By Adam Brown
The Ole Miss Rebels football team will open up conference play this Saturday as they host the Alabama Crimson Tide under the lights of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Kickoff is slated for 6 p.m. on ESPN.
“We are excited about the challenge and excited to have a big game,” Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke said. “The Grove will be rocking and will be a great atmosphere.”
Ole Miss (2-0) is coming into this game after defeating Southern Illinois 76-41 last week. Four Rebels players recorded their first career touchdowns vs. SIU: Matt Corral, Vernon Dasher, Elijah Moore and Isaiah Woullard. Coach Luke’s team has averaged 61.5 points per game through the first two games this season, which places the Rebel football team third in the nation.
The Rebels’ quarterback Jordan Ta’amu leads the SEC and is ranked second nationally with 392.0 yards passing per game. He has recorded a career-high in yards (448), total offense (446) and touchdowns (five) vs. SIU … It was the third-best passing performance by a Rebel in school history.
Alabama is 2-0 on the season and is ranked No. 1 in both the AP and coaches polls this week. The Crimson Tide has won every game by at least 37 points, including a 51-14 win over Louisville to open the season, two weeks ago.
Since losing to the Rebels in Tuscaloosa during its 2015 national championship run, Alabama has won 41 of its last 43 games. The only two setbacks occurred when the Ride lost to Auburn last season and in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship to Clemson.
“[Alabama’s] ability to put good player after good player out there consistently..it’s impressive,” Luke said. “They have good players, and they’re well-coached. Impressive on both sides of the ball. The offense, defensive lines are always really good. Really good skill players. It’s just impressive the consistency they show year after year.”
The Alabama offense is led by sophomore QB Tua Tagovailoa, who has thrown for 455 yards with six touchdowns and no interceptions. Tagovailoa is completing over 71 percent of his passes.
“They ask [Tagovailoa] to do some RPO stuff where he has to make some decisions,” Luke said. “He’s got a really quick release. He has very good receivers to throw it to. Then his ability to extend plays. You watch their first touchdown against Louisville, he extended the play and made a play with his feet. He keeps drives going on third down by scrambling out of the pocket. His ability to extend plays, and obviously his decision making, has been good.”
RB Najee Harris is Alabama’s leading rusher with 165 yards and two TDs, averaging 7.9 yards per carry. The Tide has limited opponents to 94.5 rushing yards per game, while racking up 250.0 yards per game on the ground on offense. Alabama has only returned one kickoff all season, but it was a 77-yard TD return from Josh Jacobs against Louisville.
When the Rebels and the Crimson Tide meet on the gridiron Saturday it will be the 66 time the two have faced off. Alabama holds the all-time series lead at 49-11-2. Among the series meeting this game will be special for freshman linebacker Kevontae’ Ruggs (LB) who will go head-to-head with his brother and Alabama WR Henry Ruggs III.
Fans can watch all the action on ESPN or listen to the call on the Ole Miss Radio Network.