Ole Miss football became the first team to hold a lead over No. 2 Alabama so far this season, but the lead didn’t last long as the Crimson Tide followed a career day by receiver DeVonta Smith to a 59-31 victory at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
It was a strong offensive day for Ole Miss. The Rebels racked up 476 yards of total offense, including 279 yards rushing—the most given up by an Alabama team since 2011. With Matt Corral sidelined with a rib injury, freshman John Rhys Plumlee made his first career start at quarterback and amassed 250 yards of total offense, including a team-high 109 on the ground. Plumlee notched one rushing score in addition to two through the air.
Defensively, the Rebels struggled to slow the explosive Alabama passing attack, but they were solid against the rush, holding the Crimson Tide below their season average with just 155 rushing yards allowed.
The Alabama offense started fast as Tua Tagovailoa hit Smith, and the Crimson Tide receiver broke free of a tackle and raced 74 yards for the score less than two minutes into the game. Smith finished with 274 yards receiving and five touchdowns.
Ole Miss was halted on 3rd-and-3 on its first drive, but Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle muffed the ensuing punt. Rebel defensive back A.J. Finley scooped it up and returned the fumble for a touchdown, but after a review, the return was called back.
Nonetheless, the Rebels made the most of the opportunity. Ole Miss kept it on the ground with seven straight rushes, and Plumlee capped the drive with his first career rushing touchdown from one yard out to tie the game at seven. It was the earliest touchdown allowed by the Alabama defense all season and just the second in the first quarter. Alabama drove into Rebel territory on the following drive, but a sack by Benito Jones put the home team behind the sticks and led to a punt.
Ole Miss went right back to the ground, starting with a 15-yard rush by Jerrion Ealy to open the drive. Elijah Moore made an acrobatic catch along the sideline for a 28-yard gain shortly thereafter. The Rebels drove all the way to the Alabama 10-yard line before settling for a field goal attempt. Luke Logan connected from 33 yards out to make it a 10-7 Rebel lead. It was the first time the Tide had trailed all season.
Ole Miss held that three-point lead through the end of the first quarter, but the second quarter was all Tide. Alabama exploded for 31 points in the second frame. Tagovailoa started it with a 7-yard rushing score before a 36-yard Joseph Bulovas field goal. Then DeVonta Smith caught three straight touchdown passes to make it a 38-10 game at the half.
Smith scored another touchdown for Alabama out of the break, but Ole Miss responded to end its scoring drought. Plumlee ran for one first down on the drive and made two key connections through the air. He hit Jonathan Mingo for a 32-yard gain, and on the following play, Mingo drew a pass interference call on Patrick Surtain II to push the Rebels into scoring position. From there, Ealy ran twice before hauling in a 9-yard touchdown reception from Plumlee, the first scoring reception of the freshman’s career.
The Rebel defense came up with a stop on the following series as Bulovas knocked a 28-yard field goal attempt off the right upright. However, Alabama blocked a Mac Brown punt on the next possession and recovered it in the end zone.
Ole Miss continued to battle, though, following strong play by a few freshmen. Rookie running back Snoop Conner recorded runs of 26 and 18 yards to bring the Rebels across midfield as the third quarter came to a close. Early in the final frame, Plumlee found Mingo for the freshman’s first career touchdown.
The Rebels got one more for the road as Grant Tisdale made his first career appearance at quarterback. The freshman connected with two fellow newcomers for big gains on the drive. He found Dannis Jackson for a 28-yard connection. The very next play, he hit Jadon Jackson for a 28-yard score, the first career touchdown for both Tisdale and Jackson.