FRIDAY FLASHBACK: Ole Miss - Alabama 1988

OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM Shawn Sykes scores one of his two TDs against the Tide in Tuscaloosa.
Shawn Sykes scores one of his two TDs against the Tide in Tuscaloosa.

Sept. 27, 2013

FRIDAY FLASHBACK rewinds to some of the memorable Ole Miss games from this week's all-time series. This week features the Rebels' stunning 22-12 win over Alabama in Tuscaloosa, on a day that the Crimson Tide had homecoming on campus and held dedication ceremonies for the Paul W. Bryant Museum.

Rebels take some history from Tuscaloosa: a museum-quality comeback stuns Tide

By Mike Fleming, Commercial Appeal

October 9, 1988 

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - On a sunny, cool day set aside for the dedication of Paul “Bear” Bryant Museum and, yawn, another homecoming win for Alabama, something dreadful happened to the Tide’s festive plans.

An Ole Miss offense that Rebel fans had waited for all season finally arrived and exploded in 12th-ranked Alabama’s face for a stunning 22-12 upset Saturday.

Rebel tailback Shawn Sykes scored touchdowns on runs of 53 and 12 yards to spark the win.  Saturday marked the first rushing touchdowns for the Rebs since the season opener against Memphis State.

Although the smallest portion of the 70,123 rooted for Ole Miss, their noisy, foot-stomping celebration as the clock ticked away filled Bryant-Denny Stadium with Rebel yells long after the issue was settled.

Rebel players even stood in front of their happy partisans after the game, soaking up the well-deserved congratulations.

It was being called one of Ole Miss’s biggest wins and for Rebel coach Billy Brewer it was good enough for him to say afterward, “We can live off this one for a long, long time.”

For Brewer, it was special in more ways than just being his 53rd birthday.

Ole Miss had never won in Tuscaloosa. The Rebs were 0-14 coming in here on Saturday and 18-point underdogs.

Brewer said he would put this one in a “special, special place” in his memories, particularly coming off a 3-8 year in 1987.

“We were coming off (NCAA) probation, we were gutted last year, we lost support and everybody was questioning everybody from the coaches to who parked the cars,” Brewer said in the Rebs’ locker room.

“I feel like we were having to start over (in 1988) with my back to the wall. This couldn’t be bigger.”

There have been a lot of big wins in Ole Miss’s rich tradition, and Saturday long-time Rebel fans were ranking this one with a 21-14 win over Maryland in 1952, a 20-13 win over Notre Dame in 1977, and a 21-19 upset of LSU in 1986.

Ole Miss (2-3, 1-2 in the Southeastern Conference) will play its first game of the season in Oxford Saturday against Arkansas State. Alabama (3-1, 2-1 in the Southeastern Conference) is at Tennessee.

For Tide coach Bill Curry, the loss was devastating. Under fire before the season, his team escaped with a 31-27 win at Kentucky and blew a 12-0 lead against Ole Miss.

“There’s really nothing to say about this game,” Curry said. “We got whipped. They shut us down offensively – literally we deserve what we got. We were not prepared.”

Alabama was 0-for-11 passing, the first time since a 14-7 win over LSU in 1971 that the Tide did not complete a pass in a game.

While Tide followers were looking for answers on what went wrong, Rebel fans, players and coaches were pointing to things that keyed the momentous win.

Start with the defense. End there too.

“Our defense and the kicking game just never allowed ‘em to pull us down,” Brewer said after his team outgained the Tide, 259-172.

Former Reb assistant coach Eddie Crawford said it was the best defensive effort for four quarters he has ever seen.

The game was scoreless at half time and both offenses looked inept.

Alabama changed the momentum quickly with the second half kick off. Pierre Goode ran it back 100 yards for a touchdown; the third kick off returned for a score in three games against the Reb special teams.

Florida’s Stacey Simmons ran an 85-yarder back on the Rebels, and a week ago Tim Worley of Georgia opened the Bulldog’s 36-12 win over the Rebels with a 93-yard return for a touchdown.

The Tide built that 7-0 lead into 12-0 faster than their fans could yell “Roll Tide.”

The Rebs got in trouble on the next kick off, a clipping call pinning them to their 7. Two plays gained only 2 yards and Reb quarterback Mark Young, looking to throw, was trapped in the end zone for a safety by Tide tackle Tommy Cole.

Alabama scored on its next possession, moving on the strength of Murry Hill’s 51-yard return of Charles Childers’ punt after the safety. All the Tide could get out of this drive, however, was a 21-yard Philip Doyle field goal. That was all the Tide would get the rest of the day.

There was 26:42 still to play – and it would all belong to Ole Miss as it scored three touchdowns and then watched as the defense stuffed Alabama.

The Rebels’ first score by Sykes came when he blew up the middle 53 yards against a stunned Tide defense with 5:26 left in the quarter. Sykes’ second score with 2:07 left in the game was the same play. It came on a 3rd and 10 from the Tide 12. Darron Billings made it 15-12 on a two-point run.

“That was a gutty call,” Brewer said, “and Red (Parker, the Rebs’ Offensive Coordinator) deserves all the credit. He called it. He called all the plays.”

Parker said he thought Alabama would be coming with, “everything they had” on that third down play. On a third-and-long, a team is susceptible to getting trapped. You don’t read on that kind of rush, you just blow in. That’s what happened and we had the right thing called.

The finishing touch on Ole Miss’s win was registered by full back Joe Mickles, who scored on an 18-yard run with 15 seconds left. It was set up by a fumble recovery on the Alabama 13. Ole Miss was penalized 5 yards for illegal procedure, and then Mickles ran around the left end for the TD.

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