(2) Alabama - 37, (17) Mississippi - 43
September 20, 2015
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The No. 2-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide
(2-1 overall; 0-1 in the Southeastern Conference) could
not overcome five turnovers in its SEC opener, falling by
a final score of 43-37 to the No. 15 Ole Miss Rebels
(3-0; 1-0) in a back-and-forth contest in front of a
sellout crowd of 101,821 on Saturday night at Bryant-Denny
Stadium in Tuscaloosa.
Alabama wide receiver Richard Mullaney (16) jumps over
Mississippi defensive back Kendarius Webster (15) and
scores a touchdown during the first half.
Photo Credit - Butch Dill/AP
The opening kickoff of the game would set the tone for
Alabama, as a fumble by sophomore receiver ArDarius
Stewart on the return was recovered by Ole Miss. The
Rebels were able to turn that into three points, the
only points of the quarter. The Tide evened the score
early in the second quarter, but two more turnovers in
the quarter allowed the Rebels to take advantage of
short fields to reach the end zone twice. Alabama was
playing from behind for the rest of the game, twice
getting within six points, but unable to complete the
For the game, the Tide offense totaled 503 yards (288
passing and 215 rushing), picked up 29 first downs and
averaged an even 5.0 yards per play. Ole Miss gained 433
yards (341 passing and 92 rushing), along with converting
16 first downs and averaging 6.7 yards per play. Alabama
limited its penalties again, getting flagged just four
times for 36 yards, but lost the turnover battle by a 5-0
Ole Miss won the toss and deferred their option to the
second half. Alabama elected to receive the opening kickoff.
Sophomore ArDarius Stewart took the kickoff out across
the 15, but was hit and fumbled on the return. Ole Miss
defensive back A.J. Moore recovered the ball at the 17.
Quarterback Chad Kelly came out firing, but completed
just one of three passes for two yards. The Rebels set
up for a 32-yard field goal attempt, which Gary Wunderlich
was able to knock through the uprights to give Ole Miss
an early 3-0 lead. It was the first time Alabama had
trailed this season.
Cooper Bateman got the start at quarterback for the
Crimson Tide. The sophomore had played significant
minutes in the first two games as the backup to senior
Jake Coker. On Alabama's second play from scrimmage,
Bateman used a play action fake to Henry to buy time for
a roll out and dump off to junior tight end O.J. Howard
for 30 yards. That got the offense across midfield, but
the drive stalled on fourth-and-2 when sophomore wide
receiver Robert Foster caught a pass from Bateman but was
held short by the Ole Miss defense.
The Rebels took over at their own 34 and were quickly on
the move. Kelly found tight end Evan Engram over the
middle for 22 yards, but the Tide defense made a stand
from there and forced the first punt of the game.
After being pinned inside its own 10 on the punt, it
appeared Alabama would go three-and-out. However, on
fourth-and-1, Ole Miss jumped offsides, giving the Tide
a first down. The offense picked up another first down
thanks to a defensive personal foul penalty, then Bateman
found Stewart for 18 yards. That moved the ball inside
the Rebel 40, but the drive got no farther and Alabama
punted the ball away. Sophomore punter JK Scott executed
a terrific punt that bounced inside the 5 and was downed
at the 2.
Running back Jaylen Walton gave the Ole Miss offense some
breathing room with a run of 10 yards, then Kelly
scrambled for 15 yards on third-and-14 to keep the
drive going. The Rebels were turned away on the next
series, getting stood up on third-and-2. Alabama took
over at its own 28 and had a couple of plays over 10
yards to move into Ole Miss territory once again. The
quarter ended with the Rebels leading 3-0 but the Tide
Alabama began the second quarter with a second-and-7 from
the Ole Miss 31. Bateman floated a pass that fell
incomplete in the end zone, but the Rebels were called for
a facemask, moving the ball inside the 20. On the next
series, Bateman hit senior wide out Richard Mullaney over
the middle for 11 yards and a first down inside the 5.
The Tide could not punch it in from there however; Adam
Griffith tied the score at 3-3 with a 20-yard field goal
with 11:52 to play in the first half. The drive covered
69 yards in 14 plays while taking 5:18 off the clock.
