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Train Talk: Homestretch Edition

With three games to play, Ole Miss has momentum and an offense that’s looking for yet another defense to roast.

With 70 percent of the regular season etched in the tablets of history, Ole Miss has arrived in the Bill Parcells “you are who you are” territory. The 2020 version of Ole Miss is a team with a lethal offense, capable of destroying whatever is in front of it, a defense that is HOOOOOOOOO BOY, and a play sheet-chunkin’ head coach, who has made football in Oxford fun again.

With three games to play, plus a potential bowl game, Ole Miss is riding a two-game SEC winning streak for the first time since 2015*. Yes, that is correct, the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Fifteen. I know, I wrote the sentence and had to re-read it three times.

*From 2016-2019, Ole Miss’ home SEC record was 4-12.

While it’s disappointing we won’t get to see our lighting-up-the-scoreboard sons throw some haymakers at Texas A&M this weekend, there is a realistic shot at this team finishing 5-5, which, other than those in danger of spinning off this planet, everyone would’ve taken before the season began.

In the latest 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) Bring the offense another defense to roast

Rather than me fanboy out over the offense and need to put an infomercial gimmick cooling towel on the back of my neck every five minutes, let’s hit you with some numbers. In the past two games:

  • Ole Miss scored 54 and 59 points
  • Ole Miss had 641 and 708 total yards of offense
  • Ole Miss averaged 8.5 yards per play (PER PLAY)
  • Ole Miss punted a total of two times
  • Matt Corral threw 7 incompletions and 10 touchdowns
  • Matt Corral threw for 925 yards
  • Elijah Moore caught 27 passes for 463 yards and 5 touchdowns
  • Lane Kiffin threw a play sheet over the mountain twice

I used it earlier, but “lethal” is the best word to describe the status of the offense right now. Piling up the yards and nearly maxing out their points per scoring opportunity, and even more impressively, they’re doing this with the pressure of knowing they have to score on almost every possession because the opposing offense is going to come close to doing the same.

(2) [Deep sigh] Defense

We’ve spotted the talk about poor coaching, and we are looking into it very strongly. Jk, like the large, soon-to-be-non-federal employee who gave us that wonderfully stupid phrase, we will not be doing that because nothing matters when you don’t have SEC-level talent.

The defensive coaches, with years of experience and success, arrived in Oxford and suddenly become bad coaches? Pls stop. I’m sure if you did a deep dive you would find mistakes and decisions they’d like to take back, but they’re not going to fix what’s been broken since 2016 within 10 games.

The current state of the defense can be described as two guys who spent the last two years playing offense are now starting or seeing significant playing time as defenders. Nothing changes on that side of the ball until the talent increases.

On a positive note, South Carolina’s last three possessions:

  • 5 plays, 15 yards, punt
  • 4 plays, -1 yard, turnover on downs
  • 11 plays, 70 yards, turnover on downs (COVER)

Obligatory: Good teams win, great teams cover.

(3) Matt Corral, still a passing downs god

As a reminder, passing downs are considered second down with eight or more yards to go and third/fourth down with five or more.

Via Red Cup Rebellion Advanced Stats Senior Correspondent Will Gates, last Saturday was another absurd passing downs performance from our California son. Corral was a perfect 8-8 for 172 yards and two touchdowns and averaged 21.5 yards PER completion. Lol.

Even with the three and a half hours of hiccups and vomiting against Arkansas, it’s been an outstanding season for Corral. It’s also hilariously jarring when you compare his other six performances with the Arkansas game.

(4) Elijah Moore: Reeler in of records

Our putting-defensive-backs-on-roller-skates son is now just 12 receptions away from breaking the single-season school record. He’s also the only receiver in college football who has over 1,000 yards receiving this season, so, you know, that’s pretty good.

Shout-out to the people who wanted to kick him off the team for <checks notes> doing a fake dog pee celebration as a member of a miserable four-win team playing in a rivalry game. Had he not done the fake pee, it could’ve been a miserable five-win team also not going to a bowl game.

(5) Fine, I will say something nice about the defense

Although the defense gave up 8.8 yards per carry (and won!) for a grand total of 318 yards, South Carolina’s stuff rate* was 22 percent. That means almost one out of every five runs went nowhere.

Obviously, the strategy going forward is GET THE OPPOSING OFFENSE TO THAT FIFTH RUN.

*Stuff rate is the percentage of runs stopped at or behind the line of scrimmage

(6) The play sheet retriever

After Ole Miss’ final touchdown, Lane Kiffin sent his play sheet vertical a second time, although this one had a little more action on it and took a left turn into the stands.

On Monday, Kiffin said:

...usually you can’t throw them that far, but that thing really travelled. It was a little like harder than normal. I’ve probably done that, but it’s never gone into the stands, that’s for sure.

(7) Same, coach, very much same

In closing out his thoughts on the play sheet flight, Kiffin had this to say about why he got so excited:

But, I just get excited, like I said after the game, when plays work, and there are schematic plays, especially if you’re audibling at the time, and you get them in a matchup that you’re audibling for a reason. And then, the players make the plays. I was nervous in that game. A lot of that’s relief energy coming out. We’re not stopping them at all. Which, if you can’t stop the run, the games are scary. So, I did not like how the game was going in the third quarter. Then, we hit those couple plays and opening it up was huge.

When Ole Miss was leading 31-28, and punted on fourth and three from its own 32 with 5:39 to play in the third, which was the right call, I felt impending doom start to settle in. Again, things were so bad on defense that, even with a three-point lead, I thought a punt with over 20 minutes to play in the game was the beginning of the end. Totally normal and great for your mental health.

(8) Elijah Moore, dabbler in the art of running back

Lining up in the backfield on multiple occasions, Moore was used as a running back, gaining 45 yards on six carries. Said Kiffin:

Elijah played great; I can’t remember what it was, but I think he had 14 touches at halftime already. Got the ball the first four plays of the game. Crazy to think for a guy that basically doesn’t have any reps back there, except for what we put in this week with the bye, he looked like an elite running back, which is really unusual.

If they ever let Moore throw a pass, we’ll be one step closer to answering the question of what if the whole offense was made out of Elijah Moore.

(9) Where are we after Week Seven?

We are embracing the Team SHOOTOUT LIFE that, like almost all forms of Ole Miss football, will carve a few years off our life expectancy. Three games remain and there’s no guarantee that all or any of them will be played, but if they are played, Ole Miss should be competitive in all of them.

Winning all three would be fever dream stuff, so I’m not expecting that, but a 2-1 finish is reasonable. Will any of these games be comfortable at all? OH, GRASSHOPPER, HOW FOOLISH TO POSE SUCH A QUESTION.

Obviously, Texas A&M is the most unfavorable matchup and likely a loss, but the LSU and Mississippi State games, which are much more favorable, will still be an exercise in having the life drained out of us. Love to voluntarily subject myself to this.

(10) What should we expect on Saturday?

A stress-free Saturday! Well, unless you have multiple monies/financial investments related to a number of games. The degenerate life is not easy, friends, because if it was, everyone would do it.