Sep 17, 2016; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels fans cheer during the second quarter of the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Alabama won 48-43. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
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The Rebels failed to take a third-straight victory from the Alabama Crimson Tide, here is what we learned from the loss.
The Ole Miss football team faced the Alabama Crimson Tide today in Oxford, MS and failed to take a third-straight win from the Tide. The Rebels took a lead over the Crimson Tide early in the game and squandered another golden opportunity.
Just like in the Florida State game, the Rebels took a 24-3 lead in the first half, allowed the opposing team to score late in the 2nd quarter, and then they lose the game in the second half.
The Rebels have proved that they can play with the big dogs like Alabama and Florida State, but have yet to show that they can defeat the powerhouses this season.
Today’s loss was kinda serene. The moment was coming that the Rebels would stop beating the Tide, and today was that day. While after most losses, I would be upset. But today I am not.
While that seems odd, and it probably is, I find it reassuring.
So what did today’s loss teach us? Here are three things I learned from the loss to the Crimson Tide.
Sep 17, 2016; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels linebacker Terry Caldwell (21) makes the Landshark sign during the second quarter of the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Alabama won 48-43. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
The Rebels defense is still legit
The Ole Miss defense has come to be known as the Landshark D as of late. The Landsharks have not been playing at the level they have come to be known for, though.
When playing FSU, the defense played well in the first half, but had some breakdowns in the back-end. This same issue hurt the Rebels today against Alabama, but the defensive line looked very improved and the defensive backs looked better.
Tony Conner looked like a brand new player on defense. He finally looks healthy, which is something the Rebels have to have going forward.
The Rebels finally forced a turnover for a touchdown, with John Youngblood returning a fumble for a touchdown in the second quarter.
The defense did allow 492 yards as well as 48 points, which is not ideal, but the defense did look improved from the past two weeks.
Part of that is due to the offense finally stringing together some resemblance of an offense. The time of possession finally swayed the Rebels way. The Rebs held the ball for 24:37 minutes out of the 60, a huge improvement from the past games.
If the defense can keep this up, the Rebels should be fine.
Sep 17, 2016; Oxford, MS, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide defensive back Eddie Jackson (4) returns a kick during the third quarter of the game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Alabama won 48-43. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
The special teams needs some work
The special teams unit looked bad today. From allowing Eddie Jackson to return a punt for a touchdown, to repeated kicks to Trevon Diggs who averaged 26 yards per return.
Nathan Noble kicked a crucial kickoff out-of-bounds, giving the Tide to ball at the 50-yard line. Without both of these errors, the momentum heads the Rebels way.
With some work on kick and punt coverage, the Rebels can improve this. The loss of Channing Ward on the special teams unit has shown to be a problem for the team.
On the return unit for the Rebels, they have to learn when to let a punt go and when to return it. No more running side-to-side, just catch the ball and run forward.
The Rebels did a good job punting the ball, but the Will Gleeson rugby style kick proved to be ineffective. The best punter in today’s game was quarterback Chad Kelly, who punted a ball 49 yards, which landed inside the 20-yard line.
Sep 17, 2016; Oxford, MS, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze walks onto the field to check on an injured player during the first quarter of the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports
Ole Miss can still win the SEC, but it will be tough
The Rebels are still looking for their first power-5 win this season after two losses to Florida State and Alabama, but the Rebels are still in a good position. They just have to hope for Alabama to lose two SEC games, and the Rebels have to win out.
The West is shaping up to be one of the toughest divisions in football, but the Rebels could navigate it with some changes.
Chad Kelly has to step up and protect the ball, make the throws, and run the ball effectively. The defense has to step up, especially in the defensive backfield.
The schedule shapes up nicely for the Rebels now. The next matchup is with Georgia, a team that struggled with Nicholls and Missouri. The Rebels should win that game.
After that, the rest of the schedule is Memphis, Arkansas, LSU, Auburn, Georgia Southern, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi State.
Ole Miss should handle business in all of these games. The only matchup that scares me is the Arkansas game in Fayetteville.
But Ole Miss has to prove to me that they can put together a complete game before I can say they are a good team.