Ole Miss has taken part in since the 60’s. The win over Alabama puts Ole Miss in control of their own destiny, albeit early in the season, in the SEC West. But it doesn’t get any easier next week.
In a game that now becomes just as, if not more, important than the Alabama bout, the Rebels will travel to College Station to take on the No. 14 ranked Aggies of Texas A&M. As for Alabama, they will travel to Arkansas to take on the improved Hogs, far from a cake walk.
Yes, the Alabama game was something I will never forget, and it was a huge win. That said, put the goalposts back in the ground, and buckle up, because there is still a long season ahead. A friend turned to me after the game was over Saturday and said, “Well, I wasn’t prepared for this. What do we do now, celebrate?”
Yes. But not for long.
Hugh Freeze said before the season he thought this team was “ahead of schedule.” I think it’s safe to say he hit that nail on the head.
Oh, and Katy Perry is diving off bars in in the square. That was neat.
*Section Photo credit to Spruce Derden, USA Today Sports; Featured Photo (above) credit to Christopher Hanewinckel, USA Today Sports