This past weekend, Ole Miss did what few teams have done: The Rebels beat the Tide in Tuscaloosa – and put up 43 points in the process.
Ole Miss led 30-10 in the third quarter and 43-24 in the fourth before ultimately winning 43-37.
“It was a wild one,” The Oxford Eagle Ole Miss writer Davis Potter said on CBS Sports Radio’s Ferrall on the Bench. “I think for Ole Miss, this is just kind of validation for them as a legit contender not only for the SEC title, but for the national title too. This is a team that brought back more than half their starters on defense – off the defense that led the nation in scoring defense last year. The questions were what’s Chad Kelly going to be at quarterback and what’s their offensive line going to do? And they go into Alabama with a first-year quarterback and without arguably the best offensive tackle in the nation, Laremy Tunsil, and they really controlled that game for about three quarters. Then Alabama starts coming back and cuts it to a score there. At that point, you think, ‘Hey, maybe this is the moment Alabama kind of takes control of this game and maybe finishes off the comeback.’ But Ole Miss made the plays that they do to get a win that they rarely get.”
Saturday marked just the second time the Rebels have ever won in Tuscaloosa – and the first time since 1988.
“I think that cements their status as a legit threat to win the SEC this year,” Potter said.
Indeed, the Rebels went form No. 15 in the rankings to No. 3. They are now considered a favorite to reach the College Football Playoff.
Isn’t that crazy? Last Friday, the Rebels were a solid team. By late Saturday night, they were virtual locks to go undefeated.
“Well, I don’t know if they’re going undefeated, but isn’t that kind of the way it works with Alabama?” Potter asked. “Look, Alabama is the top dog. They’re the gold standard, as Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze likes to call it. It’s almost like we don’t want to buy into you until you can go beat Alabama. If you beat Alabama, then all bets are off. If you can beat Alabama, you can beat anybody. I think that’s kind of the perception right now. Obviously they’re a really good team. They got a really good defense. Now they’ve got an explosive offense to go with it. And you go over to Tuscaloosa – they don’t go over to Tuscaloosa and win a whole lot. A lot of teams don’t.”
Alabama hadn’t lost at home since 2012, when a hotshot quarterback named Johnny Manzie led Texas A&M to victory at Bryant-Denny. That win made Manziel a rock star.
Let’s see what it does for the Rebels.
“I think that’s kind of what it is right now,” Potter said. “Hey, I’m kind of sleeping on you and all of a sudden you beat Alabama and that kind of opens everybody’s eyes around the country because of what Alabama’s been under Nick Saban for so long.”
It didn’t hurt that the Rebels had some good fortune along the way. Kelly, who threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns, stunned Alabama with a 66-yard touchdown pass to Quincy Adeboyejo to open the second half.
Why was it stunning? Well, the snap was high, Kelly corralled it, threw the ball up for grabs, and it bounced off seemingly Alabama’s entire secondary before falling into the hands of Adeboyejo, who was already past the last line of defense.
“That’s kind of one of those players where, when it happens, you go, ‘Okay, maybe this is our night. Maybe this is just going to work out for us,’” Potter said. “Ole Miss won by six points and it basically ended up being the difference in the game.”