No. 17 Rebels Come Up Short Against No. 1 Tide
Sept. 17, 2016
OXFORD, Miss. - Senior quarterback Chad Kelly threw for a career-high 421 yards and three touchdowns, including two in the final three minutes of action, but No. 17 Ole Miss dropped its Southeastern Conference opener 48-43 to No. 1 Alabama in front of a school record crowd of 66,176 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday.
Trailing 48-30 with 2:59 left in regulation, Kelly found wideout Damore'ea Stringfellow in the corner of the endzone to pull Ole Miss to within 48-37. Ole Miss then recovered the onside kick and Kelly hooked up with freshman wide receiver A.J. Brown on the next play from 37 yards out for the touchdown strike. The Rebels failed on the two-point conversion, but pulled to within 48-43 with 2:51 to go.
Ole Miss kicked deep on the ensuing kickoff, but Alabama converted on a 3rd-and-inches from the Ole Miss 45-yard line to hang on for the win. Kelly completed 26-of-41 attempted for 421 yards and three TDs, while adding 48 yards on the ground.
In a back-and-forth game that featured a bit of everything, the Rebels took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards on seven plays in just under two minutes to grab a 7-0 lead. Kelly found tight end Evan Engram for a seven-yard gain on third and long to keep the drive alive, then hooked up with Engram again on a 25-yard pass over the middle to set Ole Miss up in Crimson Tide territory. Two plays later, senior Akeem Judd busted off a 23-yard rush up the middle for the early touchdown. Engram tied a career-high with nine receptions for 138 yards and one score.
Alabama responded back with a 17-play, 61 yard drive that took 7:13 off the clock. The Tide converted three-straight third downs, but with the ball on the Ole Miss 14-yard line Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts missed a wide open Hale Hentges in the end zone. The Crimson Tide settled for a 32-yard field goal from Adam Griffith to cut the Rebel lead to 7-3 with 5:47 to go in the first quarter.
Following a three and out by the Rebels, Alabama took over on their own 48-yard line and marched down to the Ole Miss 29. Facing a 3-and-10, Hurts overthrew his target and Griffith missed from 47 yards out to leave the score 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.
After an eight-yard Alabama punt, Ole Miss took over on their own 44 with 9:20 to go in the first half. Kelly found Stringfellow for 44 yards over the middle down to the Crimson Tide 12. The Rebel offense stalled in the redzone, but kicker Gary Wunderlich connected from 23 yards out to push the Ole Miss lead to 10-3.
On the next Ole Miss drive facing a 2nd-and-8 from their 37 with 4:40 to go in the quarter, Kelly faked the pitch to Judd and found Engram wide open down the sideline for a 63-yard touchdown strike that gave Ole Miss a 17-3 lead.
The Landshark defense then got into the action after end Marquis Haynes came unblocked and leveled Hurts to force a fumble. John Youngblood picked up the loose ball and raced 44 yards for the touchdown to give Ole Miss a 24-3 lead with 2:47 to go in the half.
Following a personal foul and an out-of-bounds kick, the Tide took over at midfield and went 44 yards in two plays on a 22-yard completion and 22-yard rush by Hurts to the Ole Miss six. Calvin Ridley punched it in on next play to cut the Rebel advantage to 24-10 with 2:10 left in the first half.
The Rebels then went three-and-out on the next series and Eddie Jackson returned Will Gleeson's punt 85 yards a touchdown to pull the Tide to within 24-17 to close the half.
Alabama tied the game at 24 in the third quarter after Kelly was hit at the Ole Miss one-yard line and fumbled the ball. Da'Ron Payne recovered for the Tide in the endzone for the score. Griffith added a 30-yard field goal with 6:03 left in the third quarter to give the Tide their first lead of the day 27-24.
Kelly led the Rebels right back down the field and answered with a beautiful pass between two defenders to Stringfellow down to the Alabama one-yard line. The Crimson Tide defense held the Rebels out of the endzone after three scores were overturned on the drive, but Wunderlich tied the game at 27 with an 18-yard field goal with 1:47 left in the third.
The Tide responded with a four-play, 75 yard drive, highlighted by a 67-yard run by Damien Harris, that was capped by a one-yard TD plunge by Bo Scarborough that gave Alabama a 34-27 lead.
Kelly once again led the Rebels down the field to the Alabama 21-yard line, but failed to convert a 3rd-and-long after rushing up the middle for nine yards. Wunderlich converted his third field goal of the game, this time from 38 yards out, to pull Ole Miss within four 34-30.
Alabama added a touchdown run later in the fourth quarter and return an interception for a touchdown to go up 48-30 before the Ole Miss comeback.
Ole Miss continues its four-game homestand with the Georgia Bulldogs next Saturday. The game will kickoff at 11 a.m. and will be televised on ESPN.
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