Photo Courtesy of Alabama Athletics.
The Rebels, Bulldogs, and Golden Eagles all faced disappointing losses on Saturday, with serious questions lingering as they head deeper into conference play.
A Tale of Two Halves
Dashing expectations, Ole Miss fell to Alabama 24-10 in a game marked by anemic offense.
Coming off three solid performances to start the season, Ole Miss fans wondered if this year might be the year to conquer Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide. Those visions of sugar plums were no doubt bolstered by the fact that Alabama, for once, looked pedestrian in a loss to Texas and in a lackluster win against South Florida.
Rumors of Saban’s potential retirement and Lane Kiffin’s X (Twitter) activity added intrigue.
For one sloppy half of uninspiring football, it looked like the Rebels might have a shot. The Tide got on the board first with a field goal, followed by an impressive Rebels drive that gave them a 7-3 lead. Alabama would tack on another field goal to go into half with Ole Miss up 7-6.
It was a tale of two halves. Alabama made adjustments at halftime. A running game that was bottled up for just over a yard a carry in the first half exploded in the second half. Jalen Milroe hit some explosive pass plays downfield and Saban’s bunch added 18 points down the stretch.
While the Tide found another gear, Ole Miss’s offense sputtered, managing just 3 points in the second half. Down two scores with over 8 minutes left in the fourth quarter, a team known for a fast paced offense slowed to a crawl.
The Rebels continued trying to run the ball despite being routinely stuffed. They bled the clock and put Jaxson Dart in several difficult 3rd and 4th and long situations. Last year’s world beater, Quinshon Judkins, continued his sophomore slump. The running back who put up over 1,500 yards last year has amassed just over 200 yards through four games this season.
The Rebels will face another tough opponent when LSU heads to town next week. The Tigers were pushed to the brink by the Arkansas Razorbacks Saturday night in a nailbiter that finished 34-31.
Rogers Shows Life in Loss
Mississippi State lost to the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday night, 37-30, but showed signs of life and identity under first year head coach Zach Arnett.
Will Rogers, who put up over 8,700 yards and 71 touchdowns in the last two seasons in a Mike Leach offense, had struggled in the first three games of the year. He came into the contest with South Carolina with under 500 yards passing and a quarterback rating under 50.
After three weeks of trying to establish themselves as a running football team, the Bulldogs let the ball fly.
On Saturday, Rogers basically matched his first three games performance, slinging the ball for 487 yards. He showed accuracy on some intermediate and deep routes, averaging over 10 yards a pass. The only real downsides to Rogers game on Saturday were an interception and fumble.
Rogers passing performance was good to push him past Tennessee’s Peyton Manning, Florida’s Chris Leak, and Georgia’s David Greene for third all-time in the SEC for yards passing.
Unfortunately, Spencer Rattler was near perfect for the Gamecocks. The Oklahoma transfer went 18-of-20 for 288 yards and three touchdowns. Rattler added 43 yards rushing to his performance.
South Carolina had 99 and 98 yard touchdowns to start the game. Mississippi State never caught up.
The Bulldogs will face Alabama next week at home. It will be interesting to see if they can build on their passing success against South Carolina and capitalize where Ole Miss could not.
Eagles Fail to Launch Against Red Wolves
Arkansas State beat the University of Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles 44-37 on Saturday night. The loss drops the Golden Eagles to 1-3 and has some fans understandably on edge about the health of the program in its third year under head coach Will Hall.
Southern Miss quarterback Billy Wiles threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns, but also two interceptions. Standout running back Frank Gore, Jr. added 132 yards on the ground. It was not enough.
The Golden Eagles tied the game early in the fourth quarter, 34-34, but could not finish. Arkansas State’s true freshman signal caller, Jaylen Raynor, three for three touchdowns and ran for two more in his first start of the season.
Raynor scored on 62 yard run to put the Red Wolves up 44-34 with 2:28 left to play in the fourth. Southern Miss would add a field goal with 16 seconds left on the clock, but failed to recover the ensuing onside kick.
After a slow 3-9 start in year 1, Hall’s Golden Eagles bounced back to put together a 7-win season that included a win in the Lending Tree Bowl last year. Through 2 and 1/3 seasons, Hall is 11-18. Southern Miss will look to bounce back and quiet some critics with back-to-back home games against Texas State and Old Dominion in the coming weeks.