By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – The Ole Miss offensve has put up a lot of yards and points this season, but the Rebels’ most important validation came with what they were able to accomplish against the top defense in the SEC on the road.
A 215-yard game isn’t cause for celebration, but it may be cause for confidence.
Alabama was allowing fewer than six points a game and had come within three minutes of three-straight shutouts when Florida Atlantic scored late against the reserves last week.
Offensive coordinator Dan Werner said he the staff will emphasize the positives from a 33-14 setback against the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide in preparation for a visit from Texas Aamp&M this week.
“We had some shining moments,” he said. “We had a couple of really good drives against a defense that nobody drives it against. If we can be consistent we can be tough to stop.”
The Rebels’ two touchdown drives covered 75 and 70 yards.
When running back Jeff Scott scored on a 1-yard run in the second quarter Ole Miss had a 7-6 lead after the PAT. It was Alabama’s first deficit since trailing against LSU last November.
The Rebels rushed for only 80 yards, but that was 18 yards more than the Crimson Tide has allowed on average.
There were too many negative-yardage plays, however, and those were the drive-killers. Alabama had five sacks and eight tackles for loss.
“A team that’s going to play in long yardage better be good at throwing the football,” Werner said. “We’re good on first and second down, but to sit back there when everybody knows you’re throwing it, we have done a very good job. We’ve got to stay out of those third-and-long situations.”
The Rebels used three quarterbacks in the game, and Werner liked the way things worked out.
Randall Mackey – last year’s starting quarterback – remains a running back, and there’s where he was when he scored on a 12-yard rush around the right end in the third quarter.
But Mackey took plenty of snaps behind center, throwing one of the Rebels’ three interceptions when he tried to get the ball down field to wide receiver Donte Moncrief.
Bo Wallace, playing with a bruised shoulder, was 15 for 26 passing for 123 yards with two interceptions. Barry Brunetti was 4 for 6 passing and really didn’t hurt Alabama in the run game.
But Werner thought the offensive line showed improvement in its physicality, and the Rebels had some nice gains on the ground before the minus yardage factored in.
“You can see that when we’re doing things the way we want to, we’re moving the ball,” Werner said. “We’re on the right track. I think our guys are ready to stand toe to toe with just about anybody.”