No matter how dominate the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide have been against the Ole Miss Rebels the past two years, head coach Nick Saban was still highly cautious. Coach Saban’s suspicions turned out to be right as the Tide struggled in the first quarter. Alabama encountered problems on the defensive side of the ball and special teams. After the first quarter, the game turned into an absolute showcase for Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Devonta Smith. Afterward, the Rebels were able to find two additional touchdown drives in garbage time. The Alabama Offense and Tua Tagovailoa cruised to victory in the end, 59-31.
Tagovailoa and Smith Have Career Days
The Alabama offense and Tagovailoa had to pick up the Tide defense to cruise to a dominant win against Ole Miss. Tagovailoa and Smith have already proven themselves as leaders of the Alabama football program. This dates back to the game-winning play in the National Championship against Georgia in 2018. Both players had a huge day as they shattered multiple records against Ole Miss. Tagovailoa threw for 418 yards, six touchdowns, no interceptions on 26 completions (out of 36 attempts) against Ole Miss. In addition, he averaged 11.6 yards per completion. Further, he accounted for a QBR of 94.5 and rushed for a touchdown.
On Saturday, Tagovailoa passed former Tide quarterback Andrew Zow, the team’s fourth all-time leader in career passing yards (6,320). He is also tied for first all-time with former quarterback A.J. McCarron for career passing touchdowns (77). Finally, he became the Tide’s all-time leader in single-game total touchdowns (seven), single-game passing touchdowns (six), and career total touchdowns (86).
Did Smith Separate Himself?
Even though Smith had a great day, it is hard to determine who is the number one receiver for the Crimson Tide this season. Occasionally, a situational game of rock-paper-scissors will decide certain plays and roles for the receivers. Last Saturday, Smith was the most available due to the tight coverage of Jerry Jeudy and the small injury to Henry Ruggs III. Smith was electrifying in the short and long passing game for the Crimson Tide. He caught 11 passes for 274 yards and five touchdowns. Further, he averaged 24.9 yards per reception. Smith had a career-high in total receptions against a weak Ole Miss secondary. Smith became the Tide’s all-time single-game leader in receiving yards and touchdowns on Saturday. He might have also put his name into the list of potential first-round selections. This is if he left early for the 2020 NFL Draft.
Defense and Special Teams Allow a Deficit
The Alabama offense and Tagovailoa carried the defense and special teams through the first half. After the defense got their first stop, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle muffed a punt return that allowed the Rebels to get the ball back in Alabama territory. This allowed Ole Miss to capitalize with a touchdown. On the next drive for Ole Miss, dual-threat quarterback John Rhys Plumlee made the Alabama defense second guess on reads. For the first time this season, the first quarter ended with a 10-7 Ole Miss lead. Plumlee is the first dual-threat quarterback the Tide played against this season. The defense was expecting first-string quarterback Matt Corral. Although not ideal, the defense learned to play under adversity, which is something the Tide needed to respond to. Alabama will need to be sharper against more experienced, athletic quarterbacks.
Secondary and Linebackers Shut Down Ole Miss
The pass rush for the Crimson Tide seemed lacking but that was expected when facing a dual-threat quarterback like Plumlee. Alabama’s defense only accounted for one sack, but they did account for six quarterback hurries. Outside linebacker Terrell Lewis had the only sack for Alabama. In addition, Lewis had a tackle for loss. The other outside linebacker in Anfernee Jennings accounted for nine total tackles and a tackle for loss. Jennings was the defender largely responsible for making sure Plumlee didn’t get the extra yardage on a designed run. Safety Xavier McKinney once again led the team in tackles with 13 total tackles, 10 being solo tackles. McKinney was quick on reads and getting to the quarterback. Finally, freshman middle linebacker Christian Harris was efficient in stopping both Plumlee and running back Scottie Phillips.
The Alabama secondary was alert and not confused by the RPO play by Plumlee. The defense held Plumlee to only 10 completions (out of 26 pass attempts) for 141 yards. He did toss two touchdowns and threw one interception. Cornerback Jared Mayden was the lone coverage player to account for a turnover. Second-string linebacker Ale Kaho accounted for a touchdown on a blocked Ole Miss punt. Overall, the Tide’s defense allowed 476 total yards of offense for Ole Miss. This is the most yards the Crimson Tide’s defense has allowed all season.