Najee Harris makes the difference in a ‘crazy’ win for Alabama
After Alabama’s 63-48 victory over Ole Miss on Saturday night, head coach Nick Saban said, “All in all, we’ve had some real crazy games over here, and this was another one.”
It was a crazy game for a Crimson Tide team that has been routing every team they have played so far this season. However, maybe nothing was crazier than the video game numbers running back Najee Harris put up in the game.
Just a week ago, Alabama relied heavily on quarterback Mac Jones’ arm for points, but that all changed this week when the Tide fed Harris the ball all night long. The senior back had an incredible night on the ground rushing for 206 yards on just 23 carries and accounting for five of Bama’s nine touchdowns. That put the star running back at almost nine yards per carry against Ole Miss.
Saban talked about his team fighting all game long, saying it did a “great job playing four quarters … I’m very proud of the resilience of this team.”
It is tough for a team that is used to dominating their competition so handedly to compete for a full 60 minutes of a dog fight. However, Bama never let up the entire game.
Saban addressed his team’s offensive performance in what turned out to be a shootout.
“We scored every time we had to score, we took the air out of it at the end of the game, the offense did a fantastic job in this game,” Saban emphasized.
He added of his team’s offense, “They had a good plan, did a good job at executing it. Najee Harris was good, Mac played really well, and the receiving core played really well.”
Alabama’s offense was something Saban had every right to brag about on Saturday following the game as the Tide produced 723 total yards of offense.
Ole Miss had an impressive night on offense as well, but ultimately could not keep up. The Tide defense came up big at the end when they needed to finally stop Ole Miss late in the fourth quarter. However, before that, Alabama’s defense had some struggles, and Nick Saban addressed those in his post-game press conference.
“The biggest issues is that you’ve got to get off the field on third down, and we haven’t been good at it all year,” he stated.
Saban continued, “When we did get off the field on third down, they went for it on fourth down, they went fast, and we never got lined up right. They must have converted three or four first downs in the game.”
He was right, as Ole Miss managed to go 4-4 on fourth down conversions against Bama’s defense.
The reasons for Alabama’s poor defensive performance Saturday were on the front of Saban’s mind after the game was over.
“I don’t think we tackled very well in the game, I don’t know if it was the surface or what, but all these things are things we can work on and try to improve,” Saban said.
He later added, “We struggled, didn’t play well, and couldn’t stop the run … we couldn’t get the quarterback on the ground.”
Defense will be a big factor next week when Bama hosts Georgia, who arguably has the best defense in the league this year.
There was one group Saban credited with making a big difference in the game: the special teams, specifically the kickoff return team. He said, “Really a great job on special teams recovering both onside kicks. … That could have made a huge difference in the game.”
Both onside kicks were unsuccessful and able to propel Alabama to 3-0 on the season and the Crimson Tide coach to 21-0 over his former assistants.
Hayden Crigler is a contributing college football writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him through email: firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @hayden_crigler.