Ole Miss football dominated a weak SEC opponent and handed it to Vanderbilt 54-21 on Saturday night. The night was full of positives to build on and the second-stringers saw a lot of time in the second half.
Here are the five major takeaways from a game that was never in doubt.
The offense had a day. Jerrion Ealy ran the ball with authority and went for a team-high 95 yards on 15 carries, and both he and Henry Parrish (who took the late garbage time handoffs) averaged more than six yards per carry. Snoop Conner only had five carries but he punched in the early and only rushing score.
It was the air attack that stole the show, however. Matt Corral began the afternoon with 19 straight completions, and broke Eli Manning’s single-game school record in the process. He also passed Manning with a 91.1 percent completion percentage (with at least 30 attempts) and connected on 31-of-34 attempts for 412 yards in only 37 minutes of play. Corral tied another of Manning’s single-game record with six touchdowns. He looked confident, stood tall in the pocket, threw to the right reads (everybody was open anyway) and put some serious zip on his balls.
On the receiving end, Kenny Yeboah, Dontario Drummond and Jonathan Mingo all had good nights, but it was Elijah Moore who stole the show again. The Rebels’ top receiver averaged 17 yards per catch and touched a pair of big-name records as well. Moore’s 238 yards receiving broke A.J. Brown’s single-game school record and his 14 receptions put him next to Brown for most catches in a game. He was also the first player in the FBS to have 10 catches and 200+ yards receiving in the first half since Marqise Lee did it at Southern California in 2012.
Funny enough, Kiffin was the head coach there and then too.
Even the Mayor of Starkville weighed in.
I hope E rewrite the record books. Erase my name from it completely!— AJ Brown (@Brown1arthur) October 31, 2020
Moore came out with the starting offense midway through the third quarter, but if his day continued, he was on-pace to break the NCAA single-game record with 404 yards. He is confidently Corral’s top target, deserves to be, and will have a real shot at hearing his name called as the Biletnikoff Award winner if the success continues.
Lane Kiffin is a winner.
When Ole Miss brought Kiffin on back in December, it was to hire someone that will change the course of the program. Winning football games was important, yes, but it was more about changing the way that things are run. The new head honcho has done just that.
ESPN pulled Kiffin for an interview before the half and praised his quarterback and star wide receiver for the unbelievable performance they put on in the first 30 minutes. Instead of dwelling on the success, Kiffin pointed to the drive before halftime. Ole Miss took over with 23 seconds left, ran the ball for 16 yards on the first snap and took a timeout. Two quick completions and a second timeout left seven seconds on the clock at the Vanderbilt 46-yard-line. Corral took a shot downfield to Mingo and couldn’t connect. If he had completed the pass, Mingo had a real shot to score. Kiffin addressed the incompletion in the interview, instead of the other passes that Corral did complete. Winners don’t settle for anything less than perfect.
On the drive prior, with a 20-point lead and just over two minutes remaining in the first half, Ole Miss faced a 4th-and-one at the Vanderbilt 33-yard-line. Most coaches, especially Matt Luke, would have elected to kick the field goal and add three points to a lead that was already trending toward insurmountable. Kiffin chose to go for it. The attempt was successful and the Rebels scored on the drive. That’s a four-point swing because scared money don’t make money.
I said this was going to be a weekly segment and I meant it. Yes, Vanderbilt is very bad and its offense would struggle against an FCS team, but don’t let that take away from the job that D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge’s group did tonight.
A.J. Finley led the box score with 12 total tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception. He is undeniably inexperienced, but he’s one of the biggest bright spots on the defense and has the potential to be very good as a coached-up upperclassmen. Around him, top-performers included Lakia Henry and Jacquez Jones, as well as Hal Northern stepping up at defensive tackle and Tylan Knight.
The Commodores barely topped 100 yards rushing and 300 yards passing, and 75 total yards came on their last scoring drive of the day against the second-team defense. It wasn’t perfect and 21 points (really only 14 that mattered) isn’t going to get it done in low-scoring, pound-for-pound title matches, but that was definitely not the case on Saturday, or in the SEC at all this season.
Of the seven big plays allowed, four came in the first three quarters and the longest was only 43 yards. The Rebels forced five punts, two fumbles and a pick on 12 total drives and kept their opponents from creeping back into the game at any point.
It was an impressive outing from a group that has been trending positively over the last two or three weeks. They’re going to get out-played by better offenses until the talent gap closes, but the trip to Nashville was overwhelmingly positive.
This is dedicated entirely to Elijah Moore’s cuts.
Moore had an incredible game from a numbers standpoint, yes, but the way that he sauced up the Vanderbilt defensive backs was even more impressive. The Florida Native has been making man coverage look silly since high school.
That shifty footwork continued on Saturday and had the Commodores in a spin cycle all night. Look at him burn this corner on the sluggo route.
Watch him reverse field and accelerate past the chains on this play.
Here, on the same drive, he uses a double move in the slot to burn his man. If Corral hadn’t underthrown him, he would have scored.
It’s no secret that Moore is a weapon, but his shiftiness deserves to be selected on the first two days of the NFL Draft.