Lane Kiffin is in the win column at Ole Miss.
Here are the five major takeaways from a game that made everyone smile:
Let’s just get this one out of the way.
The Ole Miss defense allowed 559 total yards against Kentucky on Saturday. It was actually an improvement over the 642 total yards that the Gators hung on the Rebels in week one— although that doesn’t say much.
For the entire game, the Wildcats ran the ball at will. They handed it off 76 percent of the time for 408 yards and all six touchdowns and three different players went for over 100 yards, including quarterback Terry Wilson, who also completed all but four of his 18 pass attempts for an average of 8.4 yards per touch.
To be fair,
neither defense could stop either offense, but Ole Miss’ defense couldn’t stop Kentucky’s offense more than Kentucky’s defense could stop Ole Miss’ offense. Call it poor recruiting, a lack of talent, whatever; it was Swiss cheese more than it wasn’t.
With all of its struggles, the defense had two opportunities to throw the fin and earned both.
The first came with about six minutes left in the third quarter, when the Rebels were down 28-21 and forced a three-and-out. The offense answered with seven points. With 13 minutes and 37 seconds left, Kentucky had first-and-10 at the Ole Miss 37-yard line and could not capitalize. MoMo Sanogo capped off a turnover on downs with a twelve-yard sack and the momentum swung to the offense, which answered with seven points.
MoMo with the even bigger sack on 4th and 8 pic.twitter.com/MLltYjQjUq— TJ (@TJOxley1) October 3, 2020
Jaylon Jones lead all tacklers with 10 total tackles, followed by Jacquez Jones and Sanogo with seven. After battling back from a broken leg last season, Sanogo gets the helmet sticker tonight.
This was also a great tackle, by the way.
You can’t do the ✌️and get caught. You just can’t. (Kentucky fumbled 2 plays later too) pic.twitter.com/9PsOkNMC8B— Big Cat (@BarstoolBigCat) October 3, 2020
The early fumble recovery may have been a tone-setter if the offense would have scored, but the defense played significantly better in the second half. That is a direct result of good coaching.
(and special teams.)
Kiffin rightfully chose to punt on 4th-and-1 with the game tied at 35 and 42 seconds left. Haters may say things along the lines of “put the game away” or ”there’s nothing to lose,” but there was. If Ole Miss didn’t convert the fourth down attempt, it loses. To go one step further, if Mac Brown doesn’t rip an absolute heater, it loses.
Let me say it again for the people in the back... IF MAC BROWN DOESN’T CRUSH THIS PUNT, OLE MISS WOULD HAVE LOST THE GAME!
A bad punt would have been light work for the Wildcats’ offense, and even a sub-par punt could have put the Rebels in serious trouble. Brown pinned ‘em comfortably inside the 10.
Luke Logan also deserves a dap. He made that extra point his bitch.
The nWos got their swagger back.
Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby’s offense is very different than that of Matt Luke and Rich Rodriguez, and far more competent than that of Longo. It is a breath of fresh air.
Matt Corral finished 24-of-29 passes for 320 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. He added 51 yards rushing on 13 carries, making him the team’s leading rusher. Iceman is a serious dude. I don’t think this hit should be a penalty, but after the precedent set amongst the referees overseeing the Florida game last weekend, it should have been. It took a second for Corral to gather himself, but to take a hit like that and continue on to lead your team to a come-from-behind victory is baller.
Prayers for Corral’s rib cage pic.twitter.com/OjydB0517r— OMRebelNation (@OMRebelNation) October 3, 2020
On the receiving end, Elijah Moore continued to play well with 10 catchers for 92 yards, even as he continues to be the top defensive key and compete in tough matchups. After Big John Drummond showed up aside Moore last week, it was Jonathan Mingo who burst onto the scene this week.
Matt Corral with the early connection to Jonathan Mingo! pic.twitter.com/Fab0Wy5iC8— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) October 3, 2020
The Brandon, Miss. native put up 128 yards and two touchdowns on eight catches. Clap it up.
Throwing the ball to the tight end in the red zone is a good strategy.
For the first time in a long time, the tight end also got involved. In his first game as a Rebel, 6-foot-4, 240-pound graduate transfer Kenny Yeboah had five catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. In his second, he hauled in three balls for 83 yards and a touchdown.
Kenny Yeboah now has two more touchdowns (2) in two games than Dawson Knox had his entire Ole Miss career, which will never not be coaching malpractice pic.twitter.com/W9WrohDtNL— Ben Garrett (@SpiritBen) October 3, 2020
By scoring twice in 2020, the former Temple Owl has now matched the total number of touchdowns scored by an Ole Miss tight end in 2017, 2018 and 2019 combined.
Where did the analytics go?
The offensive staff called a pretty flawless game. However, one question mark stood out: Why did Kiffin choose to punt on 4th-and-1 from his own 49-yard line late in the first half?
The new Ole Miss head coach has been vocal about his love for analytics since he arrived on campus. He uses a system called the CAI Game Book to assess game-management analytics to calculate his decisions. It recommends when to go for it, kick a field goal or punt depending on the time remaining and score differential. The recommendation on the described scenario would suggest going for it.
For whatever reason, Kiffin elected to punt. That is fine, because Brown flips fields. However, the defense is going to give up points more often than not and it did just that going into the half. It all worked out, but it makes you wonder why he chose to kick.