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Initial Impressions from the Ole Miss game

It wasn’t the prettiest, but Alabama won.

Alabama v Ole Miss Photo by Justin Ford/Getty Images

It was yet another hodge podge mess of a football game, but Alabama managed to pull this one out on the road by a 30-24 margin.

Honestly, the main takeaway from this game was that it was a microcosm of the season, particularly the games played on the road. Alabama showed flashes of brilliance, and flashes of incompetence. They played hard pretty consistently, but didn’t always play smart. They made the plays to win the game, then very nearly gave up the plays to lose it. I maintain that this is a team that could beat anybody in the country, but also one that you couldn’t really trust to handle its business against any decent team, especially in a hostile environment.

So goes the 2022 Alabama Crimson Tide football team.

A few impressions:

Byron Young had himself a day

If there is one man who deserves the game ball after this one, it’s DL Byron Young. As Saban noted in the postgame press conference, Young is from Mississippi and likely wanted to show out in his last game in Oxford. He did just that, leading the way with 11 tackles including two sacks, and forced a fumble for the Rebels’ only turnover of the day. Young could have mailed it in and looked forward to the draft, where he will likely go in the mid-rounds, but instead he put on his best performance of the season. Alabama would not have won this game without his effort.

We saw more of the RPO game that Saban forecasted, with mixed results

Saban said this week that the future of Alabama’s offense will be built around getting back to the running game and RPOs, and we saw that shift yesterday. He also suggested this week that the dropback game better suits Bryce Young’s current skillset, so it probably shouldn’t be surprising that he was a rather pedestrian 21/33 for 209 yards. He did hit Jermaine Burton on this beautiful RPO slant for a touchdown.

It was refreshing to see that the team was trying to win while also preparing for the future. I’m sure many Alabama fans hope to see a little bit of Ty Simpson before the season ends, just to see what he has, and even Jalen Milroe. Milroe’s first start didn’t go particularly well, but he still has raw ability. And Young clearly read and threw that RPO slant well. His quick game may simply be a work in progress as he gains confidence in his own eyes and accuracy. It’s easy to forget that he is merely a college junior in his second season as a starter.

Jase McClellan had his best day

Saban said after the game that Jahmyr Gibbs twisted his ankle in the first half when asked about why he never got off the bench in the second, but it sure seems like that was more of a coach’s decision. McClellan was running with more power than we’ve seen from him to date, and he ended up getting 19 of the 27 total running back carries. Gibbs was ineffective on his six carries, gaining only three total yards. Perhaps the staff saw a need for a little more power?

It was interesting to say the least, and something to monitor going forward.

Kendrick Law got a little taste of action

Law was a name that we had heard in camp, but injuries derailed his chance to make a mark on the season. He did get a little bit of run in Oxford, tallying three catches. He also drew praise for showing restraint when an Ole Miss player shoved his facemask. Odds are that we see more of him moving forward. Ja’Corey Brooks continues to operate as the WR1, and it’s important to remember that this is his first season as a starter. Hopefully he can take the next step and become an alpha at the outside position next season. If so, that will open up the RPO slants and screens a lot more for the little speedsters on the roster.

The run defense was frustratingly poor

This Alabama defense has played well against the run at times, but they had no answer for Montgomery’s own Quinshon Judkins. To be frank, Judkins looked like a man that Alabama should have recruited despite his three star rating. He bulled his way to 135 yards on 25 carries, much of it coming on the edges of the defense. Alabama will need to find a few more dudes who can dominate their man up front if this defense is to get back to Saban’s standard.

There was a bit of a silver lining in the pass defense, as Jaxson Dart was held to 6.8 yards per completion despite Eli Ricks going down with a potential concussion in the first half. Terrion Arnold had a decent outing as he returned to action in Ricks’ absence.

Red zone efficiency decided the game

Looking at the box score, this is not a game that Alabama should have won. It was the inverse of the LSU game, as Ole Miss had nearly 100 more total yards and the better yards per play average, and turnovers were even at one apiece. Alabama simply took better advantage of scoring opportunities. The Tide made four trips to the Ole Miss red zone, and came away with three touchdowns and a field goal. Meanwhile, Ole Miss was shut down twice on downs in the red zone, including the critical final possession of the game. Play enough one score games, and this is the kind of thing that evens out, which is the reason that playing so many close games is a tough way to make the playoff.

Two games left before we find out where the Tide will be bowling. Hopefully they can take care of business.

Roll Tide.