(2) Alabama - 37, (17) Mississippi - 43
- rolltide.com
September 20, 2015

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
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.

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 comeback.

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 margin.

First Quarter

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 offense driving.

Second Quarter

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 in 2:28.

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.

Third Quarter

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 possession.

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 quarter.

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.

Fourth Quarter

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 remaining.

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.