Self-inflicted mistakes prove costly in Alabama loss

first_imgMississippi wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, right, catches a pass for a touchdown over Alabama defensive back Cyrus Jones, left, during the second half Saturday in Tuscaloosa.Mississippi wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, right, catches a pass for a touchdown over Alabama defensive back Cyrus Jones, left, during the second half Saturday in Tuscaloosa.TUSCALOOSA — The pain in the eyes of the Alabama players that braved the postgame media incursion was clear.Almost as clear as their indignation at all the self-inflicted mistakes that proved to be the Crimson Tide’s biggest undoing in Saturday night’s 43-37 loss to Ole Miss.“It hurts, that’s all I can say, man. It felt like we just gave them the game,” Alabama senior corner Cyrus Jones said. “They didn’t come in here and beat us — we messed up. That’s how we feel right now.”While emotions were certainly high after another tough-to-swallow defeat at the hands of the Rebels — marking the first time in the 121-year history of the conference series that Ole Miss has won back-to-back games — there is more than a little bit of truth to Jones’ assertion.Four of a record-tying five turnovers by Alabama (2-1, 0-1 SEC) helped contribute to 24 points by the Rebels, including the first three turnovers leading directly to all 17 of Ole Miss’ first-half points as the Rebels built an early two-touchdown advantage (17-3) 24 minutes into the game. The negative-five turnover ratio was the program’s worst-ever mark in the Nick Saban era.“Obviously when you have five turnovers in a game it’s kind of hard to win, especially when you didn’t get any,” Saban said. “We’re minus-five with turnovers this game, and that makes it a bit difficult in the second half when they have a couple of big plays that made huge differences in the game.”The uncharacteristic miscues began six seconds into the game when Alabama sophomore ArDarius Stewart fumbled the opening kickoff return after colliding with teammate linebacker Dillon Lee, who was attempting to make a block on the play.The result was a short 32-yard field from Ole Miss kicker Gary Wunderlich after Alabama’s defense held strong.The Rebels’ next came after a head-scratching interception from sophomore quarterback Cooper Bateman, who was making his first career start in place of senior Jake Coker.On second-and-8 from his own 18-yard line, Bateman sailed a 30-yard throw well over the head of his intended target, Stewart, who cut inside on a slant rather than stay on the fly route, and Ole Miss safety Trae Elston picked it off.“The one that Cooper threw was probably not good judgment. He got kind of jammed in the seam, and he overthrew it,” Saban said.Bateman wouldn’t throw another pass as coaches replaced him with Coker on the next offensive series, but not before Ole Miss scored two touchdowns in the next 3:15 for a 17-3 lead.Of course, the mistakes weren’t all turnovers, with several coverage busts and a fair share of missed tackles by some of Alabama’s younger defensive backs proved equally as costly, especially during a second-half full of big plays.The first few Rebel series of the second half had several secondary miscues, including a busted coverage by Jones on third-and-8 that allowed Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell to get open for a 29-yard gain into Alabama territory.After a three-and-out by the Tide, there was another defensive breakdown on a corner blitz by Jones when senior safety Geno Matias-Smith failed to cover Rebels receiver Cody Core for a 34-yard gain. Both long plays put Ole Miss into field goal range where Wunderlich connected on kicks of 34 and 45 yards, respectively, for a 30-10 lead late in the third quarter.Behind the play of Coker, receiver Richard Mullaney and running back Derrick Henry, Alabama managed to fight back and pull back within 30-24 21/2 minutes into the fourth quarter.That’s when another defensive mistake combined with another turnover led to a 13-point swing in momentum the other way, beginning with a 73-yard touchdown pass from Kelly to Core on a run-pass option play reminiscent of a similar score in the famous “Kick Six” game at Auburn.On second-and-1, Kelly rolled to his right as outside linebacker Denzel Devall gave chase parallel to the first-down marker. But the threat of run caused Humphrey to leave Core all alone, and Kelly released the ball just as his body crossed the line of scrimmage, connecting with a wide-open Core for the big play.“It was a miscommunication and everybody wasn’t playing the same coverage on the option-pass they hit,” Saban explained. “It’s just a lot of things that we did that we controlled that allowed them to put us in a hole in the game.”Initially ruled an illegal pass, the touchdown stood after it was determined Kelly’s right leg was still behind the line.“It was just a tough play, man, I’ve been in that situation before obviously, so it’s definitely a tough one and you’ve just got to be disciplined,” Jones said of Humphrey.After being relatively mistake-free through his first 26 minutes of action, Coker stared down tight end O.J. Howard on a third-down pass and Ole Miss linebacker C.J. Johnson stepped in front of him for an easy interception.Two plays later, Kelly connected with the 6-foot-3 Treadwell over the 5-10 Jones for a 24-yard touchdown to give the Rebels a 43-24 advantage with 10 minutes remaining.The final turnover came on another Coker interception in the closing minutes when Ole Miss defensive end Marquis Haynes slipped by senior center Ryan Kelly and drilled Coker as he released, forcing the ball to sail into the arms of cornerback Tony Bridges for the game-sealing pick.“On a couple of Jake’s (interceptions), I think that they were playing zone, and I don’t think there was any miscommunication on his,” Saban said. “Look, we just have a lot of things that we need to do better.”last_img