Alabama vs. Ole Miss score, takeaways: Jalen Milroe proves best option as No. 13 Tide cruise by No. 15 Rebels
Alabama has now won eight straight over Ole Miss as Lane Kiffin continues to be toppled by his former mentor
No. 13 Alabama might not be perfect, and it may not be the dominant Crimson Tide juggernaut we've come to know these last 15 years, but it's 3-1 on the season all the same after defeating Ole Miss 24-10 on Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
If not for an inability to finish drives, the Tide would've blown the doors off the Rebels. Alabama found itself inside Ole Miss territory on six different possessions, but it wasn't until the third quarter that the offense cracked the code. First, quarterback Jalen Milroe hit receiver Jalen Hale for a 43-yard touchdown. On the next possession, the Tide leaned on Jase McClellan and the run game. McClellan's 8-yard touchdown run gave Alabama its first touchdown in five red-zone possessions on the day.
It wasn't pretty, but it was more than enough as the Alabama defense kept the Rebels offense under wraps for the entire afternoon. Ole Miss managed a touchdown on a well-executed seven-play, 75-yard drive during the first quarter, but it was a wrap after that. The Rebels finished the first quarter with 117 yards and seven points, but managed only 184 yards and three points from that point. Alabama finished the day with five sacks, 10 tackles for loss, an interception, two forced fumbles and a blocked punt.
Milroe finished the game with 225 yards passing and a touchdown, while McClellan rushed for 105 yards and a score.
1. Jalen Milroe is the best QB option for Alabama
Where he truly struggles with accuracy is on the stuff in between, the intermediate routes and between the numbers in the middle of the field. That's a problem because it allows defenses to not worry about defending parts of the field (which leads to another big problem I'll get to momentarily).
Compared to the other options, however, Alabama needs to overlook the negatives for the positives. This is not a team with a good offensive line. That's been the case for the last few years, and run-game struggles have been a result. However, Milroe's presence and the threat of his legs make things easier on that line and open lanes for guys like McClellan and Roydell Williams. The Tide averaged only 3.9 yards per carry today (if you remove sack yardage), but that's because this Ole Miss defense is strong against the run. Things would've been much worse had it been Ty Buchner or Ty Simpson.
2. Alabama needs to improve in the red zone
It makes life easier for a defense when you don't have to worry about defending the entire field. When you're in the red zone, where there's far less ground to cover vertically, even more so. We saw the results today.
Alabama had five red zone possessions and scored only one touchdown. It settled for three field goals, and Milroe was intercepted once. If two of those field goals become touchdowns, and that Milroe turnover is a field goal, we're talking about a 35-10 Alabama win. Sounds more convincing, doesn't it?
The problem Alabama faces in the red zone is that defenses can spy Milroe and drop others into coverage in passing situations. In run situations, they can simply load up the box on an Alabama offensive line that doesn't get nearly as much push as you'd expect from an Alabama offensive line.
There are many things Tommy Rees has to figure out with this Alabama offense, but none are more important than finding a way to finish drives.
3. Alabama can be carried by its defense
There's so much focus on Alabama's QB problems that nobody bothers to point out that the SEC isn't exactly loaded at the position. LSU's Jayden Daniels is probably the best remaining quarterback on the schedule, and while he's a good player, his strengths don't line up well with the best way to beat this Bama defense.
Quinn Ewers hit bombs against the Tide. That's always been the way to beat Alabama because Saban's entire defensive philosophy at its core boils down to there not being a lot of quarterbacks in this sport who can beat you deep consistently.
The lack of great quarterbacks in the SEC, combined with a disruptive front seven, means that Alabama won't have to score a lot of points to keep winning games. However, if the goal is still to win a national title, this defense alone can't do it.
4. Ole Miss blew multiple chances
Maybe Lane Kiffin should spend less time figuring out ways to troll his former boss and more time figuring out ways to beat him. Ole Miss had plenty of chances. Alabama's inability to finish drives kept the Rebels in the game, but after making some adjustments at halftime, it was all Tide in the second half.
Ole Miss punted on its first possession and then put together a beautiful 75-yard touchdown drive. Then, with Alabama struggling, the Rebels went three-and-out on three straight possessions. Finally, after picking up some first downs late in the first half, the Rebels missed a 34-yard field goal attempt. Those were four chances to go up two scores, and the Rebels couldn't capitalize on any of them.
Maybe theyafter all.
That'll do it
Ole Miss turns it over on downs inside the red zone. Just an odd possession from the start. Ole Miss is down 14, but treated the entire possession as if it was the first quarter of a tie game. There was no urgency. I don't know what was going on. The spread closed at 7 points. Maybe Lane was playing for the push? I've no idea.
Alabama just punted for the first time today
Ole Miss isn't out of this game yet, but it needs a quick touchdown here to give itself a shot.
Ole Miss got called for two separate holds on third down
And still couldn't keep Alabama from getting a sack. The Rebels had plenty of chances to win this game, never took advantage of them, and now this is looking like a potential Alabama blowout. The Tide force a three-and-out following the touchdown and get the ball back with a chance to put this one to bed.
Touchdowns are greater than field goals
Alabama wastes no time answering the Rebels. Six plays, 75 yards, and only 3:24 off the clock before Jase McClellan scores from eight yards out. That's right! Alabama got to the red zone and scored a touchdown! Alabama hasn't been running the ball well today (only averaging 4.1 per carry if you remove sacks), but it got things going that drive with McClellan. The Ole Miss defense looks like a unit that's been worn down, and Alabama seems more than happy to take advantage.
Ole Miss stems the bleeding
There were roughly 11 billion penalties on Ole Miss during the drive, but they weren't enough to keep them from getting into field goal range. The Rebels go 54 yards in 11 plays before a 36-yard field goal cuts Alabama's lead to 17-10 late in the third quarter. I'm compelled to point out, though, that Dart was lucky not to be intercepted before the field goal attempt. He's been pretty reckless with the ball all afternoon.
How do you avoid stalling in the red zone?
Throw deep from the 43 for a 43-yard touchdown before you get to the red zone. Milroe hits Jalen Hale for the deep ball score. Milroe was down after the play after taking a big hit on the throw, but popped up after a minute and started celebrating. However, he had to sit out the two-point conversion because of the injury. Ty Simpson comes in, bobbles the snap, and scores anyway. It's 17-7 Tide.
Jaxson Dart with a terrible interception
Not sure what Dart saw that made him think, "I need to throw this ball deep over the middle into double-coverage," but that's exactly what he did. Terrion Arnold picks it off and returns it out to the Alabama 41. Why Dart felt the need to take that chance on 2nd down at midfield, I don't know. I'm sure Lane Kiffin is asking him a similar question, but perhaps with angrier language.
Another Alabama drive stalls in the red zone
The Tide start the second half well as Jalen Milroe hits Jermaine Burton for a huge gain, but once again the Tide get within distance of the end zone and lose all ability to move the ball. Will Reichard's 28-yard FG gives Alabama the 9-7 lead, but you have to finish drives at some point.
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