Alabama – Ole Miss, One Sided Rivalry, but Some Great History
By Larry Burton
Casual observers will look at the Alabama – Ole Miss Rivalry and only see one stat, the huge 50-8-2 record that Alabama enjoys over the Rebels and think that this is a relatively meaningless rivalry.
They would be wrong.
The first meeting goes all the way back to the 1800’s, 1894 if fact, and it was won by Ole Miss 6-0 in a defensive warfare game. Since then Alabama has had a 12 game winning streak once and two ten game streaks without a tie or loss. The longest streak on not losing to Ole Miss is 16 games without a loss with one tie.
Yes, overall it’s pretty one sided, but when the Rebels get rolling, they’ve made life tough for the Tide.
In the past, Alabama had “The Bear” and Ole Miss had a highly regarded coach that Bryant considered not only his equal in coaching ability, but considered him as a friend too. That man’s name was John Vaught and just as today’s Alabama players play home games in Bryant-Denny Stadium, the Rebels play in Vaught-Hemmingway stadium.
Alabama claims six national titles under Bryant and Ole Miss claims three under Vaught. In their 13 head to head meetings, Bryant squeezed out a winning record of 7-6 with one tie. Unlike Bryant, Vaught never had a losing season while head coach at Ole Miss.
After he left in 1970, the series get very one sided again.
And if you never thought there was anybody like Johnny Manziel, you’re just too young to remember Archie Manning. In the first prime time night broadcast of a college football game, Ole Miss took on Alabama. Manning threw for 436 yards and three TD’sand also rushed for 104 yards accounting for 540 yards of offense. However, he lost that game 33–32. That 540-yard performance was still tied for the SECrecord for most total yards in a game for decades until Manzielaccumulated 553 yards in a game with Arkansas.
That was one of the best games in the history of televised football. On that October night in 1969 Ole Miss was favored in the game by most despite Alabama’s higher ranking. Though Alabama usually had one of the stingiest defenses in the country, even Coach Bryant of Alabama knew it was be all but impossible to stop Manning and darn hard even to slow him down.
To counter Manning, Alabama started a Jr. quarterback named Scott Hunter. Though Hunter was a good quarterback, he couldn’t do all the things Manning could, at least not until till warm evening at Legion Field in Birmingham, Alabama.
In a classic duel for the ages, Hunter would say, “Every time we would take the field on offense, we’d be down by 6 points. You got to go out there and keep throwing and keep making it happen. It was Archie’s kind of game, too. He didn’t do a single thing wrong that night.” Hunter countered Manning by throwing 22-of-29 for 300 yards himself.
The game had everything including coaching mayhem. With less than 4 minutes to go and Alabama behind with a big fourth and goal coming up, a time out was called. Hunter later wrote that Coach Bryant was futilely trying to light a wet cigarette and yelling at coach Sharpe standing beside him for a play. Sharpe was yelling at Steve Sloan through the headset for a play. Sloan up in the press box was yelling too. Finally the referee came over and told them it was time to play. Sloan was running back to the huddle without a play when he heard Bryant yell, “‘Run the best thing you got!”
Sloan ran his own play and found Mississippi native George Ranager who was hit short, but fell into the end zone for the go ahead score Alabama would not relinquish again.
I thought of this game and that play as AJ McCarron dueled Manziel a few weeks ago. With the game getting close again, the coaches weren’t sure what play to call on third and goal and McCarron insisted he run his own play and the coaches let him. That play too proved to be the game winner.
ABC play-by-play announcer Chris Schenkel said this 1969 Alabama-Ole Miss game was “the most exciting game I’ve ever seen in 20 years of broadcasting.” Even in a loss, the game made Manning famous.
Manning ended his career 2-1 against the Tide. No Ole Miss quarterback ever won more than one game against Alabama until Archie Manning’s son Eli took over in 2000. He went 2-2 against the Tide.
Ole Miss has not won a game since Eli Manning left the Ole Miss campus.
The recipe for Ole Miss to beat Alabama has been to have an exceptional quarterback who is able to play like a crazed man in this contest.
Ole Miss Quarterback Bo Wallace is becoming one of those players. In his first year last season, the first year of new head coach Hugh Freeze, Wallace had a quarterback rating of just 56.2, throwing almost 3000 yards with 22 TD’s but also with 17 INT’s.
This season, comfortable with the new head coach and the new Ole Miss system, Wallace’s raw QB rating has jumped to 77.0, he has 4 TD’s passing and no interceptions. However against Texas earlier this year, Wallace’s raw QB rating was 79.5, throwing for a season high 68% completion ratio and like Manziel, he also rushed a lot of yardage, 57 yards including one rushing touchdown. Wallace is coming into his own quickly and this national stage may be just the showcase to prove he’s coming into the SEC elite ranks.
He is the kind of quarterback that have a history of causing problems for a Nick Saban coached team. He is an accurate thrower, hard to blitz and bring down by being able to buy time with his feet and well as presenting the threat to take of run like a running back.
With the games in the books, Ole Miss was averaging scoring 38 points a game and giving up 25. In the first three weeks of the season Alabama is averaging scoring 42 points per game while giving up 26 per game on defense.
Will the Tide be caught looking ahead to LSU and overlook the Rebels this year? If they do, this could be an all out war.
While the Tide fans themselves may not look at Ole Miss as a big rival, the Ole Miss fans are ready for some overdue payback and still remember the days when they could stand toe to toe with the Tide.
The team and fans would love to topple the Tide and avoid another 10 game losing streak. They are playing with confidence now and present a team that brings back all but six starters from last season. And last season Saban was quoted as saying that Ole Miss was the “most physical” team they played and may have been one of their toughest games.
In that game, turnovers cost the Rebels, interceptions that so far this year Wallace seems to have gotten over. Alabama exploded for 21 second quarter points to claim a 27-7 halftime lead, but the Rebels held Alabama to a single score in the second half finally losing 33-14.
Will history be made in this next contest? The Rebels are hoping so.
Larry is an award winning writer whose work has appeared in almost every college football venue. Now he primarily writes for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. Follow Larry on Twitter at https://twitter.com/LBSportswriter