The better team did not win on Saturday. Ole Miss football had not played a football game in 21 days prior to its game against LSU and it showed. Even with the mishaps, turnovers and torrential downpour, the Rebels had every chance to win the game and should have.
Here are the five major takeaways from a game that didn’t really matter but really did:
The defense wasn’t a complete and total failure, it just wasn’t a success.
LSU put up 593 yards, scored 53 points and turned the ball over just one time. And on top of it all, Ed Orgeron’s team was without much of its star offensive weapons due to opt-outs, illness or injury. The Tigers moved the ball at will and the result speaks to that notion.
Defensive backs struggled to stay tight with their receivers, arm tackles were everywhere, and Ole Miss’ defensive line was unable to get any pressure. Zero. None. It was another field day for the opposing offense and it really didn’t show any improvement for the Rebels.
If there is a positive to pull out of a really bland showing, it was on third down. LSU converted only five of 18 third down attempts, which deserves proper recognition. Now, the Tigers were also 3-for-3 on fourth down, but that is still better than a .500 clip for late down stops by the Rebels. That should be the expectation every Saturday, and if the first and second down effort can get better, there might be something to work with going forward.
Lakia Henry again led the box score with 12 total tackles, Jacquez Jones had 11 and Sam Williams led the way on the line with seven. There is a lot of work to be done.
This just about sums it up:
Matt Corral was the reason that Ole Miss lost. But he was also the reason that Ole Miss almost won. The 2021 Heisman Trophy candidate had himself a game likened to the one against Arkansas and turned the ball over six times— five interceptions and a lost fumble.
All five interceptions resulted in points for the opponents and the fumble sealed the loss. Not including the scoring drives that came off of interceptions, LSU scored 26 points. But that wasn’t the case. Corral did not play well and there is no way to sugarcoat it.
However, excluding the five interceptions, he went 15-of-22 for 251 yards with three touchdowns through the air and added a team-high 158 yards rushing on 17 carries and found pay dirt. Corral’s bootleg score was the most epic, as Lane Kiffin signaled for the touchdown before the ball was even snapped, but LOOK AT THE BALL FAKE. He is a magician.
LANE SIGNALED TOUCHDOWN BEFORE THE BALL WAS EVEN SNAPPED. pic.twitter.com/Kk5e40NMju— Grayson Weir (@GsonJW) December 19, 2020
Corral had his hand in more than 50 percent of the total points and kept the Rebels in the game in the second half. But he had six turnovers. It wasn’t a good day and the struggles were insurmountable, but he almost surmounted them by himself.
He played so poorly, and yet so well. Such a frustrating dichotomy. He’ll get it ironed out.
Surprises in the backfield.
Corral was the leading rusher, but the second-best ball carrier was a bit of a surprise. Henry Parrish Jr. has impressed the coaching staff since they recruited him. He had a stellar preseason, continues to play well in practice and has looked tremendous in his increasing in-game touches as the year has gone on. Saturday saw Parrish Jr. get the ball 18 times and he averaged more than five yards per carry. His highlight, however, came on a catch-and-run that set up a touchdown.
He also found the end zone. Give him a helmet sticker.
Behind the two leading rushers were Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner. They are both as explosive as always, and Ealy found the end zone on a 100-yard kick return, but they both saw less touches than the true freshman on Saturday. Ealy had 12 carries for 44 yards and Conner had three for 23. Don’t be surprised if the latter hits the transfer portal very soon.
Thank you Braylon Sanders.
With Elijah Moore having decided to opt out, Braylon Sanders was the slot receiver against the Bayou Bengals and had a strong showing. He had a team-high 70 yards on a team-high four catches and two went for touchdowns. The first was an incredible grab and he put the defensive back in his place! TALK THAT TALK BRAYLON!
Another look at that first Ole Miss TD— Reggie Chatman Jr. (@ReggieChatman) December 19, 2020
Great grab from Braylon Sanders pic.twitter.com/e48eVg27dV
The second catch was bittersweet. Sanders made a strong catch in double coverage to put the Rebels back in front with the extra point. While the circumstances were exciting, he came up injured and had to be carried off of the field by his teammates— Corral was one of them.
Sanders did not return in the game and was brought to the locker room with assistance, unable to get there under his own power. The senior from Georgia may or may not choose to return next season, but either way, the Ole Miss family is grateful for what he has put in thus far. He never quite blossomed into the superstar Nasty Wideout he may have wanted, but 904 yards and six touchdowns on 45 catches is something to be proud of.
When the opportunity presented itself, Sanders had some huge games and we are greatful. Give him two helmet stickers— one for each touchdown.
TOUCHDOWN FIRE EXTINGUISHER!!!!!!!!!
Throughout the entire regular season, Ole Miss faced 60 fourth down attempts. Kiffin elected to go for it on 31. That’s more than 50 percent. CELEBRATE ACCORDINGLY!!!