For the second straight year, Ole Miss and Alabama delivered an instant classic on the gridiron. For the second straight year, Ole Miss took down Alabama. Behind five turnovers forced by the Landshark defense, the No. 11 Rebels won 43-37, defeating the No. 2 Crimson Tide in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history.
Playing a night game on the road in front of a capacity crowd of 101,821 at Bryant-Denny Stadium, Ole Miss led for the entire game and left Tuscaloosa victorious for the first time since 1988.
Ole Miss scored at least 43 points for the third consecutive game, marking the first time that feat has ever been accomplished in program history. The 43 points was also the most the Rebels have ever scored in a game played in Tuscaloosa.
“Oh, man, what a game,” said head coach Hugh Freeze. “It was definitely a four-quarter battle. We thought we had it put away a couple of times, and they just wouldn’t go away. That’s a credit to their staff and the character of their team and their kids.”
Junior quarterback Chad Kelly was calm, cool and collected as he played away from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the first time in his Rebel career. He finished the evening completing 18-of-33 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns through the air, while also rushing for a score. Kelly and the Ole Miss offense did not turn the ball over once and recorded 24 points off of the five Alabama turnovers.
A.J. Moore was in on two of the turnovers, recovering the fumble on the opening kick and forcing a fumble on another kick return later in the first half. Trae Elston picked off a pass for the third straight game, while teammate C.J. Johnson has made an interception in back-to-back games. Tony Bridges’ interception with 2:36 left in the game was the fifth and final turnover forced by the Landshark defense.
Cody Core caught four passes for a career-high 123 yards, including a 73-yard touchdown reception. Laquon Treadwell hauled in a team-high five passes for 80 yards, his last catch a 24-yarder in the end zone that ended up being the game-winning score.
Alabama recorded 503 yards of total offense led by running back Derrick Henry and quarterback Jake Coker. Henry rushed 23 times for 127 yards and caught five passes for 39 yards. Coming off the bench, Coker threw for 201 yards and rushed for another 58 yards. He completed 21-of-44 passes, tossing three touchdowns and two interceptions.
The Rebels started the game off on the right foot, forcing an Alabama fumble on the opening kickoff. A strip by Carlos Davis and a recovery by A.J. Moore sent the Ole Miss offense out onto the field. However, the Crimson Tide defense limited the Rebels to a 32-yard field goal by Wunderlich, and Ole Miss claimed an early 3-0 advantage. The Rebels held onto that lead after the first 15 minutes of play, becoming the first team to hold Alabama scoreless at home in the opening quarter in 18 games dating back to 2012.
A 20-yard field goal by Alabama tied the game with 11:52 remaining in the second quarter. The Crimson Tide used 13 plays to go 69 yards to set up the score. With UA setting up first and goal at the three-yard line, the Landshark defense held its line. An eight-yard tackle for loss by Robert Nkemdiche was the key play of the stand, keeping the Crimson Tide out of the end zone.
The Landshark defense continued to make its presence known, creating a pair of turnovers that led to two Ole Miss touchdowns. Trae Elston picked off Connor Bateman, and his 28-yard return gave the Rebels great field position at the UA 26-yard line. Kelly and the Ole Miss offense worked the ball down to the goal line, where Jordan Wilkins found pay dirt on fourth-and-goal. On the ensuing kickoff, A.J. Moore forced another Alabama fumble. Three plays later, Kelly showed what he can do with his feet, scrambling and breaking the plane from four yards out to increase the Rebels’ lead to 17-3.
Alabama marched down the field for a touchdown right before the end of the half, but Ole Miss still maintained a 17-10 lead at the break with all 17 points coming off turnovers.
To start the second half, Ole Miss increased the lead back to 14 on a 66-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to Quincy Adeboyejo. Facing third-and-long, a muffed snap caused Kelly to throw the ball up for grabs to avoid the sack. The jump ball ricocheted off of Treadwell’s fingertips and into the hands of Adeboyejo who sprinted to the house untouched, making it a 24-10 game in favor of the Rebels.
After another stop by the Landsharks, Kelly orchestrated another scoring drive. Wunderlich converted his second field goal of the game, a 37 yarder, to give Ole Miss its largest lead of the night. The trend continued again with a defensive stop, the offense marching into Alabama territory and a 45-yard field goal by Wunderlich.
Trailing by 20, the Crimson Tide got its home crowd back into the game with two touchdowns to make it a one possession ballgame, 30-24. However, Ole Miss countered with a 72-yard touchdown from Kelly to Core to double the lead to 12 with 11:45 remaining in the contest.
As Alabama tried to answer, senior linebacker C.J. Johnson intercepted Coker for the Rebels’ fourth forced turnover of the game. Two plays later, Kelly let Treadwell leap for the ball at its highest point, and the receiver came down with the 24-yard catch in the end zone, building the Ole Miss lead to 43-24.
Alabama continued to fight, scoring back-to-back touchdowns after recovering an onside kick. Nonetheless, the Landsharks prevailed by forcing another Alabama interception and a turnover on downs on the final two possessions to secure the six-point victory.
“The crowd was electric. It made for difficulties, but we handled it pretty well, had very few penalties because of that, noted Freeze. “I think there’s a lot of growing up that happened tonight with some kids. The maturity in some showed. Hopefully, we’ll take all the positives from it and be excited about the win, but look at everything that we didn’t do properly and get better for next week.”
The Rebels return to Oxford for their first home SEC game of the season. Ole Miss hosts Vanderbilt in a cross-divisional matchup next Saturday at 6 p.m. CT on ESPNU.
Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports Information