OXFORD, Miss. – The University of Alabama’s top-ranked football team erased a 21-point second-quarter deficit, tying the largest deficit overcome in the program’s history by scoring three non-offensive touchdowns, to defeat the 19th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels (1-2 overall; 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference), 48-43. The win came before a stadium-record crowd of 66,176 (capacity: 64,038) Saturday afternoon at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on the campus of the University of Mississippi.
The largest crowd ever to attend a college football game in the state of Mississippi witnessed a wild one as the Crimson Tide (3-0 overall; 1-0 in the SEC) snapped a two-game losing streak to the Rebels, outscoring Ole Miss by a 45-13 margin after trailing, 24-3, with less than three minutes remaining in the second period. That comeback tied the Alabama football record for the largest deficit overcome in a game. The original record came in another 21-point lead the Rebels had over the Tide in a memorable 62-27 Alabama win in 1989. The Tide used a punt return touchdown by Eddie Jackson, a fumble return touchdown by Da’Ron Payne and an interception return by Jonathan Allen to punctuate the victory.
Along the way, Alabama freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts became the first Tide signal caller to rush for more than 100 yards since Tyler Watts in 2001 (110 vs. Ole Miss on October 13, 2001). Hurts accounted for 146 yards on the ground and threw for 158 more to accumulate 304 yards of total offense on the day.
Tide wide receiver Calvin Ridley’s 81 yards on eight catches led Tide receivers, while receiver Gehrig Dieter had two catches for 47 yards. Running back Damien Harris rushed for a career-best 144 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries to lead the Tide running backs on the ground. Harris and Hurts gave Alabama two 100-yard rushers in the same game for the 18th time in Crimson Tide history. It was the first time a quarterback has figured into that achievement since Jeff Rutledge and running back Johnny Davis did so against Auburn in 1977.
Overall, the Tide gained 492 yards (334 passing and 158 rushing), picked up 22 first downs, and averaged 6.2 yards per play. Ole Miss totaled 239 yards (216 passing and 23 rushing), along with converting 12 first downs and averaging 4.0 yards per play. Ole Miss outgained Alabama 572 to 492, in total offense. The Rebels’ Chad Kelly passed for a career-high 421 yards and three touchdowns. The Rebels rushed for 106 yards and one touchdown on 32 attempts, an average of 3.3 yards per rush.
Linebacker Reuben Foster recorded a team-best 12 total tackles, including four solos. As a unit, the Tide defense had two quarterback sacks, four tackles for loss, intercepted one pass, broke up six passes, forced one fumble and was credited with two quarterback hurries.
Tide punter JK Scott averaged 38.8 yards on five punts, placing two inside the Ole Miss 20 with two traveling more than 50 yards with a long of 63. Placekicker Adam Griffith connected on two of three field goal attempts, connecting from 32 and 30 yards, missing from 47.
Alabama kicked off to begin the game and Ole Miss started at its 25 after a touchback. The Rebels drove 75 yards in seven plays to a touchdown in just 1:53 of game time. Running back Akeem Judd’s 23-yard touchdown run capped the drive that was keyed by a 25-yard pass from Kelly to tight end Evan Engram to the Tide 38 on a third-and-eight play. Kelly completed three of four pass attempts for 47 yards on the march. Gary Wunderlich’s conversion kick was good, giving the Rebels a 7-0 lead with 13:07 left in the first quarter.
The Tide answered on the ensuing possession, marching 61 yards in 17 plays on a possession in which they converted three third-and-short situations into first downs on a methodical drive. The key play was a third-and-four play from the Ole Miss 14 on which a pass by Hurts to a wide-open tight end Hale Hentges was slightly overthrown in the end zone. That near miss forced a 32-yard field goal attempt by Adam Griffith who converted it to narrow the deficit to 7-3 with 5:54 left in the opening period. That drive, Alabama’s most sustained of the season to that point, consumed 7:13 of game clock. The 17-play drive marked the most plays on a single drive by an Alabama offense since a 17-play, 70-yard march that resulted in a missed field goal at LSU on November 8, 2014. Hurts completed his first six pass attempts on the drive prior to the incompletion on his seventh attempt.
