Play calling: F
This needs little explanation. Down six with 2:23 on the clock, Ole Miss got the ball back with plenty of time to mount a game-winning drive to keep their SEC title hopes alive. After a quick pass that picked up nine yards, running back Quinshon Judkins took the reins. He gained 52 yards on three touches and set the Rebels up with a first-and-10 from Alabama’s 14-yard line.
Ole Miss would then call four-straight pass plays, which lost a total of six yards and gave Alabama the ball back. Rebel fans have the right to be furious. With a golden opportunity to beat Alabama for the first time in seven games, the coaching staff folded. Staring down one of the best playmakers in college football, they opted to throw the ball FOUR TIMES IN A ROW behind an offensive line that had struggled all game. With three timeouts, there should have been no hesitation to run it on second and third down.
Defensively it is the same old narrative that has been beaten to death by reporters since the 2020 season. You simply cannot win big games in the SEC with three defensive lineman. I do not care what personnel you have, I do not care what cute blitz packages you have, I do not care what the excuse is, you cannot do it. Simply put, co-defensive coordinators Chris Partridge and Maurice Crum have to show that they can analyze their weaknesses and adapt. If Ole Miss wants to become an elite team, they need to field a competent defense.
Finally, head coach Lane Kiffin needs to settle for field goals. Yes, the fourth down conversions are fun and they give Ole Miss a brand and identity, but they are far from the right decisions all the time. Especially against Alabama in a must-win game. Taking a field goal on the first possession of the game would have meant that the fourth-and-16 at the end of the game would have been a short field goal to tie. Sometimes it feels like this staff needs to focus on winning instead of playing the character that Ole Miss football has built themselves into.
Open Field Tackling: D
This is a simpler coaching tip that has been an issue all season. Take better angles, wrap up and finish plays. The Rebels have struggled bringing running backs to the ground all season, and Saturday was no different. Part of this goes back to the personnel groupings, but at the end of the day the defense in general has to do a better job of wrapping up and finishing plays.
Quinshon Judkins/Malik Heath: A+
Ole Miss had 403 total yards of offense and 272 of those came from Judkins or Heath. Judkins was his usual self on the ground, making it tough for Alabama defenders to make a tackle and ultimately putting the Rebels in a position to win the game. Heath was terrific through the air, preying on Alabama cornerback Terrion Arnold repeatedly on back-shoulder fades.
Fraser Masin punted four times on the night for a total of 137 yards and averaged just 34.3 yards a punt. After forcing an Ole Miss punt, Alabama started their drive inside the Alabama 40 just once. This is simply poor field position for Ole Miss and allowed Alabama to either score or pin Ole Miss deep.