Ole Miss went three-and-out on the ensuing drive, but the
Rebel coverage team on the punt was all over senior Cyrus
Jones as soon as he reeled in the punt, and Alabama
started at its own 16. After a two-yard rush by senior
running back Kenyan Drake, Bateman attempted to connect
on a deep pass, but the ball ended up in the arms of Ole
Miss free safety Trae Elston, who was able to return the
interception for 28 yards to the Alabama 26.
Rebel running back Jordan Wilkins took over from there.
His burst of 18 yards put the Ole Miss offense inside the
10, then he took the handoff from Robert Nkemdiche out
of the wildcat package on fourth-and-goal from the 1 and
got the corner for the touchdown and a 10-3 lead. The
scoring drive for the Rebels went 26 yards in six plays
The Tide committed another critical error on the kickoff.
Drake was hit as he took the ball out to the 20, where he
fumbled. Ole Miss' Carlos Davis recovered the fumble this
time, and the Rebels had another short field to work with,
starting at the Alabama 19. A defensive pass interference
call placed the ball at the 4, then on third down Kelly
kept the ball around right end and dove into the end zone
as he was being hit. The drive was just three plays, 18
yards in 42 seconds and gave Ole Miss a 17-3 lead with
6:43 to go in the half.
Jake Coker took over at the quarterback positon for the
next drive. He hit Mullaney for 11 yards on third down on
his first series, then completed a pass to Howard for 11
more yards on third-and-4. After an Alabama timeout,
Coker dumped off a screen pass to Henry that the
running back took for a 15-yard gain.
Coker made an outstanding play on third down yet again,
this time with his feet. Facing third-and-10, Coker a
voided what looked to be a sure sack, then took off
downfield, avoiding another tackle to pick up 15 yards.
The senior quarterback capped off the drive two plays
later, firing a pass out to Mullaney, who found the end
zone from nine yards out. The extended drive totaled 75
yards in 16 plays and took nearly six minutes. The Tide
offense was a perfect 4-of-4 on third downs, including
two conversions on third-and-10 or longer.
The Rebels got the ball back with less than a minute
remaining, but Kelly kneeled down on two consecutive
plays and time ran out with Ole Miss leading 17-10.
Ole Miss took the opening kickoff to start the second
half. After gaining a couple of first downs, the Rebels
faced a third-and-inches from their own 27. The snap hit
off Kelly's hands and went straight up in the air. He
had just enough time to haul it in and launch the ball
toward a receiver. The ball was tipped in the secondary,
and fell right into the hands of Quincy Adeboyejo, who
was not the intended receiver. He took off down the
field and would not be caught, going a total of 66
yards for the score. That five-play, 87-yard touchdown
drive made it 24-10 in favor of Ole Miss in the opening
minutes of the half.
It looked as if Coker and the offense would respond in a
hurry, as he hit freshman receiver Calvin Ridley for 23
yards, then the senior quarterback extended the drive
with another brilliant scramble for a first down. That
spotted the ball at the Ole Miss 35, but Alabama would
move no farther down the field. Facing a fourth-and-9,
Coker's pass was broken up and the Rebels regained
Kelly nearly gave the ball right back to the Tide, as he
attempted to pull the ball down and run, but fumbled. He
was able to get on top of the ball, and on the next play
found Laquon Treadwell down the sideline for 29 yards.
Two plays later he connected with tight end Jeremy
Liggins on a seam route to move into the red zone, but
the Rebels stalled from there. Wunderlich made the drive
pay off however, as he drilled a 34-yard field goal to
extend the lead to 27-10 with 7:54 remaining in the third
Needing to get something going on offense, Alabama could
not do so. Coker threw two incompletions sandwiched around
a Henry carry for a loss of a yard, and the Tide went
three-and-out. J.K. Scott got off a 49-yard punt to flip
the field, but the Ole Miss offense produced a pair of
explosive plays to nullify that. First, Wilkins ran
around left end for 15 yards, then Kelly and wide
receiver Cody Core teamed up for a 34-yard completion.