After the Tide defense forced an Ole Miss punt, the Alabama offense took over at the Tide 38. A 17-yard pass from Hurts to Dieter earned a first down at the Ole Miss 40. Two plays later, from the Ole Miss 45, Hurts scrambled for 15 yards on second-and-17 to the Ole Miss 28 but fumbled at the end of the play. Ole Miss recovered and returned it to the Tide 20, but replay reversed the decision and Alabama kept the ball for a third-and-five at the Ole Miss 35. Hurts converted the first down with a six-yard pass to Ridley to the Ole Miss 29. On third-and-10 from there, Hurts’ pass for Ridley was incomplete at the Rebel 16 setting up a 47-yard field goal attempt by Griffith, whose kick was wide left with 1:26 remaining in the first quarter.
The second quarter began with Ole Miss facing a fourth-and-one play at its own 33. The Rebels lined up as if to run an offensive play but Kelly moved back and quick-kicked from the shotgun formation. His 45-yard kick rolled dead at the Tide 13. Alabama failed to gain on three plays and Scott punted from his own end zone. Scott boomed a 63-yard punt to reverse the field position as Ole Miss return man Carlos Davis returned the punt three yards to the Ole Miss 26. The possession yielded nothing, and Wunderlich punted 68 yards to the Tide end zone for a touchback to set up the Tide at its 20 with 12:31 left in the half.
From the Tide 20, two runs by freshman running back Josh Jacobs gained 31 yards as he gained six yards on the first play of the drive and then burst loose for 25 yards to the Ole Miss 49 on the second play of the march. A false-start penalty stifled the march and the Tide punted three plays later from the Alabama 48. Scott shanked the punt, which traveled only eight yards while fluttering out of bounds at the Ole miss 44 with 9:20 left in the half. On the next play, Kelly threw deep off play-action down the middle of the field for a 44-yard gain to wide receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow who caught the pass despite tight coverage by Tide cornerback Marlon Humphrey, who brought him down at the Tide 12. The drive stalled at the Tide 5 and Wunderlich entered to kick a 23-yard field goal, which was good, to give the Rebels a 10-3 lead with 7:43 left in the half.
Alabama began at its 20 following Trevon Diggs’ return of the kickoff. On a third-and-10 play, Hurts found Dieter open along the right sideline for a 30-yard gain to the 50. On first down, Hurts lost control of the ball while winding up to pass and fell on the fumble for an eight-yard loss. Needing 18 yards on a third down, Hurts kept the ball for 13 yards to the Ole Miss 45 and Scott entered to punt. Scott’s punt went 45 yards to a touchback and Ole Miss took possession at its 20 with 5:32 remaining before halftime.
After a two-yard run by running back Eugene Brazley on first down, a 15-yard personal foul penalty for roughing the passer on second down moved the Rebels to the Ole Miss 37. On the next play, Kelly faked a pitchout and found a wide open Engram behind the Tide defense for a 63-yard touchdown pass. Engram had broken free of coverage and hauled in the pass at the Tide 30 and was unimpeded to the end zone. Wunderlich’s kick was good, to give the Rebels a 17-3 lead with 4:40 left in the half.
Diggs returned the ensuing kickoff 41 yards to the Tide 42. A pass to Harris lost seven on first down. On second-and-17 from the 35, a deep pass for receiver Cam Sims was incomplete but pass interference was called on Ole Miss. That 15-yard penalty gave the Tide a first down at the 50. A pass to Harris gained eight on first down. A false start penalty, Alabama’s third of the half, moved it back five yards to set up second-and-seven at the Ole Miss 47. On the next play, Hurts was sacked for a four-yard loss at the Tide 44 by Ole Miss defensive end Marquis Haynes who was unblocked. Hurts fumbled on the hit and the loose ball was picked up by Rebels defensive end John Youngblood and returned it 44 yards for a touchdown. Wunderlich’s kick gave the Rebels a 24-3 lead with 2:47 left in the half. The 24 points marked the most given up in a first half by Alabama during the Nick Saban Era (since 2007 – 21 by Utah in the 2009 Sugar Bowl and by South Carolina in 2010) and tied the largest deficit at any point in a game for the Tide over that span (0-21 vs. Utah in the 2009 Sugar Bowl).
