Scouting Alabama: The Ole Miss Game

I’m not really a scout.  I don’t regularly sit around watching game tape or the All-22’s or whathaveyou.  I’m just a fan with a semi-coherent knowledge of the game beyond the Washington Huskies.  I don’t know if I’ve seen a single Alabama game this whole year!  I might have had part of the Iron Bowl, or the SEC Championship Game, on in the background, with the volume off, on a second television, occasionally glancing over to see Alabama do more Alabama things en route to convincing victories.  So, you know, it’s not like I’m some expert or anything.

In looking at their schedule, it appears there were only two games one might consider “close”.  In early November, Bama went down to LSU and came away with a 10-0 victory.  I have a vague recollection of that game being 0-0 forever before Alabama scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter and it feeling like that was all they needed.  So, if you’re looking for a way to hang in there with Bama, shutting them out for three quarters behind a strong defensive performance is one way to do it.

The other “close” game was much earlier in the season, as Alabama travelled to Ole Miss and came away with a 48-43 victory.  “Close” in quotes because Bama went up 48-30 late in the fourth quarter before giving up some quick garbage-time points.  Nevertheless, Ole Miss was in this one, and very well could have prevailed if it weren’t for some untimely turnovers and even untimelier special teams breakdowns.

At one point, very late in the second quarter, Ole Miss was up 24-3.  A personal foul on the previous touchdown they scored meant that Alabama had excellent field position on the subsequent drive.  It took Bama 3 plays and less than 40 seconds to score a touchdown, which allowed them enough time to force a 3 & Out, which led to Ole Miss giving up a punt return touchdown.  It was 24-17 at halftime, and things got much worse for Ole Miss from there.

On their first drive of the second half, Ole Miss was sacked and the fumble was returned for a touchdown to tie the game.  Ole Miss would go on to give up a go-ahead field goal before mounting a significant, game-changing drive.  In this game, Bama gave up a number of deep balls through the air, which bodes well for a team like Washington.  Ole Miss would get the ball down to the Alabama 1-yard line, trailing by 3 points, for first & goal.  A run for no-gain, a false start, and a loss of two yards put Ole Miss at 3rd & goal from the 8 yard line before a 7-yard scramble by the quarterback put the ball back at the one, at which point they settled for the field goal and the tie.

Bama scored a quick TD behind a long run, followed by an Ole Miss field goal to make it 34-30.  Bama would score another TD behind a long run by their quarterback, before Ole Miss mounted another drive into enemy territory.  They ended up coughing the ball up and Bama returned it for a 75-yard touchdown to put the game out of reach.

Or so it appeared.  Ole Miss got a quick TD, recovered an onside kick, and scored another TD in one play.  That made the game 48-43 with Ole Miss holding all three of their time outs.  Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be, as Bama killed the rest of the clock on seven consecutive runs.

Alabama ran for 334 yards in this game on 48 carries.  Their quarterback, Jalen Hurts, led the way with 146 yards on 18 carries; running back Damien Harris had 144 yards on 16 carries.  Alabama held the ball for over 35 minutes and I feel like that’s what’s going to have to happen if the Huskies want to beat this team.

Ole Miss was able to force Alabama to punt 5 times.  And they REALLY made them work for a lot of their offensive scoring drives.  17 plays to get a field goal in the first quarter.  Another 9 plays to miss a field goal.  Another 10 plays for a field goal in the second half.  You’re doomed to be overwhelmed by Bama if you let them gash you for big plays.  And it’s going to be even worse if you turn the ball over or give up huge plays on special teams.

You don’t get to where Alabama is by playing sloppy.  The Huskies will have to keep it clean.  Pristine.  That means, as I just mentioned, not giving up huge plays on defense (those huge plays are more likely to come from the running game, so that’s something to keep in mind); not giving up huge returns on kickoffs or punts.  That also means not shooting yourselves in the foot with penalties.  Ole Miss didn’t have a ton of penalties – 6 for 65 yards – but on some of their punting drives, they had penalties that put them behind the sticks.  You’re not going to get very far if you’re constantly behind schedule.  And particularly on that drive I talked about above – where they got to the 1-yard line – you’ve got to get that ball in the endzone.  Settling for field goals against Alabama is a great way to ultimately lose to Alabama.

But, like I said, there are yards to be had.  Ole Miss’ quarterback threw for 421 yards on the day, completing only 26/40, with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.  Ole Miss had completions of:

  • 25
  • 44
  • 63
  • 32
  • 22
  • and 37 yards

You pick nearly any successful Husky football game this year, you’re going to find performances much like this.  Jake Browning completing multiple deep balls.  The offense efficiently picking apart teams and putting points up in bunches.  With the run game unlikely to gain much traction – Ole Miss only managing 101 yards on 33 carries – as I’ve said before, the Huskies are going to have to win this one on the arm of Browning.  Ole Miss damn near did it, and that gives me hope because our defense is better, our special teams SHOULD be better, and even though it’ll be tough sledding, our running game is better than that of Ole Miss.

It sounds like a simple formula:  hold their running game in check, limit the big plays, take care of business on special teams, and hit them deep through the air.  But, I’m sure that’s what most teams aimed to do against Alabama, and look at where it got them.

The Ole Miss game proves they’re vulnerable.  That’s what we’ve got to keep in mind here.  It’s up to the offense!  And, if they’re up to the task, we should hang with ’em.  Had Ole Miss protected the football better, they likely would’ve escaped with a win.  You’re not going to score against Bama every time; there will be plenty of punts by the Huskies.  So, you’ve got to take advantage of the scoring opportunities that you create.

And, as the Huskies are one of the best teams at forcing turnovers, just know that those are at your disposal as well.  For as solid as Bama is offensively, they still fumbled a ball against Ole Miss that led directly to points for the other team.  If we can force Jalen Hurts into lots of passing situations, we should hopefully force him into some ill-advised decisions.

For anyone who’s interested, the game is on YouTube.  In under 41 minutes to boot!

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