With the offseason in full swing and A-Day still several weeks away, I wanted to try something different. For some of my breakdowns, I’ll be taking a look at underrated drives or plays, ones that didn’t necessarily stand out at the time but look bigger in hindsight.
One such drive came against Ole Miss by the defense. After Alabama’s furious comeback (which I broke down after the game), the teams settled into a close contest for most of the 3rd quarter; but Bama maintained a four point lead. The offense worked their way down to the Ole Miss 39 yard line, but they ended up punting. Ole Miss started back at their 11 yard line, but they had strung together scoring drives on their last two possessions (just field goals, but still).
The Alabama defense wouldn’t do anything flashy here, and Jonathan Allen’s fumble return touchdown would come on the following Ole Miss drive. But the defense would make a stand and put the offense in good position.
1st and 10: Interestingly, Alabama has no starters in on its defensive line on this play. Da’Shawn Hand is on the right, Josh Frazier is in the middle, and Dakota Ball (10 fingered, at the time) is on the left. Tim Williams is standing up to Ball’s left, and Shaun Dion Hamilton and Reuben Foster are the other linebackers. Ole Miss is in shotgun with four wide, and RB Akeem Judd on Chad Kelly’s left hip.
Hand is left unblocked as the left tackle and guard double team Frazier. Hamilton flows right to what should’ve been a hole for Judd, and Frazier sheds his blockers as well. Judd is stuff for just a one yard gain.
2nd and 9: Ole Miss uses the same formation but with Judd flipped to Kelly’s right. Humphrey is in press coverage, one-on-one with Damore’ea Stringfellow at the bottom of the screen. Kelly takes his drop and keeps his eyes to the middle of the field, keeping Ronnie Harrison there. Then he turns and fires a shot to Stringfellow’s, who just ran a hook route to the first down marker. Stringfellow takes a couple steps to complete his turn, and Humphrey matches beautifully. Humphrey’s right on top of him, and he gets a hand in between Stringfellow’s to swat the ball away. 3rd and long.
3rd and 9: Ole Miss keeps the same formation once again with trips left. From the outside, Alabama’s defensive backs are Anthony Averett, the true freshman Shyheim Carter, and Ronnie Harrison. Carter is in at Star after Minkah Fitzpatrick took a knee to the head.
The #1 and #2 receivers both go downfield, but TE Evan Engram runs an out route. Since the #1 receiver goes deep, Averett matches him like it’s man coverage. Harrison, who was opposite Engram pre-snap, let’s him go on the out route and follows the #2 down the seam. Carter reacts correctly as well, picking up Engram. Kelly hits Engram, who has a few yards cushion; but the freshman closes quickly and knocks Engram off balance. He’s stopped for a six yard gain, and Ole Miss brings out the punt team.
The defense gets the three and out, and the Alabama offense should be in good field position. Eddie Jackson, who has already returned one punt for a touchdown, fields it off a high hop and takes it 10 yards to the Alabama 42 yard line.
One play later, this happens.
Hurts makes the right read, makes the right cut, and rips off a 41 yard run to the Ole Miss 17 yard line. Four plays later, Damien Harris finds the endzone; and Alabama has an 11 point lead with 7:33 left in the game. Ole Miss would make it close again, but that three and out led to a much-needed cushion for Bama.