Mississippi is on the rise again after knocking off Alabama in a game full of turnovers and lucky bounces.
The Rebels ran off to a big lead and then held on for a 43-37 win in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night that made a huge impression in the college football rankings.
The victory saw Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) jump 12 spots to No. 3 in the AP Top 25 poll Sunday.
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It’s the second straight season the Rebels look capable of making a serious run in the SEC West. Last year’s surprising hot start, though, fizzled late in the season after close losses and key injuries.
The Rebels say they’re ready to be one of the nation’s elite after their first win in Tuscaloosa since 1988.
”It feels so comfortable, the team’s so comfortable with each other, and we’re not worried about anybody else or even the West rankings,” Ole Miss defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. ”We’re just worried about being in this moment and savoring it. Everybody’s believing it.”
It’s easy to understand why Ole Miss feels so confident.
The offense has scored at least 43 points in three straight games for the first time. Transfer quarterback Chad Kelly was superb in his first big game, throwing for 341 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.
Laquon Treadwell leads a deep group of receivers that includes Cody Core, Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore’ea Stringfellow. Treadwell made his first big play since breaking a leg last year, catching a 24-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter that gave the Rebels a 43-24 lead.
There’s also the defense. It gave up some points and yards to Alabama, but also forced five turnovers. Tony Bridges had a crucial interception in the fourth quarter to end one Tide drive in the fourth quarter. The Rebels played solid team defense in the final minute, forcing Alabama’s Jake Coker into four straight incompletions to seal the victory.
And then, of course, there was a little luck.
Adeboyejo’s 66-yard touchdown catch was on a ball Kelly probably shouldn’t have thrown. He flung the ball into the air as he was about to be sacked and the ball was tipped before Adeboyejo came down with it and outran everyone to the end zone.
”I grabbed it, and everything from there, I just had to go score,” Adeboyejo said.
Now Ole Miss is among the early favorites to win the West.
The Rebels have a fairly manageable schedule over the next month, though road games against Florida and Memphis could be tricky.
”Our schedule’s still really tough,” Ole Miss running back Jordan Wilkins said. ”We’ve got to keep rolling. We’re all excited, but this definitely showed what we’re capable of doing.”
AP Sports Writer John Zenor in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, contributed to this story.
Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP . AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org .