Alabama awakened to score two touchdowns in a 65-second span to tighten the halftime score.
An unnecessary roughness penalty on Ole Miss after the touchdown play, combined with the kickoff going out of bounds, gave the Tide the ball at the 50. Hurts passed to Ridley for 22 yards on the first play to the Ole Miss 28, then kept for 22 yards to the Rebels 6. After an Ole Miss time out, Ridley took a direct snap off motion and ran untouched for six yards and a touchdown. Griffith’s point-after kick was good, narrowing the deficit to 24-10 with 2:10 remaining in the second quarter.
Alabama forced a punt by Ole Miss. Punter Will Gleeson nailed a 53-yard punt that Eddie Jackson took at the Tide 15 and returned 85 yards for a touchdown. Griffith’s kick was good, narrowing the deficit to 24-17 with 1:05 left in the half. Ole Miss ran out the remainder of time in the half with three rushes and an incomplete pass as the Rebels took a 24-17 lead into the locker room.
The Tide received the opening kickoff of the second half. The kickoff sailed through the end zone for a touchback. Alabama started from its 25. Two incompletions set up third-and-10. Hurts faded to pass, but tucked the ball and ran for 11 yards to a first down at the Tide 36, but the Tide stalled at its 44 and Scott punted 50 yards to the Ole Miss six-yard line where a fair catch set up the Rebels offense. After a rush for three yards by Judd reached the Ole Miss nine, Kelly was sacked Tide linebacker Ryan Anderson as he tried to pass at the Ole Miss one for an eight-yard loss. Kelly fumbled on the play and Tide nose guard Da’ Ron Payne scooped up the fumble and dove into the end zone for a one-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Griffith’s point-after kick was good, tying the game at 24-24. Over a 5:23 span since trailing, 24-3, with 2:10 left in the second quarter, Alabama had scored three touchdowns in all three facets – offense, defense and special teams.
Ole Miss started at its 25 after the kickoff. On the first play, Kelly was sacked for a loss of eight yards by linebacker Shaun Dion Hamilton at the Ole Miss 17. A pass to Judd failed to gain, then Kelly passed out of bounds under pressure by Tide defensive end Jonathan Allen, forcing a punt from the Ole Miss 17. The punt was fair caught by Jackson at the Tide 37 with 10:27 left in the third quarter.
On first down, Hurts passed to tight end O.J. Howard for 18 yards and a first down at the Ole Miss 45. A handoff to Harris over right guard gained nine to the Rebels 36. Harris gained two at right guard for a first down at the Ole Miss 34. Two plays later, on third-and-10 from the 34, Hurts rolled right and cut up field for 13 yards and a first down at the Ole Miss 21. Scarborough took a handoff on first down for five yards to the Rebels 16. Scarborough ran around right end for 15 yards to the Ole Miss one, but the run was negated by a holding penalty that pushed back Alabama to the Rebel 25 for a second-and-15 play. Hurts kept around the right side behind a convoy of blockers for an 11-yard gain to the Ole Miss 14, then kept around the right end for a yard to the 13. That set up a fourth-and-two at the Ole Miss 12. Griffith entered to try a 30-yard field goal and made it to give the Tide a 27-24 lead with 6:03 left in the third quarter. Alabama had reeled off 24 unanswered points after the 54-yard, 10-play drive.
Griffith’s kickoff sailed through the end zone for a touchback. Ole Miss began at its 25. On third and seven from the 28, Kelly hit wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge for 16 yards and a first down at the Ole Miss 44. An 11-yard pass to Engram reached the Tide 33, then Kelly passed to Stringfellow to the Tide one. Two plays later, after a false start penalty, Kelly was flushed from the pocket on third and goal at the Tide eight, gaining seven yards to the Alabama one. From there, Wunderlich entered to try an 18-yard field goal. His kick was true to tie the game at 27-27 with 1:47 left in the third period.
After the kickoff for a touchback, the Tide took possession at its 25. On first down, Harris gained seven to the Tide 32. On second down, Harris took a handoff through a big seam at left guard and ran for 67 yards to the Ole Miss one. On first and goal, Scarborough carried up the middle for no gain. Scarborough dove into the end zone at left guard on the next play for a one-yard touchdown run. Griffith’s point-after kick was good, giving Alabama a 34-27 lead with 16 seconds left in the third quarter.
