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16 for ‘16: Eddie Jackson’s punt return sparks an Alabama comeback at Ole Miss

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Before there was Jalen’s run in Baton Rouge, defense and special teams made the difference in Oxford.

Alabama v Mississippi Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Given the aura of invincibility around this team, especially with the defensive dominance of the Tide, it is surreal to remember a September game when Alabama actually trailed...and not just trailed, were getting blown off the field.

For almost two quarters in Oxford, the ‘Bama defense was about as hapless as you have seen from a Nick Saban squad. It was Sugar Bowl-bad: Chad Kelly was scrambling, Akeem Judd was pounding the ball, the Rebels’ lanky receivers were catching everything in sight, and there were absolutely no answers for consensus All-American TE Evan Engram.

The offense finally broke through late in the second quarter with a 6-yard Calvin Ridley run to trim the score to 24-10. The Rebels needed simply to take the ensuing kickoff at the 2:05 mark, run some clock, and make it to the locker room -- Ole Miss would get the ball back after the half with a double-digit lead.

Ole Miss did neither.

Curious play calling by Hugh Freeze (and excellent Alabama defense) exhausted less than a minute off the game clock as Will Gleeson stepped back to punt to Alabama’s Eddie Jackson with 1’24” in the half.

Nineteen seconds later, it was a one-score game, and Ole Miss was suddenly reeling.

There were many more plays that led to Alabama’s comeback — it truly was a team effort, but this was the play that sparked the rally and a furious 24-0 run by the Tide en route to a 48-43 win on the road in Vaught Hemingway Stadium.

The dreams of a special 2016 season could have died on that hot day in North Mississippi. Eddie Jackson, and Alabama’s penchant for non-offensive scores, ensured that they did not.

Your undefeated 2016 SEC Champions, the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Roll Tide.