OXFORD, Miss. — A kicker and that’s it.
Oh, I thought you asked for Alabama’s missing piece, the only thing lacking on a team that crushed Ole Miss, 62–7, on Saturday night in one of the more thorough beatdowns you’ll ever see in a game involving two Southeastern Conference teams. The Rebels scored on the very first play of the game, a 75-yard touchdown completion that provided false hope for the 50,000-plus fans dressed in their powder blue. Can we do it? Could it be? Will it happen?
No. Nope. Nada. The Alabama Machine hummed to 62 unanswered points, and it rolled up more than 400 yards and seven touchdowns—before halftime arrived. Its offensive line opened holes (Bama running backs averaged five yards a carry), its receivers showed freakish athleticism (three of them caught touchdowns), its quarterbacks (plural) dazzled (they combined for 18 completions on 25 attempts) and its kicker … well, it needs a kicker.
Alabama changed kickers earlier this week after its starter missed three extra-points and a 27-yard field goal during its first two games. Its new starting kicker, Joseph Bulovas, began his tenure in the top spot by duck hooking a 38-yarder. It mattered not in this slaughter, and he did make kicks from 20 and 44 yards later on, but the miss, in many ways, kept the Tide from appearing perfect. We used the word appearing because you know Nick Saban found spots to critique, the margin of victory no component in his nit-picking ways. After all, halfway through the third quarter with the Tide leading by 45 points, Saban angrily stalked the sideline, the poor coach on the other line of his headsets getting an earful.
1. The all-Hawaii QB duel didn't meet the hype. >This game was supposed to be a battle between Hawaiian-born quarterbacks with nifty feet, strong, accurate arms and a knack for making big plays. Even Ole Miss fans got into the fun, wearing leis around their necks, and the public address announcer, about 30 minutes before kickoff, bellowed through the stadium, “the battle of the Hawaii quarterbacks!” It turned into a snoozefest, with Ole Miss’s Jordan Ta’amu throwing two interceptions—one a pick-six—and Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa beind pulled out of the slaughter for good after just six offensive series. He played about a quarter and a half, exiting the game with the Crimson Tide up 35–7.
Ta’amu and Tagovailoa grew up together just a few miles apart, and they even trained together at Ewa Beach Park. Tagovailoa finished 11 of 15 for 191 yards and two touchdowns, not only surviving his first ever SEC road trip as the starter but thriving, the only thing slowing him down being a pair of cramping calves, according to an in-game report from ESPN sideline reporter Holly Rowe. “I thought he played really well. I was really pleased,” Saban said of Tagovailoa. “Was right on with the ball. Made two errors in judgment that weren’t that costly, but he’ll learn from it. Made a lot of really, really good plays.”
2. Alabama’s elite pass catchers outshined Ole Miss’s. Through the first two weeks of Alabama’s season, the college football world seemed to have reached the same terrifying conclusion: Oh God, Nick Saban has a quarterback. That didn’t change Saturday night (in fact, Saban will tell you, he has two quarterbacks), but Crimson Tide opponents have something else to fear besides two competent signal-callers and a predictably stellar defense: receivers. Ole Miss possesses three of the best receivers around in D.J. Metcalf, DeMarkus Lodge and A.J. Brown, but it was Bama’s trio of pass catchers doing the damage on Saturday.
Jerry Jeudy had three catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns, DeVonta Smith had three for 28 yards and tight end Irv Smith Jr. had three for 42 yards and a score. Jeudy showed his freakish athleticism, scoring on a 79-yard streaker down the middle at one point and later dancing around an Ole Miss defender with a nasty move. DeVonta Smith flashed that slippery speed of his, and Irv Smith caught a nice back-shoulder grab at the pylon.
And, yes, Alabama’s receivers knew about the talk-about trio of Rebels receivers. “They’ve got three great receivers, but we motivate ourselves. We came here to win on the road and make plays,” Jeudy said.
3. Wanted: Ole Miss defense. Ole Miss allowed the most yards to an FCS team in a single half in Southeastern Conference history last week against Southern Illinois. If Alabama kicker Joseph Bulovas had converted on a 38-yard field goal attempt that sailed wide early in the second quarter, the Tide would have set the league record for most points in a game including two SEC teams. We all know Rebels coach Matt Luke has a rebuilding process ahead, and we all know that Ole Miss’s defense isn’t very good (see first line of this note), but Alabama’s strikes were too easy: touchdowns of 79 and 43 yards, only two punts all game and a perfect 3-for-3 success rate on third downs through three quarters.