TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — On Saturday night, the Ole Miss Rebels marched in to Bryant-Denny Stadium hoping to take down the seemingly unbeatable Alabama Crimson Tide in primetime.
Traveling to Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for the first time since the 2015 Chad Kelly-led upset of the No. 2 Crimson Tide, the Rebels were in familiar territory as the underdog. But with head coach Matt Luke leading the way and quarterback Shea Patterson at the helm, things were noticeably different as the team took to the gridiron in front of more than 100,000.
Alabama won the toss and elected to defer its option to the second half, giving the Rebels the ball.
After both teams traded possession for a moment, the Crimson Tide found itself with great field position to start its second offensive drive.
Finding Calvin Ridley out of the backfield for a first down, the Rebels’ tackling issues continued as quarterback Jalen Hurts barreled his way down to the 6-yard line. With first and goal, Hurts misfired and left his pass in the breadbasket of Rebel defensive back Myles Hartsfield, who dropped the sure-thing interception. Not 30 seconds later, Bo Scarbrough gave the Tide a 7-0 lead on a 6-yard rush.
“They did a really good job of game-planning,” defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said. “In particular, getting the ball to the running back out of the backfield — in a different way. If you look at the stat sheet, they were top five in terms of receptions on that football team.”
Looking to respond, Patterson fired a ball over the middle that was tipped and intercepted by Levi Wallace, who took it to the house for the 14-0 Alabama lead.
Following a Jordan Wilkins 21-yard rush and a 17-yard reception by D.K. Metcalf, the Rebels found themselves inside Alabama territory. A three-and-out would put the Ole Miss possession to rest.
“They bracketed (Brown) a little bit tonight, played some double coverage on him some,” Luke said. “It opened up D.K. and the guys on the outside some. We just didn’t take advantage of it enough.”
Alabama took over inside its own 30-yard line but scored on four plays. A 60-yard pass to Cam Sims highlighted the drive that put it up 21-0.
Returning the kickoff beyond the 20 for the first time in the game, the Rebels seemingly found a little bit of momentum, anchored by Patterson.
With no time in the pocket, the dual-threat gunslinger wiggled away from the Tide massive defensive front and found D.K. Metcalf for a gain of 21 and a first down at the 50-yard line. With pocket collapsing again on the next play, Patterson hucked the ball down the sideline and connected with DaMarkus Lodge, giving the Rebels their first red zone possession. Squandering the opportunity for seven, another three-and-out saw Luke Logan kick the ball through the uprights and put the first points on the board for Ole Miss.
With the Rebels trailing by 25, the first quarter came to a close.
Continuing to roll, the Tide converted a fourth-and-one en route to its fourth touchdown of the game, Hurts’ second in the air.
“One of the guys asked me prior to the game, ‘How do you defend (Hurts)?” McGriff said. “He’s one of those guys who is a tremendous athlete, and you just hope he has a bad night. He came out and put the team on the shoulders. He ran the offense to perfection.”
Following the kickoff, back-to-back Alabama penalties gave Ole Miss hope inside opposing territory. The hope quickly disappeared as Patterson was crushed for a loss on third down.
“They ran a few stealths and some things that they did not in the first three games,” offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. “They schemed it a little bit. They kind of squeezed the box on us a little bit. That created some problems.”
Taking over on the Rebels’ half, the Crimson Tide drove in to scoring position with ease once more. Andy Pappanastos missed a 40-yard field goal to give the Rebels a glimmer of hope.
However, that glimmer was quickly tarnished, as Ole Miss went three-and-out for the eighth time in the game.
“We were very inefficient on third down,” Longo said. “We can’t sustain drives, we can’t hold on to the ball if we don’t get better on third down. … We weren’t very good in a lot of areas tonight, but third down was probably the worst.”
Two designed quarterback runs later, and Alabama took a 35-3 lead it would carry in to the half.
Hoping to come out with new life after the break, the Rebels did not.
On the first play of the second half, Damien Harris ran for 46 yards off the left tackle and put the Tide in a position to score again. The Rebel defense, with the help from a false start penalty, did force a field goal but went down 38-3.
Skipping no beat, the second-string Alabama offensive unit scored three more touchdowns and took a 59-3 lead that carried in to the fourth quarter.
Capping off a dominant performance by the top-ranked Crimson Tide, tight end Ronnie Clark found the end zone with eight minutes remaining. The touchdown sealed the 66-3 victory in favor of the home team.
“They’re a good football team,” McGriff said. “They deserve all the credit. They came out and played well and they executed. You have to take your hat off to them.”
Hoping to rebound from this weekend’s loss, the Rebels will return to Oxford and prepare for another top-15 program from Alabama, the Auburn Tigers. Saturday’s road game will kickoff at 11 a.m.
“The most important thing for us is to go watch this tape, flush it and move on to the next one,” Luke said. “We still have eight chances to go win football games. … On defense, we have to get off the field on third down, and on offense, we have to sustain drives and score points.”