While dropping 35 points on a top five team with one of the better defenses in the SEC is an impressive debut for Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby’s offense, there is a touch of “what if”, “IF ONLY”, and “whyyyyyyy”, mostly because we are fans and therefore very greedy. These sentiments exist because, during the competitive* portion of last Saturday’s game, Ole Miss had three trips into the red zone that ended in zero points scored.
*If you count the garbage time drive at the end of the game, the Rebels actually finished with FOUR (4) trips that ended in no points.
[Grinds molars into a fine powder]
If you recall the final score of the game, 51-35, zero points on three red zone possessions was, as they say, KIND OF A BIG DEAL. The good news is the lack of points was caused by a variety of things, rather than one, pull-out-you-hair recurring calamity.
Maybe that’s actually a bad thing because it seems like fixing one thing might be easier than fixing multiple things. We’ll save that debate for another time when my ability to care about the outcome of that debate rises by approximately 372 percent.
Let’s get to the miscues and show you what went wrong.
After a targeting penalty against Florida, Ole Miss reached the Florida 26-yard line. We didn’t get to see the first and second down plays because, as Joe Tessitore explained on air, the officiating crew ignored the universally hated red hat commercial break timer guy and started play as soon as the penalty was walked off.
On those two plays, Ole Miss gained seven total yards to breach the red zone. As the broadcast parachuted back in to this series, we saw Matt Corral rushed on a throw that ended at the feel of Elijah Moore out of the backfield, missing the opportunity to pick up a first down.
Kiffin consulted the analytics manual, which is a little more advanced than the philosophy of NEVER KICK EVER, and decided to go for it. On fourth down, Ole Miss took a play out of the Mike Leach/Air Raid thin air (since they don’t have playbooks) and ran what is called 92 Post-Wheel in that terminology.
The number “92” is the term used for the mesh concept, which is when the slot receivers on both sides of the formation run shallow crossing routes close enough together that they should be able to high-five. An outside receive runs a post route, and the running back in the backfield runs a wheel route into the space created by the receiver running a post.
It looks like this:
If it looks somewhat familiar, you probably saw Leach run it later that afternoon for a 75-yard touchdown pass to Kylin Hill.
Eben noch angesprochen: Kylin Hill ist wieder fit und haut erstmal den 75-Yard TD raus Der Drive ging schnell pic.twitter.com/dVDkBXpuXa— Saturday Kickoff - Podcast (@SaturdayKick) September 26, 2020
In Ole Miss’ version, Elijah Moore is in the backfield and runs the wheel route. Unfortunately for Ole Miss, the snap is bad, likely throwing off Corral’s timing or at least rattling him a little.
As he tries to recover and set his feet, we see the mesh being run beautifully.
Now, here’s where I’m not sure what happens with Corral. He seems to have gathered himself and is making his read but, for whatever reason, he waits a beat and doesn’t throw the ball to open options.
Maybe he needed to see Moore look back before throwing, or maybe a defender was doing something that made him pause for what would turn out to be too long. About .3 seconds after this, Florida’s pass rush gets to him.
Due to time constraints, I doubt he ever looked at Jonathan Mingo running the crossing route, but this should’ve been at least a first down. Instead, it was the start of Florida’s 7-0 lead.
In real time:
Batted Pass for an Interception
After an interception by the Ole Miss defense, courtesy of Dan Mullen taking out his starting quarterback, Ole Miss attacked quickly, with a 45-yard pass from Dontario Drummond to Moore (sure!), setting up a first down at the Florida 10.
Playing with speed, Ole Miss tried to let Jerrion Ealy cook, but the Gators were not phased by said hurry-up offense.
Now it’s essentially second and goal at the Florida 14, which is not ideal. What is ideal is Jeff Lebby dialing up the ol’ touchdown play on a smash concept, which is when the slot receiver runs a corner route, and the outside receiver runs a hitch or curl, as seen here:
Initially, all is going according to the plan.
I have no idea what Moore’s (in the slot) defender is doing, as he is literally stopped and facing the sideline for some reason. The outside corner is in no-man’s land, unable to help on the corner route and six yards off the hitch or curl. This should be a touchdown to Moore on the corner route.
Instead, the Florida defensive end (incredibly the same one that blew up the previous running play) happens to have the world’s highest vertical leap and times his jump just as Corral lets the ball go.
Further confirmation this ridiculous leap prevented a touchdown:
In real time:
Midway through the third quarter, trailing by 17, Ole Miss used yet another explosive passing play (Corral to Moore for 51 yards) to get into the red zone. After Snoop Conner’s first-down run got Ole Miss to the Florida 19, the Gators’ talent and defensive execution showed up on second down.
Florida sends a linebacker/safety from depth that no one, including Corral saw.
Fortunately for Ole Miss, he alone doesn’t make the play. However, unfortunately for Ole Miss, two interior defensive linemen toss their blockers aside.
On third and 8, Corral threw a touchdown pass to Moore that was called back due to a holding penalty. Ah, yes, a delightful interpretation of holding it was. Don’t watch the ball, watch the right guard on this play.
Called in .5 seconds and no reaction at all from the defender. Between this and the roughing the passer penalty called on MoMo Sanogo, quite a helping of I’M NOT MAD I’M ACTUALLY LAUGHING*.
That penalty took away seven points and put Ole Miss in a third and 18 goal line situation, for which there are almost zero plays. Unless your offense has a touchdown play in this scenario, the primary goal is to not take a sack and affect field goal range, and the secondary goal is to pick up what yards you can to improve field goal range.
As you can see, Florida knows Ole Miss’ options are limited and attacks with an aggressive pass rush up the field.
To make matters worse for Corral, the interior linemen also push into his face, ensuring he can’t step into any throw. For a moment, it looks like he has room to bail to his right and buy some time.
Even if he does try to buy time, it likely doesn’t change the outcome of the play, other than maybe he’s able to pick up a few more yards on a scramble. To his credit, Corral avoided the sack and picked up seven yards to improve the distance of the impending field goal.
Despite that effort, the 42-yard field goal attempt ended with this:
With the defensive issues Ole Miss has, they can’t afford to collect zero points on any trip inside the red zone and certainly not on multiple trips. Let us hope this unpleasantness is a “Florida is really good” situaish and not a nagging problem that will slowly and steadily drive us insane. Or maybe that’s just me.