Notes and thoughts on the Rebels’ 59-31 loss at No. 2 Alabama …

I said all week that Ole Miss needed to compete in this game, needed to have more meaningful play than the last two seasons when the Rebels lost 66-3 and 62-7.

When the dust settled Ole Miss held Alabama under 60 points but just barely.

Had the Crimson Tide punched in another touchdown it would have posted a season-high for points, surpassing the 62 it scored against New Mexico State.

It wasn’t a great day for the Ole Miss defense. The passing matchup we knew was bad, and that played out as expected. The rushing matchup, well, it could have been better for the Rebels.

The Tide rushed for 155 yards, that’s not terrible for the Ole Miss defense, but Alabama backs averaged 5.2 yards per carry.

They didn’t get that many carries because their quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was throwing a touchdown to Devonta Smith what seemed like every other play.

I didn’t think tackling was all that great in this game. Too many times Tide backs Najee Harris and Brian Robinson were dragging tacklers or pushing the pile. When they went down they went down falling forward.

Holding Alabama to 155 rushing yards the last three seasons would have been a dream. In this still young season Mike MacIntyre’s defense has created a different expectation.

I don’t really have much to add to the pass defense. It’s bad. If this defense is going to improve through this season it’s going to be because it becomes better and more consistent at stopping the run and bringing pressure to help its defensive backs have to cover less.

It’s good to see freshman Deantre Prince getting playing time. MacIntyre needs to continue to invest in him and help him grow.

Prince was alone on the sideline with an Alabama receiver in the first half and tasked with making a solo tackle. It was a reminder that he’s young, but those are the plays Ole Miss defensive backs didn’t make in this game. They were simply overmatched by the Alabama receivers.

In short, the Alabama receivers were as good as advertised.

The story for Ole Miss is on the other side of the ball.

John Rhys Plumlee played and played well, and when Matt Corral is healthy again Matt Luke and Rich Rodriguez will have to decide how they’re going to handle their quarterback situation.

Alabama had shown vulnerability against the run … relative to what is expected of the Alabama defense. The Tide still was not allowing 100 rushing yards a game as Saturday play got under way.

Plumlee took advantage of that vulnerability. He scrambled away from pressure, often getting the corner, and found rushing lanes on called quarterback runs.

After some coaching up and a reminder about the “process” Alabama seemed to adjust to Plumlee. While Plumlee was rolling the rest of the Ole Miss run game looked out of sync much of the game.

When all was said and done Scottie Phillips finished with just 27 yards, but Jerrion Ealy had 68 and Snoop Conner 62. Add in Plumlee’s yards, and a few other plays, and Ole Miss had 279 rushing yards against Alabama.

I don’t know how long it’s been since that happened.

Plumlee didn’t look especially comfortable throwing the ball when the game was being decided, and for that reason I thought we might see Grant Tisdale earlier than we did.

But Plumlee looked better in the third quarter after Alabama had blitzed the Rebels with a 31-0 second quarter.

Freshman wide receiver Jonathan Mingo continues to improve and had several big catches, one a 32-yard gain and one a 26-yard touchdown. You can see the physicality in Mingo’s game.

Jadon Jackson had a touchdown catch on a perfectly placed ball by Tisdale in the final seconds.

It’s significant that all four Ole Miss touchdowns were scored by true freshmen. It’s a statement about where this program is at it rebuilds after sanctions.

The quarterback picture becomes really interesting.

Plumlee is clearly a better runner than Corral. If he becomes as accurate a passer he would seem the best choice for the bulk of the snaps.

And I don’t think you can discount Tisdale in this discussion. He’s probably the best passer of the three, but that’s not the most important aspect of quarterback play in this offense.

Ole Miss has four talented freshman quarterbacks and another four-star mobile guy committed in Hoover, Alabama's Robby Ashford.

Just a hunch, but all four who are there now will not complete their eligibility with the Rebels. There’s going to be an odd man out at some point, and someone will leave for another opportunity.

I liked the shuffling on the offensive line and getting another player, Jalen Cunningham, more involved.

Alabama had seven tackles for loss, which isn’t ideal, but Southeastern Louisiana had more, and Alabama has certainly had more in this series.

Plumlee was sacked only once.

With this OL it’s going to be about limiting negative yardage plays. Maybe it will evolve to a unit that lets Ole Miss control a defense with 6-, 8- and 12-yard runs, but that type of consistency isn’t there right now.

So the Alabama game is in the books. There were some little victories along the way.

There are some games where you can take these moral victories and move on, but next week is not one.

If Luke is going to continue to sell hope and improvement the Rebels need to beat Vanderbilt at home.

parrish.alford@journalinc.com

Twitter: @parrishalford

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