May 20, 2024

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — No. 13 Alabama second-half rally to beat No. 15 Ole Miss on Saturday signaled to Crimson Tide starting quarterback Jalen Milroe that his team might have turned a page.

“We do have our swagger back,” he said, “but we have to acknowledge that we got a lot of work to do. We got a lot of work to do to reach all of our short-term goals and long-term goals. So we’re work in progress.

“But I will say this: that we are hungry to improve and we’re excited for what the future holds.”

Milroe started the SEC home opener a week after being benched against USF. The redshirt sophomore completed 17 of 21 passes for 225 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He also ran for 28 yards.

Asked whether Alabama showed it was still a championship-caliber team, Milroe instead called themselves a “work in progress.”

“We’re going to continue to grow and acknowledge that we need more room to improve,” he added. “And I trust in the guys in the locker room. There’s no one I do not trust. I trust the coaches to put a great game plan together — offense and defense, special teams. And we have a great team and I love each one of those guys.”

Alabama coach Nick Saban said that Milroe made a bad read on that first-half interception but “other than that, he played really well” and “showed a lot of leadership out there.”

Milroe was hit hard and had the wind knocked out of him as he threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Jalen Hale that extended the Alabama lead to 10 points in the third quarter.

“You’re a point guard,” Saban said of Milroe and playing the quarterback position. “So you can’t turn the ball over and you have to get assists. If you have one turnover, don’t let it lead to two and just keep executing and believing and trusting in what you’re doing so that you can continue to distribute the ball where you need to — which I think he’s growing and done a really good job of that.”

Saban said he told the players after the game that he believes in them and that’s it’s important they continue to believe in one another. But, Saban said, “there’s a responsibility that goes” with that, including playing with toughness and discipline.

Saban said they need to eliminate so-called “my-bad plays” — mental errors. Penalties have been an issue through four games this season.

“It takes a lot of patience on my part when you score five touchdowns and have ’em called back [by penalties],” Saban said. “So that takes patience, too. It takes patience when you’re first-and-[goal] at the [1-yard line] and you don’t score a touchdown. That takes patience. So I got a lot of things testing my patience.”

Sloppy play contributed to Alabama trailing Ole Miss, 7-6, entering halftime.

But the Tide defense puts the clamps on the Rebs, limiting them to a field goal and the fewest points coach Lane Kiffin has scored in an SEC game since taking over the program in 2020.

Kiffin, who served as Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2014-16, is 0-5 against Saban all-time, including his one season as head coach at Tennessee in 2009.

“That was our best shot to get these guys, and we didn’t get it done,” Kiffin said. “It’s discouraging for all of us.”

Ole Miss quarterback Jaxson Dart completed 20 of 35 pass attempts for 244 yards, no touchdowns and one interception He ran for 6 yards and a score.

“I felt like and our whole team felt like this was the year to get them,” Dart said. “I just felt like we missed out on so many opportunities, didn’t convert some third downs and got stuck in some third-and-longs. You don’t want to be in third-and-long against that defense. It’s really hard.

“But, yeah, this is really disappointing because as a team we felt like we were going to get them.”

Ole Miss will return home and host No. 12 LSU next Saturday at 6 p.m. ET while Alabama will play at Mississippi State later that night.

ESPN’s Chris Low contributed to this report.

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