Of all the shocking developments in college football over the past few years, the most surprising is undoubtedly this: Ole Miss, one of the sport’s most historically inept programs over the past few decades, absolutely owns Alabama. Hugh Freeze has won two in a row against Nick Saban and is looking for three straight Saturday.
But for all the talk about the Rebels' success the past two years, the Crimson Tide haven’t been far from actually winning both games. Shore up some poor tackling here, don’t turn the ball over there, and Alabama might have two wins in the past two years, instead of two losses.
Just to illustrate how close these two teams have been, we’ve recapped all 17 stunning plays that led to the two upsets.
Mark Dodson’s opening kickoff sets the tone in 2014
Ole Miss’ upset of the Crimson Tide two years ago started off with a bang, when Mark Dodson took the opening kickoff 54 yards. It absolutely energized Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and set up a field goal to give the Rebels an early 3-0 lead.
Kenyan Drake suffers an injury
Although the Rebels scored first, Alabama responded with 14 straight points. The Tide seemingly had control late into the first half until Kenyan Drake went down with a gruesome ankle injury. The play not only shook up the Crimson Tide’s players emotionally, it rattled their offense. At the time Drake led the team with six total touchdowns. Bama would score just three points the rest of the game.
Evan Engram hauls in a 50-yard pass
By the second half the Crimson Tide’s offense had stalled, but the Ole Miss offense hadn’t quite gotten the spark it needed either. It came early in the third quarter when Bo Wallace hit tight end Evan Engram for this acrobatic pitch-and-catch, which resulted in a 50-yard gain.
Laquon Treadwell finds the end zone
Just two plays later, Treadwell went in for a score. A visibly frustrated Nick Saban can be seen on the sidelines fuming to defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, after defensive backs Nick Perry and Tony Brown tried to strip the ball rather than make the tackle. With the touchdown, Ole Miss cut the lead to 14-10.
O.J. Howard's big play is negated by penalties
Just a few plays after Treadwell’s touchdown grab, the Crimson Tide offense came roaring back when quarterback Blake Sims hit tight end O.J. Howard for a 53-yard gain. Alabama had all the momentum, until back-to-back penalties negated the big-gainer. The Tide had to settle for a field goal, rather than a potential TD that would have given them a 21-10 lead.
Bo Wallace hits Vince Sanders for a touchdown
The next couple series were relatively quiet, with the two teams trading four straight punts. But with under six minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, the Rebels struck. Wallace led a three-play, 34-yard scoring drive, capped by Sanders' acrobatic TD grab that tied things at 17.
Christion Jones fumbles the very next play
This definitely wasn’t how Nick Saban drew it up. After Sanders scored, Alabama return man Christion Jones fumbled the ensuing kickoff. It gave Ole Miss the ball at the Alabama 31-yard line.
Jaylen Walton gets the go-ahead score
Just five plays after Jones’ fumble, Wallace hit Jaylen Walton on a touchdown pass that turned out to be the game-winning score.
Blake Sims throws a pick to end the game
While lots of folks remember the upset in Oxford and the celebration that ensued, few remember Alabama had a chance to win late. The Crimson Tide completed a couple quick passes to get past the 50-yard line before Sims uncorked a deep ball to O.J. Howard in the end zone -- it was intercepted by Senquez Golson. Although Golson’s feet were initially believed to be out of bounds, the refs overruled the call, giving Ole Miss the ball and a stunning win.
ArDarius Stewart fumbles the opening kickoff in 2015
After the 2014 game ended on a turnover, the last thing any Alabama fan expected was a turnover to start the game a year later. ArDarius Stewart fumbled the opening kickoff in Tuscaloosa, giving Ole Miss the ball at the Alabama 17-yard line. Four plays later, Ole Miss kicked a field goal to take a 3-0 lead for the second straight year.
Cooper Bateman throws a pick
Unlike the year before, the Crimson Tide’s offense didn’t immediately come storming back after falling behind. They kicked a field goal and were driving early in the second quarter when Cooper Bateman -- who started the game in place of Jacob Coker -- threw an interception into the hands of Trae Elston. Elston returned the pick 28 yards, and six plays later Ole Miss would score to go up 10-3.
Kenyan Drake fumbles the subsequent kickoff
A year after suffering that broken ankle against Ole Miss, Drake returned from injury but had a moment he’d like to forget. On the kickoff after Ole Miss' touchdown, Drake fumbled. The Rebels recovered in scoring range.
Chad Kelly scores just four plays later
Soon after Drake’s fumble, Kelly found the end zone. It came on a designed run inside, but Kelly cut the ball outside and sprinted for the end zone. He went airborne and did just enough to get across the goal line to give the Rebels a 17-3 lead.
Quincy Adeboyejo scores on a bizarre deflection
It’s the play everyone remembers and is proof that maybe it just wasn’t Alabama’s night. It came early in the second half when Kelly dropped back in the pocket and -- faced with a pass rush -- flung the ball in the air. It probably should have been intercepted but instead bounced off Laquon Treadwell’s helmet and into Adeboyejo's hands. He rumbled 66 yards untouched into the end zone, to give Ole Miss a shocking 24-10 lead as tens of thousands of Alabama fans sat in silence.
Chad Kelly fakes out the entire Alabama defense
While everyone remembers the helmet catch, few recall the Rebels' next score. Alabama had cut the lead to 30-24, but Kelly then unleashed some magic. He took the snap, tucked it like he was going to run and -- right as Alabama’s defensive backs came up for the tackle -- he stopped and tossed the ball to Cody Core. No one was within several feet of Core, as he busted into the end zone for a 73-yard score to put the Rebels ahead 36-24.
C.J. Johnson gets a big pick
Just three plays after the Kelly-to-Core touchdown score (rhyme intended), linebacker C.J. Johnson intercepted a pass from Coker. Ole Miss scored two plays later, expanding the lead to 43-24 as fans filed out of Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Alabama's late rally falls short
Just as the fans began to leave, Alabama scored back-to-back touchdowns to cut the deficit to 43-37. But with the Crimson Tide driving, Coker got absolutely whalloped by Marquis Haynes (pictured) while throwing an interception. That was the final nail, as the Crimson Tide lost for a second straight year, 43-37.
Let’s see if Alabama has better luck when it travels to Oxford on Saturday.