Bama’s Weaknesses Become Strengths in Route of Rebels
Nick Saban, Pete Golding and the Alabama Crimson Tide defense knew Lane Kiffin would be aggressive. Saban said on his Thursday-night radio show that his team prepared for Ole MIss to go for most 4th-downs.
With the Crimson Tide prepared, Lane Kiffin's aggression became his undoing, making life easy for an Alabama offense that was able to score on nine of its 10**** offensive drives. Three of Alabama's first-half scoring drives started in Mississippi territory.
Ole Miss turned the ball over on downs three of its first four drives, and fumbled the ball away on the fifth.
You gotta have the mindset that you're gonna play two 3rd-downs," Saban said after the game. "Not that we did anything different - I think the whole gameplan was a little bit different in terms of our approach not to play as much situational football because of the way they play on third down."
While Kiffin's questionable tactics were his early undoing, Alabama's improvement at offensive line and as a defensive unit was what the Crimson Tide could control and paid off throughout the game.
Starting with the defense, Alabama held the Rebels in check in every phase, but early on the Crimson Tide made the necessary adjustments to stymie the nation's No. 4 rushing attack.
Henry To'o To'o and Christian Harris played the best game of the season as a duo. To'o To'o saw the biggest boost, and his stats reflected that as he totaled 10 tackles with one for a loss.
"I thought they played well, especially in the first half," Saban said. " We got some critical 4th-down stops... Other than the way we finished the game, I thought the defense played extremely well."
The Rebels gained just 78 rushing yards (including sack yardage) after entering the game averaging just under 300 yards per game.
Because the Rebels never caught rhythm in the rushing attack, the pass rush was able to disrupt quarterback Matt Corral. While Corral was sacked just three times and statistically had a fine, mistake-free game, Alabama was able to keep him from doing anything special or explosive as Ole Miss's had just one play longer than 18 yards.
Where the Rebels struggled offensively, the Crimson Tide offense flourished thanks to the performance of the offensive line.
Brian Robinson had a career day, rushing for 171 yards and four touchdowns on 37 carries, all of which are career highs.
"When a runner's hot, run him," Saban said. "[Robinson] was running hot today, so we ran him and he delivered."
The rushing attack was heavy in the game plan, but Saban said it was a combination of helping the defense and taking advantage of the Rebels base defensive package.
"It's not really the personality of this offense," Saban said. "We wanted to keep the ball away from them and the way their defensive structure is - a 3-2 defense with six defensive backs - it's hard to throw when they drop eight every time."
Meanwhile, Bryce Young enjoyed clean pockets for most of the game, especially early on when he tossed his first touchdown of the day to John Metchie.
Of course, one game's improvement doesn't mean a measure of sustained consistency has been reached. The Crimson Tide will have to continue to improve at every level, especially up front on offense and in the middle fo the defense to continue this level of success.
"I hope that we can build on this," Saban said. "Guys can build on the things that they do well, understand the things that they need to improve on that they did poorly so we can continue to make progress as a team."