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Alabama-Ole Miss grades: Tide's defensive stars fuel comeback win

<> at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Oxford, Mississippi.

Alabama Crimson Tide 48, Ole Miss Rebels 43

Here are the biggest takeaway and highest-graded players from Alabama’s 48-43 comeback win at Ole Miss:

Alabama Crimson Tide

Quarterback grade: Jalen Hurts, 68.1

While Alabama came out with the win on the road against a top-20 opponent, it was in spite of a below-average passing performance from freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts. Twelve of his 19 completions came on throws aimed behind the line of scrimmage, due to an abundance of screen passes early – something we saw from both teams. But once the game opened up more, Hurts didn’t look quite as comfortable as we’ve seen in previous weeks. He made a notable misread of coverage early in the second quarter, resulting in a pass thrown right to Rebels cornerback Montrell Custis that should have been picked off. Instead, Alabama took advantage of the break with a 60-yard punt on the next play. Hurts also killed the team’s next drive by sacking himself and losing the ball without contact during his throwing motion.

There were some positive throws in the game to offset the negative, including at 12:09 of the fourth quarter, but where Hurts exceled the most was as a rusher, whether on scrambles or designed runs. He led the team in rushing, gaining north of 140 yards with two forced missed tackles and multiple first-down pickups.


Top offensive grades:

C Bradley Bozeman, 79.8

TE O.J. Howard, 74.1

WR Calvin Ridley, 74.1

RB Damien Harris, 72.0

TE Brandon Greene, 69.3

Among Alabama’s offensive standouts was center Bradley Bozeman, who had his third-straight game without a pressure allowed in pass protection. He’s now only one of a handful of Power-5 centers without a pressure surrendered so far this season. Bozeman also bounced back in the run game after a rough performance against Western Kentucky; he made a number of seals at the second level to create lanes for Hurts and RB Damien Harris, both of whom gained more than 8 yards per carry and totaled over 140 yards. WR Calvin Ridley had another nice game, including a second-quarter touchdown run.

Top defensive grades:

LB Reuben Foster, 85.9

DE Jonathan Allen, 85.3

DT Dalvin Tomlinson, 85.2

DE Tim Williams, 80.0

DE Ryan Anderson, 78.2

Edge rusher Tim Williams had his usual strong performance, converting five of his 30 rushes into pressures, including a bull rush at 5:44 of the fourth that forced an interception, but was mostly overshadowed by a pair of teammates on the defensive line. End Jonathan Allen caught the pick on that play and took it to the end zone to extend Alabama’s lead to 17. Outside of that, he picked up seven pressures to go with a defensive stop and several other positive plays against the run.

On the inside, Dalvin Tomlinson also had a disruptive performance, looking almost unblockable for stretches against guard Jordan Sims and center Robert Conyers. For the game, Tomlinson ended with three pressures and a batted pass as a rusher. Against the run, he compiled four defensive stops – one of which came on the third offensive play of the game.

Ole Miss Rebels

Quarterback grade: Chad Kelly, 69.7

Similar to his counterpart, much of Kelly’s production came in the short game on screens and within 10 yards of the line of scrimmage. But he also had an outstanding day going downfield, completing six of nine deep (20-plus-yard) passes, including a dime at 7:33 of the fourth quarter, hitting WR Van Jefferson in stride against tight coverage for a 44-yard gain.

Where Kelly struggled was under pressure, which he saw frequently, in particular taking care of the ball on those plays. He fumbled inside his own 10-yard line early in the third quarter, and in the fourth failed to get rid of the ball before Tim Williams got to him, resulting in his arm getting knocked during this throw. Both of those plays resulted in touchdowns for Alabama – crucial in what turned out to be a 5-point margin of victory.


Top offensive grades:

WR Van Jefferson, 76.2

TE Evan Engram, 74.9

WR Damore’ea Stringfellow, 73.4

WR A.J. Brown, 71.5

QB Chad Kelly, 69.7

This was perhaps perhaps expected against Alabama’s defensive front, but Ole Miss’ offensive line had a rough game across the board, both in pass protection and in the run game. Tackle Alex Givens was the only member to gain an average grade, but he only played 14 snaps. Kelly saw pressure on close to 50 percent of his dropbacks, well above his 33.3 percent pressure rate over the first two weeks, and he also accounted for much of the team’s production in the run game with 57 yards gained on scrambles.

Elsewhere, the team saw some solid performances on the outside, including from tight end Evan Engram, who caught nine of 13 targets for 138 yards against six different defenders in primary coverage. Receivers Van Jefferson and Damore’ea Stringfellow combined to catch 10 of 12 targets; Kelly had a perfect 158.3 passer rating throwing to the latter, in part due to Stringfellow’s jump-ball win at 9:20 of the second quarter.

Top defensive grades:

LB Terry Caldwell, 81.5

DT Benito Jones, 77.8

CB Montrell Custis, 76.7

S Zedrick Woods, 76.6

CB Tony Conner, 75.9

A relatively quiet game from the Rebels’ highest-graded player coming in, defensive tackle D.J. Jones, who compiled a lone run stop in 36 snaps. Benito Jones picked up much of the slack on the inside with two stops against the run and several other plays where he either squeezed the point of attack or disrupted Alabama’s pull blocker. He also converted one of his 16 pass rushes into pressure – a quarterback hit at 12:09 of the fourth quarter.

At the second level, linebacker Terry Caldwell had a solid game with three stops and a forced fumble that almost gave Mississippi the ball back at the two minute mark. He also made a tackle during punt coverage.

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