He’s one of the brightest minds in college football, but greed ultimately hurt Alabama’s offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin against Mississippi. His play calling for much of the game was very questionable, especially late in the contest.
Alabama fans are very much so familiar with Kiffin’s success in the Pac-12 (Pac-10 then).
Kiffin can get away with a lot of his jet sweeps and gadget plays in the Pac-12, but the Southeastern Conference is a different animal. Coaches have recruited better, teams are more equipped and speed has infiltrated, but the pillars of the SEC are balance, fundamentals and efficiency. Kiffin’s play calling achieved neither of the three against the Rebels.
Redshirt sophomore quarterback Cooper Bateman completed eight of his first nine passes, until an interception occurred in the second quarter. He connecting on short to intermediate routes, prior to Kiffin’s deep ball dial up on second down with eight yards to go.
The ball was poorly overthrown and intercepted by Trae Elston, but if Kiffin stays with the dink and dunk, Alabama continues to move the ball effectively. Kiffin saved his biggest blunder for the fourth quarter. The Crimson Tide trailed 37-43 with 3:01 remaining and all three timeouts.
Instead of continuing to spread out Mississippi’s defense with five and 10-yard passes, Kiffin tries to get everything back on one play. Jake Coker got drilled by Mississippi’s defense lineman Marquis Haynes and ends up throwing an interception to cornerback Tony Bridges.
Alabama’s head coach Nick Saban held a press conference earlier in the week about preparation. He mentioned senior running back Kenyan Drake and his focus on trying to hard at making big plays, rather than just taking what the defense gives and hitting the home run when it happens.
This self same message applies to Kiffin. Alabama’s offensive line was starting to flex its muscle late in the game. Ole Miss’s defense was on the field three times as long as Alabama’s group. Defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche was a man amongst boys, but everyone else on the line struggled with fatigue. Running back Derrick Henry picked up the pace in the fourth quarter and Mississippi was conceding the short routes.
Kiffin is all for building confidence, but it won’t happen if he turns away from what has been effective. The SEC West is loaded and only balanced, efficient teams will survive.
Kiffin lives to fight another day, but Saban will have him studying film this week.
Greed kills, and for Kiffin, it cost Alabama a chance to pull out a win Saturday night.