In sports sometimes there are just weird oddities that really don't seem to make any rational sense. I don't know if the Crimson Tide's struggles in Oxford would quite transcend to that level just yet, but for whatever reason, Oxford has never been kind to us. All told, Alabama has dominated this "rivalry" -- 'Bama has twelve national championships, but only nine losses to Ole Miss, and that about sums up the "rivalry" -- and we have more talent than the Rebels every year, but for whatever reason we always seem to struggle in Oxford.
In 2005, we were treated to a preview of the final one-third of the Mike Shula era. We came into Oxford on the heels of a 31-3 blowout of the Florida Gators with a top ten ranking, but looked terrible against a 3-8 Ole Miss team. We trailed for a considerable part of the game, and won in a nail biter as time expired. Only when Ken Darby -- the antithesis of a big play threat from the tailback position -- popped off the longest run of his career did we tie it up in the third quarter. Finally, a combination of clutch play and luck led us down field in the closing seconds, and sophomore Jamie Christensen won it with a field goal 13-10.
In 2003, we were quickly torn to shreds by Eli Manning. The final score was 43-28, but anyone who watched the game knew it was nowhere near as close as the scoreboard indicated. The defensive performance, in particular, was one of the worst an Alabama team has had in ages. The best play the Tide had all day was a 41-yard run by true freshman tailback Ken Darby, that ended in a separated shoulder that would keep him out of play for weeks. And that sums up that afternoon quite well. With little doubt, this was one of the worst performances of the Mike Shula era, and quite possibly the worst.
In 2001, we had the game won and led all afternoon as the rain came pouring down in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Then Ole Miss mounted a late comeback with then-sophomore quarterback Eli Manning, and when the Tide failed to convert on a 3rd and 1 at its own 19 yard line, the Rebels got the ball back and marched down field to seal the 27-24 win. It was just one of many fourth quarter collapses that the Tide experienced that year.
In 1999, we came into the game after a huge upset win over Florida in the Swamp, and the mediocre Rebels gave us a very hard time. Ole Miss quarterback Romero Miller -- who had actually been recruited heavily by the Tide -- had a decent day, and Deuce McAllister was held in check, but it was nonetheless a close one. We held on to win 30-24, as Shaun Alexander had one of the best games of his collegiate career, but the Rebels kept it much, much closer than it objectively should have been.
In 1997, we were in big trouble early on as it looked like the Rebels were going to knock off the Dubose-led Crimson Tide. The game was played in a monsoon, and finally the game was delayed due to lightning in the area. Both teams were sent to the locker room, and that killed the Rebel momentum, and we came back out to win sloppily 29-20.
In 1995, we experienced about our only "comfortable" win in Oxford when we won 23-9, but even so we played quite poor. All told, we racked up only 12 first downs, and barely rushed for 80 yards despite 34 carries. Brian Burgdorf was sacked four times, we had 15 penalties, and went 1-12 on third down. And that was our most comfortable win in Oxford.
In 1993, Ole Miss again took us down to the wire as we squeaked out a 19-14 win in Oxford. Again, though we won a close game, we didn't play particularly well, as we gave up six sacks and struggled to run the football. We won as a result of four field goals from Michael Proctor, and a great day from the all-purpose star David Palmer, who had a big day as a runner, receiver, returner, and quarterback.
So, all told, we've played the Rebels seven times in Oxford since they moved the series away from Jackson. We're 5-2 in those contests, so we generally win, but as you can see we always play quite poorly in Oxford, for whatever reason.
Hopefully a new head coach can end those troubles in Vaught-Hemingway this Saturday. If not, we may move to 5-3 in Oxford.