TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Last year’s loss to Ole Miss sticks with Alabama cornerback Minkah Fitzpatrick.
The Rebels spoiled the Crimson Tide’s chances at a perfect season in Fitzpatrick’s freshman year. He doesn’t want the chance at another undefeated run ruined this time around.
“It’s kind of about respect,” Fitzpatrick said. “The last two years, they haven’t respected us because they beat us the last two years. Now it’s about getting that respect back and just like I said, earn it back.”
Fitzpatrick and Alabama travel to Oxford, Miss., on Saturday for a date with Ole Miss. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The Rebels have beaten Alabama the last two years, including a 23-17 victory the last time the two teams met in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Ole Miss won a 43-37 contest last year in Tuscaloosa. Alabama turned the ball over five times. Two of those came on kickoff returns before the offense could even get on the field. All of Alabama’s mistakes stick with senior defensive lineman Jonathan Allen.
“The mental errors, we completely lost that game,” Allen said. “It was completely on us, we had too many turnovers, too many busted assignments, that’s the biggest thing from last year.”
No program has beaten Alabama in three straight years during coach Nick Saban’s tenure. The emotions are going to be high for both sides. Saban wants the players to focus more on execution than emotions because emotion ultimately doesn’t last.
“I think the focus for us needs to be on better execution; I talked about this after the game and after viewing the film,” Saban said. “When we have issues, when we give up plays on defense, when we have negative plays on offense, it really comes from the fact that our fundamental execution is not really what it needs to be. I think that we have to spend the time in practice to get the fundamental execution that we need. I think this helps everyone play better, it benefits everybody, and I think it benefits the unit that you play on. Playing in the SEC, playing against better teams, playing on the road; all these things are definitely things we need to emphasize and improve on.”
Defending Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly and the Rebels’ high-powered offensive attack is priority No. 1 for Alabama’s defense.
Kelly has thrown for 532 yards and 7 touchdowns while completing 62 percent (41-of-66) of his passes this season. Last year, Kelly led the SEC with 311 passing yards per game. He threw for 4,042 yards and 31 touchdowns overall.
Kelly threw for 341 yards and 3 touchdowns in Ole Miss’ 43-37 win in Tuscaloosa last season. He also rushed for a touchdown.
“He’s an outstanding passer. He’s very accurate with the ball. He knows this offense very well,” Saban said. “He has the ability to extend plays. He’s a really good competitor and he’s sort of a playmaker type guy. And the combination of those things make him very effective in terms of what they do. It’s going to be important that we do a good job pushing the pocket on him, not letting him scramble around, but at the same time affecting him where he can’t be as good a passer as he’s capable of. We do that with good coverage as well as good pass coverage.”