OXFORD, Miss. — Early in Saturday’s game, Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts had what felt like hours to throw the ball, but late in the second quarter of No. 1 Alabama’s 48-43 rout of No. 17 Ole Miss, that time ran out.
Ole Miss defender Marquis Haynes rushed unimpeded and knocked the true freshman to the ground. When Hurts stood up, he dropped his head as he watch Rebel John Youngblood return his fumble to give Ole Miss a 21-point lead.
“That fumble wasn’t his fault,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said.”… The right tackle [Jonah Williams] was supposed to block No. 30 [A.J. Moore] and he slid the wrong direction.”
It didn’t take Hurts long to make up for the mistake. Shaking off a turnover wasn’t new territory for the freshman, and he led the Crimson Tide to the end zone before 38 seconds ticked off the game clock.
“He’s a great player, a great talent,” Alabama running back Damien Harris said. “He’s really turned into a great leader. He does a great job trying to settle down the offense and keep us cool, calm and collected.”
Hurts turned in a solid performance during his first true road game that doubled as his first experience against SEC competition. He finished 19-of-31 for 158 passing yards, and he completed roughly half of the passes he threw at least 15 yards downfield.
It seemed, however, that offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin didn’t want his young quarterback taking too many deep shots against the Rebels. As a result, 11 of Hurts’ completions went for five yards or less and an additional three went for less than 10.
Even if Hurts is limited, with a possible sprained wrist suffered in the second quarter, Alabama has more than enough weapons to take care of business against Kent State and Kentucky in the next two weeks. Road trips to Arkansas and Tennessee might require more from the passing game, though.
“We just have to let him get more comfortable reading [the defense] and making quick decisions and getting the ball out of his hand,” Saban said.
It was the freshman’s legs that kept the Alabama offense moving in the right direction more often than not during Alabama’s victory. Harris also kept the offense moving in what was easily the sophomore’s best game, but Hurts still finished as the Crimson Tide’s leading rusher with 146 rushing yards on 18 carries.
Harris finished as a close second with a touchdown and 144 yards on 16 carries, but most of his damage was done on a 67-yard rush that ended with Harris being ruled down just shy of the end zone.
“We ran the same play the play before, and then coach saw something, I guess to where he thought we could run it again,” Harris said. “The whole time I was just thinking about making a play because guys out there we all try to give our all for this team.”
Together, both guys helped the offense rush for a total of 334 yards, which is highest total Alabama has recorded on the ground since rushing for 333 against Southern Mississippi in 2014, but they didn’t do it alone.
Freshman Joshua Jacobs overtook fellow back Bo Scarbrough as the Crimson Tide’s second running back to enter the game, and Jacobs made the most of his opportunities. He carried the ball three times for 33 yards.
Scarbrough did manage to find the end zone from a yard out with seconds left in the third quarter to give Alabama a 34-27 lead. It was Alabama’s first offensive touchdown since wide receiver Calvin Ridley carried it in the end zone near the end of the first half.
The defense and special teams unit took some of the pressure off of the Crimson Tide’s offense when both groups combined to score 21 points. It was the offense, though, powered primarily by Harris (four carries, 26 yards for two first downs), that allowed the Crimson Tide to run out the clock and escape Oxford, Mississippi, with its first win over the Rebels since 2013.
“The offense did a great job of taking the air out of it at the end,” Saban said. “… I thought we did a great job on offense controlling the ball.”
Source:: The Crimson White Sports