There are times in people’s lives when they will say to themselves, ‘I will never forget this moment.’ For the 61,826 fans that packed Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on a beautiful, cool, fall afternoon, No. 11 Ole Miss’ thrilling 23-17 victory over No. 1 Alabama was a moment that won’t soon be forgotten.
On one of the biggest weekends in Ole Miss football history, the Rebels’ impressive defense stood tall once again, and the offense rallied and took advantage of opportune turnovers to top the Crimson Tide. It was the first win over a top-ranked team in program history, and it was the Rebels’ first win over Alabama (4-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) since 2003.
“I’m just so proud of our young men,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said. “You can’t lose a game in 30 or 45 minutes. You have to play for 60 minutes and that is something we’ve preached since we’ve been here. … At the end of the day, you get in this job to mentor young men, first. I preach that to our staff. I have the best staff of men that you want your kids around. These are great life lessons. Sometimes you’re on the other side of it and it stings and hurts. We’ve had our share of those. We have tremendous respect for Coach (Nick) Saban and Alabama. It’s a huge win for our program and our fans. It’s been a tremendous day.”
A weekend that began with Ole Miss’ (5-0, 2-0 SEC) first appearance on ESPN’s popular pregame show “College GameDay,” was closed out in style by outscoring Alabama 20-3 in the second half to move to 5-0 for the first time since 1962, and send thousands of the Rebel faithful onto the Hollingsworth Field in euphoria.
The Ole Miss defense’s first string allowed its first touchdown of the season Saturday, but not much else, despite facing an opponent that entered the game averaging 42.0 points. The Rebels held Alabama to 3.8 yards a carry, which is nearly two yards fewer than its season average. The opportune Landshark Defense also created two turnovers, one of which the Rebels ultimately won the game on, and the other effectively ended the game as senior Senquez Golson picked off Alabama quarterback Blake Sims with 37 seconds left in the game.
Ole Miss senior quarterback Bo Wallace went 18-31 for 251 yards, three touchdowns and no turnovers. The oft-critiqued senior from Pulaski, Tennessee, showed his moxie late in the game, completing each of his final three pass attempts for 57 yards and two touchdowns.
“Sometimes these kids take way more criticism than they deserve,” Freeze said. “I don’t know that they get the equal treatment on the other side of it. … In the second half, he made some big-time plays. He just played so solid. On that last touchdown, that ball was right where it needed to be for us. Who knows what the next week holds, but tonight, Bo led his team to defeat the No. 1 team in the country. He deserves credit for being a big part of that.”
Trailing 14-3 at the half, Ole Miss faced an uphill battle, as Alabama was 77-4 under Saban when leading at halftime.
After holding the Crimson Tide scoreless on their opening drive of the second half, the Rebels put together a four-play 66-yard scoring drive, highlighted by a 50-yard pass from Wallace to sophomore tight end Evan Engram, and a 14-yard touchdown pass from Wallace to sophomore wide receiver Laquon Treadwell to cut the Rebels’ deficit to four at 14-10. The two sophomores finished with 126 combined yards receiving, with Engram logging a team-high 71 yards on three catches.
After a 44-yard Alabama field goal with 3:54 remaining in the third quarter, Ole Miss tied the game with 5:29 remaining in the fourth quarter when Wallace found senior wide receiver Vince Sanders down the middle for a 34-yard score.
On the ensuing kickoff, Ole Miss junior Channing Ward stripped the ball from Alabama’s Christion Jones, and sophomore Kailo Moore recovered the ball at the Alabama 31-yard line to put the Rebels in position to make history.
Ole Miss took advantage of the turnover with a five-play scoring drive capped off by a 10-yard pass from Wallace to junior running back Jaylen Walton to give the Rebels the lead.
Leading by six points but facing an Alabama offense that was driving, the Ole Miss defense rose to the occasion once more as Golson picked off Sims in the back of the end zone to seal the victory.
“I tried to run him off when I first got here,” said Freeze of Golson. “I didn’t think he would ever make it in this program. He was not bought-in. He didn’t understand how to work and he didn’t want to be great. Now, you have a guy who stands on the podium in the locker room and says, ‘Hey guys, it’s a great win. Protect this team.’ He’s not only saying it, but he’s doing it.”
Those are memories that will last a lifetime.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports Information
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