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Initial Impressions from the Ole Miss Game

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Yep, that was a laugher.

NCAA Football: Mississippi at Alabama John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

OK, let’s get this out of the way up front.

That Ole Miss team is pathetic. The NCAA investigation and ignominious departure of Hugh Freeze has left a cloud over that program that will very likely result in a winless conference slate. Destroying them, while fun, is scarcely more impressive than beating up on a bottom-feeding G5 program.

That said, Alabama took care of business.

After an opening drive that saw sophomore QB Jalen Hurts miss a wide open Calvin Ridley for what would have been the first of many touchdowns, the Tide dominated in every phase of the game. Hurts was the star of the show. The level of competition is certainly a caveat, but for the second consecutive week he looked comfortable throwing the ball up the seams and across the middle. Hurts threw two TD passes: one to TE Hale Hentges and the other to RB Josh Jacobs on a wheel route. All told, nine different players caught at least one of the 15 completions on the night, with Hurts distributing to seven of them. Jalen finished 12/19 for 197 yards with two TDs and no turnovers, and also gained 101 yards on the ground with another score. Backup Tua Tagovailoa looked strong again, completing three of his five attempts for 51 yards.

Those passing numbers are more than enough to keep a defense honest and allow the devastating Alabama run game to flourish. Ole Miss came out feisty against the run, daring Hurts to beat them. Once he did, it was all over but the crying. Eight (!) Alabama ballcarriers combined for a robust 7.2 yards per carry on the night, finishing with 365 yards on 51 tries. The first half was a bit up and down where the run game was concerned. It appeared that, after much success with power and counter against Vanderbilt, that OC Brian Daboll was trying to work on the zone game. It is evident at this point that the Tide offensive line is more adept at blocking up assigned gaps and pulling guards than zone blocking. The first running play of the second half appeared to be the first counter called on the night, and Damien Harris promptly ripped off a 46 yarder.

Ronnie Clark punctuated the blowout with his first career touchdown, and the whole team celebrated for him. It has been a tough ride for Ronnie, an in-state recruit who spent much of his high school years acting as a caregiver for his disabled mother, as injuries have derailed his career. May he remain healthy and carve out a bigger role in his last two seasons.

Defensively, the only complaint has to be allowing scatback Jordan Wilkins to run for 101 yards on 12 carries. Granted, the bulk of the damage came after the game was well in hand, but you still don’t like to see those types of numbers. Ole Miss QB Shea Patterson was under duress all night and finished with only 165 yards on 29 attempts and two interceptions. The four man pass rush looked strong in this one and DC Jeremy Pruitt called a strong manufactured pressure game as well, particularly when the Rebels decided to go empty, which seemed to be a terrible idea to begin with. Levi Wallace was the standout performer in the secondary, grabbing both of the picks and taking one to the house.

Unfortunately, this seems to be the year that Alabama cannot escape the injury bug. Da’Shawn Hand left the game after a cut block on a split zone play with the score at 45-3. Saban said after the game that he appeared to “strain” an MCL, a misnomer since ligaments cannot be strained, and will be evaluated today. Hopefully is is just a sprain, though the fact that he could put zero weight on it seemed ominous. There is still depth in the front thanks to years of great recruiting, but losing a player of Hand’s caliber, particularly a senior, would be a huge blow. Trevon Diggs left the game with some sort of foot injury and will also be evaluated today. Henry Ruggs looked comfortable returning punts in his stead.

In general, you can’t complain about a 66-3 win. Next week the Tide kicks off its “Dead Men Walking” tour, consecutively facing embattled Kevin Sumlin, Bret Bielema, and Butch Jones headed into the bye week. The Aggies announced during last night’s game that the water wasn’t working at Kyle Field and instructed the 100k+ in the stands that they would need to leave the stadium to relieve themselves. Hopefully that is corrected before next weekend.

Roll Tide.