Poise was the term everyone used to describe Jalen Hurts last week. Nothing brings out true composure like a challenging opponent in a hostile environment. He and Alabama’s offense faced it Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium against Ole Miss. With 66,176 in attendance, the Rebels jumped out to a 24-3 in the first half. Tight end Evan Engram and running back Akeem Judd accounted for touchdowns on offense, but it was a defensive score that stirred up the Crimson Tide. Rebels’ linebacker Marquis Haynes leveled Hurts in the second quarter, causing a fumble that was recovered and returned for a touchdown by John Youngblood.
After shaking off the miscue, Hurts ignited a 24-point onslaught for Alabama. He engineered scoring drives in the second and third quarter, including one that ended on a six-yard touchdown run from Calvin Ridley.
A 50-yard drive would lead to Eddie Jackson’s 85-yard punt return score, Da’Ron Payne’s three-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown and a 30-yard field goal from Adam Griffith, to give the Tide a 27-24 advantage.
When offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin decided to establish the run game, Hurts’ vision, instincts and athleticism took over. Whether the runs were by design or not, he led both teams in rushing and became the first Tide quarterback to rush for over 100 yards under Nick Saban (146 yards, 18 carries). Despite not having the most productive day passing, Hurts managed to do the main thing—not throw an interception.
His 19 of 31 completions equaled that of ex-Tide quarterback Blake Sims’ performance in 2014; however, Sims threw a costly interception and didn’t have as many rushing yards. When the smoke cleared, Hurts was credited with 304 total yards (158 passing) and five scoring drives. A win is a win. Saban defeated Texas A&M in a shootout in 2013 (49-42), and now he returns the favor to Hugh Freeze and Ole Miss with a 48-43 mark.
Hurts earned the starting job because of instincts and his vibe with the team and after Saturday’s win, the respect factor for him grows due to his toughness and leadership. Sophomore running back Damien Harris gave his quarterback one of the best compliments, during a post-game interview he had with the media.
“He’s calm no matter what the circumstances are,” Harris said on Hurts.
“He’s turned into a great leader. He’s just a phenomenal player.”
Alabama is scheduled to host Kent State at Bryant-Denny Stadium next week.