It’s tough to find worthwhile takeaways from a game against a team like Louisiana-Monroe. Sure, it was great to see the defense keep the Warhawks’ offense in relative check (considering their number of offensive possessions), but I hesitate to look too far into what worked and what didn’t given the level of competition. S&P+ ranks ULM as the ninth worst team in all of the FBS.
That being said, this was the first time we got to see the backup offense operate with any level of legitimacy. Sure, Matt Corral played at the end of the Southern Illinois game, but that was mostly handing off—he attempted just two passes.
The ULM game was different. Corral was a perfect 10-for-10 passing with 143 yards through the air and two touchdowns. He added another 78 yards rushing on six carries, including a 61-yard touchdown run. Corral’s raw QBR (a QB metric developed by ESPN and set on a scale to 100) was 99.9. When adjusting for the difficulty of the opponent, that QBR drops all the way to 99.6. Yeah ... not much.
Corral was helped a lot by true freshman receiver Elijah Moore, who had four catches, three of which came from the California signal caller. That duo will be asked to do a lot next year, as starting quarterback Jordan Ta’amu and star receivers D.K. Metcalf, A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge all leave the program. It was nice to see Corral and Moore connect well Saturday.
The Corral-Moore connection is even more impressive when taking situational context into account.
Here are the three completions between Moore and Corral, all of which came on the same drive in the fourth quarter.
- Third-and-11 on Corral’s first possession without all the elite receivers: Corral finds Moore for 13 yards and a first down.
- Third-and-12: Corral finds Moore for 16 yards and a first down.
- First-and-10: Corral finds Moore for a 24-yard touchdown.
That drive ended up being the last one in which Corral was allowed to throw the ball, but it’s instructive for how this Rebel offense might develop moving forward with Corral holding the reins.
Corral found Moore on the only two third downs he faced without the starting receivers, and Moore picked them up. He also caught Corral’s only touchdown with the two-deeps. Beyond that, Corral only threw five passes to the twos, and three of those five went to Moore. It’s pretty obvious there’s a real chemistry between these two. Expect to see Moore eat up targets next year as the rest of the receivers work to step up.
Things don’t look great for next year’s offense. The line will replace at least three starters (including first-round NFL Draft pick Greg Little), and the aforementioned receivers are all gone. That being said, Corral, Moore and current starting running back Scottie Phillips (destroyer of worlds), could help keep the offensive drop-off in check. At any rate, Moore appears poised for WR1 duties in 2019, and that’s just fine.
If Saturday is any indication, the unexpected recruiting coups of Corral and Moore might prove to be real linchpins to any long-term turnaround effort on the offensive side of the ball next season. We’re not here to talk about next season’s defense, so this is the end of the post.