Coker…Bateman…Coker…Bateman? “Aaaahhhh!!!” Are what the fans in Tuscaloosa. The frustration at quarterback mounts for the Tide. It was a position of interest at the beginning of the season and it’s officially become an issue for Nick Saban. Who will be the starter? Saban decided to go with the youngster from Utah, Cooper Bateman. He played solidly in the Tide’s first two games when he was put in to play. Was that enough preparation before facing a different sort of beast in the Ole Miss defense.
If you haven’t heard of him before and you are outside of Oxford, Mississippi keep your ears open because his name will funnel air waves across the nation. Defensive end Robert Nkemdiche disrupted the offensive line of Alabama throughout the night on Saturday. If he didn’t get the tackle for loss he was the cause of a play getting blown up with great penetration. Can you say Ndamukong Suh? He’s that kind of player and oh yeah, he has an older brother named Denzel that plays linebacker who’s not bad himself.
What is the one underlying stat that coaches want to win at the end of a game that can make the difference between a win and a loss? That’s right. The turnover battle. When you’re the top team turning the ball over can lead to an upset. Not that this win for Ole Miss could be considered an upset since the Rebels beat Alabama last season in Oxford. It was the way it was done that drew attention.
Five. Count them, five turnovers for the Crimson Tide and the Rebels took advantage of every opportunity that was given to them. It’s one thing to turn the ball over if you have a good enough defense to fix the collateral damage you may have caused, but that is a very low percentage. The Rebels scored 24 points off of four of the ‘Bama turnovers. The Tide couldn’t have made it any easier for the Rebels to score, turning the ball over in plus territory.
Opening kickoff, ArDarius Stewart fumbles which turns into a field goal. An interception by Cooper Bateman results in a touchdown for the Rebels. Ensuing kickoff Kenyan Drake fumbles the ball which yielded another touchdown and just like that from a 3-3 game; it’s 17-3. An interception by Jake Coker lead to a touchdown. These were back breaking plays, not only did it put points on the board, but it also took the momentum and the crowd out of the game for Alabama.
Jake Coker came in and provided the lift that Alabama needed in the first half. He was able to lead the Tide on a 16-play drive that led to a touchdown just before the end of the first half to close the gap to 17-10. He made some good reads, but the pressure of the Ole Miss defense prompted some errant throws, two interceptions with one leading to a Rebels’ touchdown.
Not only do turnonvers play a role in trying to complete an upset. Sometimes you need a little luck and a few bounces to go your way. None more evident than the opening drive for Ole Miss in the third quarter. On third-and-one at their own 34 yard line, a bad snap off of the shoulder of quarterback Chad Kelly he was able to scoop the ball off the ground with ‘Bama defenders in their grasps, Kelly flung the pass towards his receiver Laquon Treadwell. The receiver was sandwiched between two ‘Bama defenders; deflected off his hand, off the back of Alabama safety Minkah Fitzpatrick up in the air into the hands of Quincy Adeboyejo. The receiver for Ole Miss who took it in for a touchdown. The people in Athens, Georgia have seen that type of play before, the “Miracle in Jordan-Hare” comes to mind. That’s when you know that things are going your way if you’re an Ole Miss fan.
Like any Nick Saban team they went on to fight to the end. Despite all the turnovers and the freaky bounces going the way of the Rebels, Alabama still had an opportunity to get the win with a touchdown late in the game. Once again, the pressure of the Ole Miss defensive line got to Jake Coker. Taking a big hit just as he threw, made the ball fall short of it’s intended target and was intercepted by Tony Bridges of Ole Miss to seal the victory for the Rebels.