The Rebels killed the drive's momentum with two five-yard
penalties, but once again Wunderlich was true on his
field goal attempt, this time from 45 yards. The score
stood at 30-10 in favor of Ole Miss at the 3:57 mark
in the third quarter.
The Tide's offense came to life on its next drive. Ridley
picked up the initial first down with a seven-yard
reception on third-and-one, then Henry rumbled for 31
yards on the next play. Drake converted another first
down on third-and-inches, and Coker kept the ball for a
three-yard touchdown run on second-and-goal two plays
later. The scoring drive went for 69 yards in nine plays
and 2:24 off the clock to cut the deficit to 30-17 late
in the third quarter.
Alabama's defense turned up the heat on the Rebels' next
offensive possession. Walton was dropped for a three-yard
loss on the first play, then Kelly was sacked for a loss
of four and eight yards, respectively. That impressive
series forced a three-and-out, and as the quarter ended,
Ole Miss was lining up to punt.
After the punt, the Tide took over at the Rebel 46. Henry,
who had been held in check for the first three quarters,
broke loose on the drive to swing the momentum completely
in Alabama's favor. He caught a screen pass from Coker
that he took 16 yards, then followed that up with
back-to-back rushes of nine yards to set up first-and-goal.
Coker once again finished the drive off, this time
hitting Stewart for an eight-yard scoring strike. In a
mere 2:23, the offense went 46 yards in six plays to
bring the score to 30-24 in favor of Ole Miss with 12:30
Kelly and the Rebels quickly responded. After a nine-yard
completion, Kelly appeared to be keeping the ball in an
attempt to pick up the first down rushing. Just as he
approached the line of scrimmage, he pulled up and lofted
a pass to a wide open Core, who had slipped behind the
secondary. The play went for 73 yards and put Ole Miss
ahead 36-24. The Rebels went for two to make it a 14-point
margin but were unsuccessful.
A fourth Tide turnover appeared to end any hope of a
comeback. On third-and-5 from the 29, Coker's pass was
picked off by linebacker C.J. Johnson and returned to
the 31. Two plays later, Kelly hit Treadwell in the
corner of the end zone for a 24-yard touchdown pass.
The Ole Miss lead grew to 43-24 with just over 10 minutes
left in the game.
Coker was able to lead a touchdown drive to cut into the
lead. On the possession he had completions of 19 yards
to Stewart, 11 yards to Mullaney on fourth down, and 24
yards to Howard. The drive ended with a two-yard
touchdown rush by Henry. Alabama went for two following
the touchdown, but Coker's pass was incomplete.
The Tide lined up for the onside kick, and after Ole Miss
did not aggressively pursue the ball, it was tipped
forward by an Alabama player and eventually recovered
by the Tide at the Ole Miss 30. The Rebels sacked Coker
on the first play, but Coker responded with consecutive
completions to pick up the first down. After three Henry
rushes, Coker tossed a pass to Mullaney for two yards and
another touchdown. The brief drive covered 30 yards in
seven plays while taking just over two minutes. With 4:33
to play, Alabama trailed by just six once again, 43-37.
Ole Miss got the ball back and was looking to run the
clock out with a few first downs. Kelly did find
Damore'ea Stringfellow for 22 yards and a first down,
but the Rebels advanced no farther and were forced to
kick the ball away. Will Gleason did so effectively,
and the Tide started the possession at its own 7.
As he did several times on the night, Coker scrambled
for 26 yards on the first play out to the 33. However,
on the next play, he threw another interception on the
next play. This gave the ball back to Ole Miss at their
own 32 with less than three minutes remaining. Kelly kept
the ball for 13 yards, and a defensive facemask call
moved the ball all the way down to the Alabama 40. The
Rebels needed just one more first down to end the game,
but were stood up on fourth-and-1 with 30 seconds left
in the game.
The Tide took over possession, but Coker threw incomplete
on four straight plays to turn the ball back over to Ole
Miss. Kelly took a knee with nine seconds remaining to
secure the 43-37 upset for the Rebels.