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No. 13 Alabama has big second half in 24-10 win over No. 15 Ole Miss

TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA - SEPTEMBER 23:  Jalen Milroe #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes and stiff arms Trey Washington #25 of the Mississippi Rebels during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium on September 23, 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

No. 13 Alabama overcame a slow start to beat No. 15 Ole Miss, 24-10.

The Crimson Tide trailed 7-6 at halftime but scored on back-to-back possessions in the third quarter as the defense clamped down on the Rebels’ offense.

Alabama’s first score of the third quarter came on its third field goal of the game following a bizarre sequence that led to the Crimson Tide running a quarterback sneak on first down before the kick.

Will Reichard’s third field goal gave Alabama a 9-7 lead and Terrion Arnold got the ball back for the Crimson Tide five plays later when he picked off Jaxson Dart and returned it 37 yards.

Jalen Milroe then hit Jalen Hale for a 33-yard TD in the back of the end zone as Hale made a phenomenal catch. Saturday's game was Milroe's third start of the season and the first since he didn't play a snap in Alabama's 17-3 win over South Florida in Week 3.

Ole Miss was able to cut Alabama’s lead to seven after the TD to Hale, but Alabama responded with one of its most efficient drives of the season. The Tide’s six-play, 75-yard drive included five rushing attempts by Jase McClellan as he capped it off with an eight-yard score.

McClellan rushed for 54 yards on the drive and finished the game averaging over six yards an attempt.

Jalen Milroe has just four incompletions

Milroe appeared to strengthen his grip on the starting QB job after a one-game benching against South Florida.

Milroe was named the team’s starter (again) after Tyler Buchner and Ty Simpson struggled mightily against USF in the 17-3 win. And Milroe responded with his most efficient game in an Alabama uniform.

Milroe finished the game 17-of-21 passing for 225 yards and a touchdown and an interception. The interception was ugly; Milroe forced a throw into double coverage in the corner of the end zone. But Alabama coach Nick Saban was otherwise happy with the way Milroe played.

“He took some big shots today but he did a great job out there executing the offense. Of course, the interception in the end zone took some points off the board but overall I was really pleased with the way he played and commanded the offense.”

Saban made a quarterback change after the Tide’s loss to Texas in Week 2. Milroe had two ugly interceptions in that game. But the quarterback play against USF was worse than it was with Milroe under center the first two weeks of the season.

And if Milroe keeps playing the way he did on Saturday, Alabama still has a very good chance at a 10-win season as long as its defense plays the way it did. The Crimson Tide held Ole Miss to 56 rushing yards as a team and the Rebels had just 128 yards of offense in the second half.

A missed opportunity for Ole Miss

If there was ever a chance for Ole Miss to break its seven-game losing streak against Alabama, it wasn’t going to get much better than Saturday.

Instead, the Ole Miss offense rested too much on the arm of Dart and the defense couldn’t slow down McClellan in the second half.

Ole Miss’ strength a season ago was its diverse run game; the Rebels rushed for more yards than it passed for in 2022. But Alabama did a fantastic job forcing Dart to throw the ball and keeping him in check on the ground. Dart was 20-of-35 passing for 244 yards and an interception and rushed 12 times for six yards.

All-SEC rusher Quinshon Judkins had 13 carries for 56 yards and still hasn’t cracked the 100-yard mark through the first four weeks of the season. Judkins has been dealing with a reported upper-body injury this season and was even listed as doubtful ahead of Ole Miss' Week 3 win over Georgia Tech before feeling well enough to take the field.

The Rebels will need Judkins to get healthy as soon as possible. A home game against No. 12 LSU is up next in Week 5. If Ole Miss loses that one, the Rebels will be reduced to the role of SEC West spoiler before the month of September is over.