Considering Ole Miss is the most bipolar college football program that has ever existed, it was only fitting on a night when, given the talent and coaching they were facing, they turned in what may be the best offensive performance in school history and paired it with one of the worst defensive performances in school history.
In the last eight years, we’ve seen Ole Miss slice apart bad or undermanned defenses, but that’s rarely translated against teams in the upper tier of the SEC. Last Saturday night, we saw them tear apart, limb by limb, the gold standard for defense in college football over the last decade.
However, after every kickoff following a score, we were reminded just how far this turnaround has to go. Unfortunately, the only defensive fix is a massive talent upgrade, which, as I said last week, isn’t happening this year and means for now, WE EMBRACE THAT SHOOTOUT LIFE.
In the third edition of this series, we take a look at 10 things we learned from last Saturday’s game in Oxford. As always, these may be as simple as points = good or as deep as the Lane Train is neither a lane nor a train, talk amongst yourselves.
(1) Offense is awash in points, yards, and speed
Now averaging 41.7 points a game against SEC teams, the Lane Kiffin/Jeff Lebby monster dropped 48 points and 647 total yards against Alabama, and that’s with two bad snaps that lost yards and killed two drives headed for more points.
Incredibly, they did this with almost a 2:1 run/pass ratio (57 runs, 29 passes) against a defense that historically doesn’t let teams run the dang ball. Ole Miss repeatedly gashed Alabama on the ground, with both Snoop Conner and Jerrion Ealy going over 100 yards on 21 and 19 carries, respectively.
Most impressive though was the speed at which they played. Multiple times Alabama wasn’t set on defense, looked confused, or was caught out of position because Ole Miss gave them no time to prepare.
I’m not going to check because, despite evidence to the contrary, I attempt to value my time, but the number of times they snapped the ball with more than 30 seconds on the play clock, or within two or three seconds of 30, had to be well into double digits. Obviously, they used tempo against Kentucky, but it felt like this tempo was more devastating.
It could be a preview of what TEAM SHOOTOUT will become for the rest of the season.
(2) Running game jumps up a little bit
As I mentioned last week, Kiffin was not pleased with the state of the running game after the win over Kentucky. Based on the numbers we just talked about, your thoughts on the running game status now, Lane?
(3) Matt Corral, god of passing downs
Once again, via Will Gates and his superior Exel skills, we have an advanced box score from the Alabama game. And once again, we see more evidence that Matt Corral has been absurd in general but especially on passing downs.
Note: A passing down is defined as second down and 8 or more yards to go and third/fourth down with 5 or more yards to go. The idea being not ideal run situations, and the defense is expecting a pass.
This week on passing downs, Corral was 8 of 11 for 174 yards and two touchdowns. And, for fun, let’s throw in 15.8 yards per attempt, which is video game shenanigans. Oh, and for even more fun, he hit a 73 percent success rate on those downs.
Reminder: Success rate is defined as a play gaining at least 50 percent of the yards-to-go on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third/fourth down.
Ole Miss’ overall passing success rate was 60 percent, compared to 40 percent for the running game, so as much as I was being a hype man for the repaired running game, you could argue Ole Miss is not passing enough. However, I will #TrustTheProcess and accept the current balance.
(4) Back to the running game
Last week, we dove into the advanced stats for the running game and learned that Ole Miss gained zero or fewer yards on one out of every three running plays. Against Alabama, the stuff rate fell to 18 percent, which is just less than one out of every five plays and a significant improvement.
Reminder: Stuff rate is the percentage of rushes that don’t make it beyond the line of scrimmage.
On a related note, Alabama’s stuff rate was 11 percent, which was an improvement from the 8 percent stuff rate the defense posted against Kentucky. Is the Ole Miss defense figuring it out? MANY PEOPLE ARE SAYING THIS MORE AND MORE.
(5) Rat poison alert
On Monday, Kiffin was asked about how Corral is playing right now. He said:
I don’t want to rat poison the guy but A-plus. He’s made so many plays, bailed us out of different things. I don’t know, he was No. 1 last week, but Mac’s probably No. 1 now, but I’m sure they’re still one and two in the country in quarterback efficiency. He’s played lights-out, which is difficult.
Let us hope Corral’s cookin’ doesn’t make everyone violently ill on Saturday.
(6) It was, uh, signal stealing
I’ve spent most of our time here today throwing out numbers related the offense’s success, but the best indicator of how well it went was that Alabama got so shook they started talmbout stealing signals.
Alabama LB Dylan Moses said he “definitely” thinks Ole Miss had Alabama’s signals on defense, pointing to Lane Kiffin’s time in Tuscaloosa.— Alex Scarborough (@AlexS_ESPN) October 11, 2020
It seemed like everything we did though they had an answer for. I don’t know if they had our signals or what. That’s not anything unusual. It seemed like every time we called something, they had the best play that they could have against it.
Kiffin’s response on Monday was:
First off, I’ve never known the signals. I never even paid attention to that when I was there. I’m sure they wouldn’t even be the same. This is a new coordinator. I love Coach Saban and have a lot of respect for him. But if you understand tempo, the signal wouldn’t help us. We call the play basically before the last play is even over. Before they even mark the ball, we call our play. Then they scramble to get a play called. They’re just trying to get their guys lined up. It wouldn’t do us any good. By the time someone would relay that to us, we’re already snapping the ball.
We are loving the power move of “don’t care what they’re doing, we’re just gonna run our stuff.”
(7) About that signal stealing talk
There are no Twitter Emmy Awards (perhaps for the best), but THIS SHOULD GET ONE.
(8) Elijah Moore record watch rolls on
Our slippery slot receiver son is on pace for 103 receptions in a 10-game season, which would break A.J. Brown’s single-season (12 games) record by 18.
In addition to catching everything thrown his way, Kiffin/Lebby are also using him as a decoy in the running game, which we obviously love and mention now because we also love our teasers for film review tomorrow.
(9) Where are we after Week Three?
Going back the bipolar nature of Ole Miss football, it’s clear we are light years ahead of where we thought we’d be on offense, thanks to Kiffin/Lebby and their ability to ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: MATT CORRAL. Given the rest of the schedule, the offense gives Ole Miss a chance in all of the remaining games.
Swinging violently in the other direction, most everyone assumed Ole Miss would be bad on defense, but I don’t think any of us prepared for this bad, which is on us. Maybe there is an adjustment period and they’ll improve slightly to “bad” over “UGHHHHHHH”, but again, talent is a huge problem.
The good news is the best two offenses they’ll see all season are behind them, as well as a power running team with an experienced offensive line in Kentucky. Texas A&M is probably the best offense left on the schedule, but we can never count out Jimbo Jimboing that game.
(10) What should we expect on Saturday?
Assuming COVID doesn’t wreck the roster or lead to the game being postponed, it’s going to be the TEAM SHOOTOUT formula of pls pls pls pls get like three defensive stops and hope the offense is still broiling at 550 degrees.
Arkansas is not a good offensive team (94th in SP+), but even being classified as “not good” means they’ll absolutely be very good against Ole Miss’ defense. What’s even more alarming is that the game is in Fayetteville, which is a graveyard for Ole Miss football.
In the Ole Miss/Arkansas STEP INTO THE RECTANGULAR CIRCLE HISTORY, Ole Miss is 2-703-4* in games played in Northwest Arkansas. This is slightly different than the games in Little Rock where Ole Miss is 9-6-1 overall.
*2-11 that feels like 2-703-4.
It would be another great sign in this rebuild if Kiffin and company could reverse that trend, but even if they do, it won’t come free of debilitating anxiety and stress.