Alabama gets payback against Ole Miss, sets the tone for the rest of the season

Alabama football-Crimson Tide football-Mack Wilson

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — There’s an old phrase that might date back to the ancient Greeks. It’s about how an elephant never forgets.

Well, neither does Nick Saban.

It’s the only conclusion one can draw after Alabama completely destroyed Ole Miss on Saturday night.

The Crimson Tide still remember back-to-back losses to the Rebels, 23-17 and 43-37 in 2014 and 2015 respectively. The memory of fans storming the field at Vaught–Hemingway Stadium in one, and the crazy bounces in the other at Bryant-Denny Stadium in the other, are still fresh, along with falling behind 24-3 last year.

Saban had warned everyone by saying that the ultimate disrespect is when “someone quietly thinks they have your number.”

This was Alabama’s answer: 66-3.

“They came to our house and Coach Saban said we had to defeat somebody and not just win the game,” junior All-American defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick said. “I think we did a good job of defeating them, demoralizing them and just playing our game.”

For three quarters, Alabama absolutely annihilated the Rebels. It looked like it wanted to go for extinction until Saban finally pulled back with the reserves in the fourth quarter.

Still, the results were impressive. Alabama’s 66 points were the most ever scored by a Saban-coached team, and the Crimson Tide have crushed their first two SEC opponents by a combined 125-3.

Most points scored by Saban-coached teams

66-3 Ole Miss at Alabama Sept. 30, 2017
63-7 Georgia State at Alabama Nov. 18, 2010
62-13 Alabama at Duke Sept. 18, 2010
59-0 Alabama at Vanderbilt Sept. 23, 2017
59-0 Texas A&M at Alabama Oct. 18, 2014
59-13 LSU at Arizona Sept.6, 2003

It’s the first time Alabama scored more than 50 points in consecutive SEC games since defeating Kentucky 60-19 and Vanderbilt 71-0, on Nov. 3 and Nov. 17, 1945 — and teams were very hit-or-miss during World War II when a lot of schools didn’t play football.

Alabama also did so with both the offense and defense feeling like they haven’t come close to peaking yet. The Tide rolled up 613 total yards on offense and still felt they left a lot out on the field.

The defense had 10 tackles for loss, including five sacks. It didn’t allow a third-down conversion in 13 attempts, and on a scale of 1-to-10, senior linebacker Rashaan Evans still ranked their performance a five.

He was serious, but in fairness, he was still upset about the injury to senior defensive end Da’Shawn Hand, which the Crimson Tide hopes is just an MCL sprain.

“It was really kind of sad. He’s a big part of our defense,” Evans said. “For anybody to go down like that, it was devastating. Hopefully his injury is not that bad.

“He’s a guy that we definitely need.”

Alabama’s SEC schedule will only get tougher, but Vanderbilt was not a bad team. After defeating then-No. 18 Kansas State it probably should have been ranked, and on Saturday, the Commodores gave Florida everything the Gators could handle.

Ole Miss isn’t the same with NCAA sanctions hovering and without Hugh Freeze, but still, that was impressive. The 66 points scored were the most ever by either team in the series that dates to 1894.

That’s when the “Golden Age” of piracy was at its peak, which is sort of fitting as a reference because Alabama is simply taking no prisoners this season.

Consider the defensive play-call when Ole Miss had third-and-6 at the Alabama 39 early in the second quarter, and the Crimson Tide was already ahead 28-3. Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt went for the jugular by blitzing Fitzpatrick, who dropped Shea Patterson for a 12-yard sack before the quarterback realized he had no chance.

The offense did its thing, too, suddenly unveiling a two-back set for the first time this season, with sophomore Josh Jacobs the beneficiary.

But even more telling was Alabama hiring former Ole Miss offensive coordinator Dan Werner in March. Two years ago, with Werner helping direct the offense, Ole Miss set program records for scoring (531), touchdowns (68), total offense (6,731), passing yards (4,351), passing touchdowns (35), 50-plus point games (four) and games with more than 600 yards of offense (three).

The Rebels also led the SEC and were top 10 nationally in scoring (40.8), total offense (517.8 yards per game) and passing (334.7).

He’s been helping Alabama create a potent offense, and it sure couldn’t have hurt the defense to have him around this week.

Thus, the strong message that Alabama sent at the close of September: We’re not messing around.

Fans have been looking for an identity with this team, and in terms of Xs and Os it will continue to develop as the season progresses.

But in terms of its mindset, the Crimson Tide is playing like a team that’s ticked off it didn’t win the national championship last season, and is focused one thing. They want payback, and they want it on a grand scale.

“Our goal as a team is to go out there and dominate,” sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts said. “That’s just what we want to do. We just have to do it consistently.”

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