Alabama’s biggest questions entering Saturday night’s game against Ole Miss were in the backfield. Who would play quarterback? And would that QB step up for the Tide?
Thus far, neither of those questions have really been answered.
The Crimson Tide trail the Rebels, 17-10, at half after committing three turnovers and playing two quarterbacks — with mixed results.
Sophomore Cooper Bateman made his first career start after much ado in the pregame, and he made some nice throws before tossing a bad pick and ultimately failing to guide the Tide into the end zone.
Facing a 17-3 deficit, coach Nick Saban switched to senior Jake Coker, who started the Tide’s first two games. He responded by leading the team on a 16-play, 75-yard drive that featured a clutch third-down run by Coker and concluded with a leaping TD catch-and-run by Richard Mullaney.
Ole Miss’ high-powered offense has not been overly impressive, either; the Rebels picked up all 17 of their points off Alabama turnovers.
Those scoring drives were two yards (Gary Wunderlich field goal), 26 yards (Jordan Wilkins TD run) and 18 yards (Chad Kelly TD run), respectively.
“They got all 17 of the points off of turnovers and great field position,” Saban said at halftime. “That’s the story of the game. We’re not playing great on offense. We got to do a better job, be more consistent. But you know that was a good drive that we finished the half with so maybe we can build some momentum off that.”
Keys to second half:
1. Alabama needs to hang on to the football
Ole Miss has not proved much on offense; Alabama just continues to give the Rebels a short field. The Crimson Tide (minus-3 in the turnover battle) need to take care of the ball and build on the momentum of a late first-half touchdown.
2. The Tide defense can bend, but it can’t break
Kelly and the Ole Miss offense put up 149 combined points in the first two weeks. While their opponents (Tennessee-Martin and Fresno State) were not world-class, the Rebels have proved that they can score quickly. Alabama needs to limit big plays and give its (rather slow-moving) offense a chance to climb back into the contest.
3. Adam Griffith needs to lock in
Doesn’t it feel like this game will come down to the most criticized man in Tuscaloosa? Griffith has struggled this year (1-for-5 on field goals after hitting a short one tonight), and a close game such as this one will likely be determined by a leg. Griffith can make a lot of ill will disappear if he hits a big kick to tie the game or take the lead.