Just a week ago, Jake Coker and Derrick Henry made their victory lap around University of Phoenix Stadium with their new national title gear on. The Crimson Tide had dismantled the previously undefeated No. 1 Clemson Tigers and had claimed its 16th national title. Alabama had finally proven it was the best team in the nation, and the memories of the Ole Miss loss had finally faded.
Many who watched that championship game thought, “How in the world did this team lose to Ole Miss – the same team that lost to an AAC team (Memphis)?” Well, there were many factors that played into the loss, but there were three things in particular that sealed Alabama’s fate that September night.
The Ole Miss game was the third game of the season. After many key players graduated or left for the draft the year before, Alabama was still trying to figure out what kind of team it wanted to be in 2015. The coaches had still not chosen a quarterback, defensive backs were trying new positions under a new secondary coach, and with Amari Cooper gone, there was not a primary target for whichever quarterback was going to play.
After Jake Coker started the first two games and had a subpar performance, coach Nick Saban decided to start Cooper Bateman instead. Bateman didn’t play poorly, but after an interception, Coker came into the game. Down 17-3, Coker brought the team back and gave the Crimson Tide a chance to win, but it was too little, too late. After the game, Alabama had finally decided on Coker, and the team was behind him as well.
Turnovers are a key to every football game. Rarely does a team lose the turnover battle and win the game. Alabama not only lost the turnover battle, but it lost the battle 5-0. Ole Miss capitalized on the good field position as well, scoring 24 points off turnovers. The Alabama defense in turn had less time to recover from the previous drive and had to battle the tough field position. Coker threw four interceptions in the first four games, but just threw the same amount in the last ten games. In the last five games, he threw zero.
After the Memphis loss, everyone stopped caring about Chad Kelly, but the junior had a breakout season. Kelly, the nephew of pro football hall of famer Jim Kelly, transferred from a junior college and won the starting job out of camp. Kelly finished the season fourth in the nation for total quarterback rating with 87.0. He also led the SEC with 4,042 yards passing and 31 touchdowns. Kelly also rushed for 500 yards and 10 touchdowns, creating a total of 4,541 total yards, which is good for the third-most total yards in an SEC season since 1956. Only Johnny Manziel’s 2012 and 2013 seasons rank higher. Kelly was awarded second-team All-SEC. The point is he could play, and in this game he did.
Kelly dominated with 341 yards and three touchdowns passing while rushing for a fourth. He had an excellent game and took advantage of a week three secondary that had new faces and players in new positions. Kelly is the kind of dual-threat quarterback that plays well against the Alabama defense (e.g. Deshaun Watson’s 478 total yards and four touchdowns performance in the championship game).
Source:: The Crimson White Sports