Alabama avoided the knockout punch early and held on late during Saturday’s 48-43 win against Ole Miss. The battle of SEC heavyweights saw several Crimson Tide players and coaches needing IVs during and after the game.
Following the win, an exasperated Alabama head coach Nick Saban said he would be giving his team an extra day off from practice on Monday. Still recovering from the grueling, four-quarter battle 48 hours later, Tide players were thankful for the extra day of rest.
“It was a tough game, Ole Miss is a great opponent,” said sophomore running back Damien Harris. “It’s a 15-round fight, you know we had to fight until the very end. It was good that we were on the winning end of that game.”
Monday might have allowed Tide players to rest their bodies, but the team was still hard at work. During his Monday press conference, Saban said the team would still hold its normal meetings before going through a stride and stretch period on the field.
“It’s not really a day off,” Harris said. “We still got a lot of film to watch. We made a lot of mistakes that game, we didn’t play our best game. But we will just go in like every other Monday, try to watch film, see what went wrong and try to get it corrected.”
Despite battling back against Ole Miss, Alabama ran into a lot of the same mistakes it has been making this season. The Tide continued to have trouble with penalties, racking up nine flags for 75 yards against the Rebels.
Seven of those penalties were called against Alabama’s offensive line, five of which came on false starts.
Senior linebacker Ryan Anderson was also flagged for a roughing the passer penalty that was followed by a touchdown the following play.
“We could have really lost the game based on mental mistakes, mental errors, lack of execution at times that led to really bad plays for our team,” Saban said. “Our focus needs to be on getting these things corrected but having the ability to focus on sort of each and every play.”
After Alabama rallied back from 21-points down, the Tide almost allowed Ole Miss to mount a comeback of its own. Trailing 48-30, the Rebels scored two touchdowns in the span of eight seconds to cut the lead to 48-43 with 2:51 left to play in the game.
After Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly connected with receiver Damore’ea Stringfellow for a 5-yard touchdown with 2:59 to play, the Rebels recovered an onside kick at the Alabama 37-yard line. Kelly then hit receiver A.J. Brown for a touchdown on the next play to make things interesting late.
“We didn’t block the right guy,” Saban said of the onside kick. “...It was a great kick and a really favorable hop for them the way it hopped, but he (receiver Calvin Ridley) let the ball play him rather than him playing the ball. And we didn’t block the guys right. If you block the guys right, we still have a chance to recover the ball because they don’t penetrate to the ball.”
“...These are all the things that I’m talking about in terms of not executing the details of what you need to do, which gives the other team opportunities to beat you and make plays.”
Alabama survived the scare and will have the rest of the week to recover before taking on Kent State this Saturday at 11 a.m. in Bryant-Denny Stadium. As the Tide looks to shake off the bumps and bruises it from last week’s slugfest, Saban hopes the lessons his team learned in Oxford, Miss., will have a more lasting effect.
“I think if you can be happy about the way you competed in the game and that you won, but also be disappointed enough in the way you play as if you lost, then you’ll learn something,” Saban said. “I don’t know if you can do that or not. It’s not really human nature to do that. But if we can do that, we’ll accomplish something.”