After one play, the third quarter ended with Ole Miss facing a second-and-seven at the Rebels 28. Kelly passed to slot back Van Jefferson for 22 yards to a first down at the 50. One play later, a pass interference penalty on Alabama moved Ole Miss 15 yards to the Tide 28 and a first down. Two incompletions and a seven-yard run by Kelly reached the Tide 21 where Wunderlich entered to try a 38-yard field goal. His kick was good, making the score Alabama 34, Ole Miss 30, with 13:17 left in the fourth period.
Diggs took the kickoff at the Alabama five-yard line and returned it 18 yards to the Tide 23. A 20-yard run on first down by Scarborough that reached the Tide 43 was wiped out by a holding penalty on the Tide, moving Alabama back 10 yards to the 13. On first and 20, Scarborough gained two up the middle to the 15. Hurts faked a handoff and threw deep for Ridley, who made a difficult adjustment under coverage to haul in a 45-yard reception as he fell down at the Ole Miss 40. But the march stalled there. After an incompletion on first down, Scarborough was stopped for a gain of one to set up third-and-nine at the Ole Miss 39. Hurts passed incomplete and Scott entered to punt. The 28-yard punt was fair caught at the Ole Miss 11 with 10:59 on the clock.
Three plays gained seven yards, forcing an Ole Miss punt from the 18. Gleeson’s kick was caught on a bounce by Jackson at the Tide 32 and he returned it 10 yards to the Tide 42. Alabama had the ball with a 34-30 lead and 9:36 showing on the clock.
Hurts kept on first down around the left side for 41 yards to the Ole Miss 17, moving Hurts past 100 rushing yards in the game. A run at left guard by Harris gained three yards on first down to the 14, then Hurts kept around right tackle for nine yards to a first down at the Ole Miss five. Hurts kept to the left side again on the next play, gaining four yards to the Ole Miss one. On second-and-goal, Harris carried into the end zone at left guard for a one-yard touchdown with 7:33 on the clock. Griffith’s point-after kick was good. Alabama led, 41-30, with 7:33 remaining.
Ole Miss moved 55 yards in six plays to the Tide 20 before the Alabama defense struck back. Kelly was hit while attempting to pass by Tide linebacker Tim Williams and the pass caromed into the arms of Alabama defensive end Jonathan Allen. Allen caught the ball at the Tide 25 and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown. Griffith’s extra-point kick gave the Tide a 48-30 lead with 5:28 left in the fourth quarter.
Ole Miss drove 78 yards in 12 plays to score on a five-yard pass from Kelly to Stringfellow with 2:59 left. With the point-after, the Tide lead stood at 48-37. Ole Miss recovered an onside kick at the Tide 37, then scored on the next play on a 37-yard pass from Kelly to wide receiver A.J. Brown with 2:51 on the clock. A two-point pass play was incomplete, leaving the Tide with a 48-43 lead.
The ensuing kickoff sailed through the end zone for a touchback. Alabama took over at its 25 with 2:51 left and both teams having all three time outs to give. On first down, Harris ran for three yards. On second down, Harris broke loose for 17 yards to a first down at the Tide 45 with 2:01 on the clock. Ole Miss called its first time out at that point. Scarborough gained four yards on a run at right guard before fumbling the ball which was recovered by UA’s Cam Robinson at the Tide 49. On second down, Harris gained five on a run at right tackle. Ole Miss called its second timeout of the half with 1:08 on the clock. On third-and-one at the Ole Miss 46, Harris carried for one yard and a first down at right guard at the Ole Miss 45. That virtually sealed the outcome. On first down from there, Alabama lined up in the “victory formation.” Hurts kneeled for a loss of two yards at the Ole Miss 47. Ole Miss used its final timeout with 34 seconds left.
On the next play, from the “victory formation,” Hurts knelt for a loss of two at the Ole Miss 49. That ended the game, a 48-43 Alabama victory.
Alabama continues its season next Saturday, September 24, by hosting Kent State (1-2 overall; 1-1 in the Mid-American Conference) which defeated Monmouth on Saturday, 27-7. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. Central Time at Bryant-Denny Stadium and the game will be televised by The SEC Network.