The Rebels fell to the Alabama Crimson Tide 30-24 Saturday evening in a game that came down to the last play. The Rebels had the lead for much of the game, but the Tide roared back in the second half to claim the victory.
In his post-game press conference, head coach Lane Kiffin noted that “we came to win games, moral victories aren’t good enough,” which speaks volumes about where the program is headed. On that note, here are some of the key takeaways from the game against the Tide.
A fully healthy Ole Miss team is near unstoppable.
Late in the first half, Ole Miss running back Zach Evans sustained head-to-head contact which resulted in him being out the remainder of the day with a concussion. As has been evident with the Ole Miss rushing attack this year, the ability to switch Evans and true freshman Quinshon Judkins in-and-out with effectiveness has been a huge key to success for the Rebels and without both being healthy, the Rebels’ offense goes down a notch. Not just in this game, but the absence of Evans was felt against LSU, the only other loss for the Rebs this season.
Jaxson Dart’s progress is evident.
Over the course of this season, Dart has made leaps from game-to-game. He made some really nice throws to fellow transfer Malik Heath, who had a career day catching the football. Many of these were back-shoulder throws where Heath got good enough separation and Dart’s pass was on the money each time. Dart did note in the press conference that the last play of the game was a misread by him and he took full responsibility, a very mature response from a first-year starter. Dart, similar to former quarterback Matt Corral, is still young and raw. The arm talent is obviously there, the only thing left is maturity that comes with time.
10-2 in a rebuild is beyond impressive.
While the Rebels expect to go out and beat every team they play, some things have to be taken into account. The Rebels lost one of the best quarterbacks to ever play in an Ole Miss jersey, along with two elite running backs to the NFL. That being said, Kiffin replaced them with Dart, Evans and Judkins, so there is hardly any lack of talent. The Rebels’ sole losses at this point in the season have come at LSU, a tough place to play even if the Tigers are having a down year, and perennial-powerhouse Alabama. But as Kiffin said, he and his team do not revel in the moral victories. Which leads into the fourth and final point…
Lane Kiffin will take this program to heights never seen before.
In times past, Ole Miss and its fans would’ve just been happy to play a team with Alabama’s prestige closely, let alone win. When they did the double over the Tide in 2014 and 2015, fans got a taste of what that feeling is like to beat an elite team at home and away. The loss on Saturday made it seven in a row dropped to the Tide, but if there is a silver lining for fans to have, it is that Ole Miss is so close to being an elite team. Something else Kiffin said in his press conference was particularly expressive and it was in response to a question asking how does Ole Miss take that next step. His response: “Make one more play.” If the Rebels can make that extra play and continue to do so, Kiffin’s tenure in Oxford will be one of particular impressiveness.