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Alabama Football Game Film Review: The Comeback

Alabama was down 21 points to Ole Miss late in the 1st half. This is how they fought back.

NCAA Football: Alabama at Mississippi Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss has improbably taken a 21 point lead, something a Saban-led Alabama team has never come back from. A blown coverage led to a wide-open Evan Engram touchdown to make it 17-3 late into the 2nd. On the ensuing drive, an unblocked Marquis Haynes levels Jalen Hurts, who fumbles. John Youngblood scoops it up and races down the field for the touchdown. There was a key personal foul on the play, which should have negated the touchdown; but the refs messed up. So it goes.

Alabama is down 21 with 2:47 left in the half, and an Alabama offense that has yet to find the endzone, with a true freshman at the helm, is primed to retake the field. That 15 yard personal foul was enforced on the kickoff; and, fortunately for the Crimson Tide, the kickoff sails out of bounds. Alabama ball at midfield.

1st and 10: Alabama comes out with 11 personnel in the gun. Hurts and Josh Jacobs in the backfield. Calvin Ridley (slot) and Gehrig Dieter are to the left, and Hale Hentges (slot) and Cam Sims are to the right. Ridley runs a drag route about 16 or so yards downfield. Hurts waits patiently and fires a strike into a soft spot in their coverage. Ridley is hit but manages to keep his balance and bounce forward for a few extra yards. Hurts looks calm and collected.

1st and 10: Hurts hurries and gets the team set up. It’s almost the same formation as the previous play, but Hentges and Sims have swapped spots on the right. Jacobs motions wide right, getting the linebackers flowing in that direction. Hurts takes the snap, and it’s a designed run up the middle for him. Bradley Bozeman gets an excellent block on the linebacker Taylor Polk, and Hurts dashes down the middle for a 22 yard gain. Suddenly, Alabama is on the Ole Miss 6 yard line.

1st and goal: Bama comes out of the timeout with only 10 men on the field; so Dieter runs on late, lining up wide left outside Sims. Damien Harris is wide right with Ridley in the slot next to him. Hentges is the H-back. Ridley goes in motion, and Bozeman snaps it right as he’s passing in front of Hurts. It doesn’t look like it was intended to be a direct snap to Ridley, but that’s what ends up happening. Sims and Dieter block their guys well, and Ridley glides in for the touchdown. Alabama still trails by 14, but it’s certainly a start.

1st and 10: Ole Miss gets the ball back, and there’s still plenty of time left in this half. Chad Kelly is in the shotgun with Akeem Judd with him. Ryan Anderson is standing up on the left side of the defensive line, and he’s left unblocked. Kelly reads and hands off to Judd, but he’s not going far. Reuben Foster is waiting, and Anderson shows off his skill in being in a position to force the handoff and still be able to get involved with tackling the back.

2nd and 7: Ole Miss goes no-huddle and keeps the same formation. They seem to waffle between going quickly and draining the clock, snapping the ball with 14 seconds left on the play clock. They run the same play, and Kelly again hands off to Judd, who crashes into the stonewall that is Alabama’s defensive line for minimal gain. Alabama takes its first timeout.

3rd and 5: Ole Miss has two receivers left and two right with Judd in the backfield again. Bama dials up some pressure and sends Foster on a blitz in the A gap. The secondary smothers up the receivers, and even Ryan Anderson shows a little something in coverage, staying right on top of Judd. Kelly rolls right, eluding Dalvin Tomlinson. Minkah Fitzpatrick charges in; and Kelly pumps, drawing Fitzpatrick to leap. This gets him past the line of scrimmage, and Kelly has a shot to pick up the first down with Marlon Humphrey caught up in a block. Well, Kelly would have had a shot if Foster didn’t come flying in to pop Kelly. Foster was sent on the blitz; but, after it was picked up, he disengaged and matched Kelly’s movements, flowing to the sideline. He was in excellent position to make the play and force the punt. A very important punt, it turned out.

4th and 3: Ole Miss punts from their 32 yard line with 1:24 left. Punter Will Gleeson runs to his left before booting it 53 yards. Eddie Jackson, who had never returned a punt in his college career, fields it at the Alabama 15 yard line near the hashmark. He dodges and weaves and cuts his way through the Rebels before hitting the boost to beat #89; and he cruises into the endzone before getting mobbed by his teammates. That 21 point deficit is suddenly down to a touchdown.

Ole Miss gets the ball back with some time and timeouts, but they’re in no mood to really try for a score before the half. Alabama receives the ball at half, and they don’t do a whole lot in their first drive. They gain just 19 yards on 6 plays, but those 19 yards end up being crucial. J.K. Scott booms off a 50 yard punt that Ole Miss fair catches at their 6 yard line.

1st and 10: Kelly is back in the gun with Judd. Ole Miss has trips left and a lone receiver to the right. It’s another read option for Kelly, who smartly gives it to Judd when Jonathan Allen stays home on him. Credit to Judd here for making something out of nothing. Tomlinson knifes into the backfield while Foster crashes into the pulling left tackle. Judd cuts through the traffic and manages to gain 3 yards. Not shockingly, Foster does an excellent job here.

2nd and 7: Dalvin Tomlinson and Jonathan Allen are the two defensive ends with Da’Ron Payne as the nose tackle. Anderson is standing up on the left side next to Tomlinson. Evan Engram motions to Anderson’s side, and he bounces out to cover Engram and take away a quick pass to the tight end. With that accomplished and Kelly focused downfield, Anderson switches gears and makes for the quarterback. With the delayed rush, there are no blockers left to account for Anderson; so he’s got a straight shot. Kelly sees the pressure and starts rolling to his left along the goalline. The same swagger that leads to some of Kelly’s improbable plays is his undoing here. Anderson plows into him, getting his hand on the ball and knocking it out. Payne is waiting. He plucks the ball up and leaps, stretching the ball across the goalline before he goes down. Alabama gets its second non-offensive touchdown; and, following Adam Griffith’s extra point, the 21 point deficit has been erased. It took less than 6 minutes of game time for this team to mount the record comeback.