Notes and observations from Alabama's 52-7 win over Ole Miss. Really, it wasn't as close as the score indicates. ...
There were many ways to highlight the differences between Ole Miss and Alabama last night, one being simply the final score, but I found this one to be interesting. Alabama rushed for 389 yards in the game. Given the fact that the Crimson Tide gives up just 39.83 rushing yards a game – an average lowered now by the fact that Ole Miss rushed for only 28 yards – it would take Alabama almost 11 games to surrender the rushing yards that Ole Miss gave up last night. That's almost an entire season.
The Rebels were giving up 193 rushing yards a game. Alabama doubled that.
Yes, it's a really good running game for Alabama, and yes Trent Richardson's a great back, but you've got to be better than what Ole Miss is showing against the run to compete. Not just to compete in the SEC, just to compete period. This is the same defense that gave up more than 200 rushing yards to Southern Illinois.
Pieces and parts were moved around to try and compete better. Defensive tackle Uriah Grant moved out to defensive end. Grant did not register a tackle, but beyond end Wayne Dorsey – whose season and career are likely over after he sustained a broken arm in the fourth quarter – few defensive linemen did. Dorsey had four tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss. Only three other tackles were credited to Ole Miss defensive linemen, one each for Justin Smith, Carlton Martin and Bryon Bennett.
Richardson was the star with 183 rushing yards – He broke more tackles on one 76-yard run than the Ole Miss defensive line interior had for the night – but Alabama's third-string back had 125 yards. Jalston Fowler was averaging just 29.5 yards a game going in.
The Rebels were outgained 615-141, and that just goes back to the two elements that separate football teams: Strength and speed.
Alabama has an abundance of both which allows it to compete at a championship level.
Ole Miss has speed in the secondary, speed at wide receiver and running back, but Alabama has just as much speed on defense. Randall Mackey had gained a few yards scrambling, but at one point last night Mackey got out on the edge. He was 1-on-1 with a defensive lineman, I forget who at this point, but the lineman just ran straight at him for a sack. Ordinarily, the quarterback can make a guy miss in that situation, but not this time.
There were other times when Ole Miss receivers on a crossing pattern would be guarded step-for-step by linebackers or caught from behind.
The Rebels tried to do some different things, showed a couple of plays Alabama hadn't seen, one with Barry Brunetti at quarterback, but those were defended too.
There were the obligatory questions afterward about suspended running back Brandon Bolden and whether he would have made a difference. He would not.
For a team that spent the two weeks after the Fresno State game talking about becoming more physical, Saturday night was a test it was destined to fail.
Perhaps it can show itself more physical against a few other teams on the schedule. Maybe that's this week against an Arkansas team that doesn't rank in the NCAA top 80 in rushing or stopping the run.
Improvement for Ole Miss, however, will depend to a degree on how it responds mentally to a week that included the suspension of its best offensive player on Thursday then the brutal beat down that followed two days later.
It's a loss that will have long-lasting effects too, as defensive starters Dorsey and Marcus
Temple (broken ankle), are likely done for the year.
Prior to last night's game I gave the Rebels a fair chance for an SEC win at Kentucky, but that looks far more problematic now.
Ole Miss has lost nine straight in the SEC and is 1-11 in its last 12 SEC games dating back to its 41-27 loss at Mississippi State in 2009.
The rest of the SEC schedule won't be as physically formidable as Alabama, but LSU will be.