If there’s one trait that’s a part of every Ole Miss football team since the school starting playing the very normal sport in 1893, it’s that each team finds ways to exponentially increase its degree of difficulty for winning a game.
Last Saturday against Mississippi State, those methods were on display. Three trips inside the State 10-yard line netted a total of three (3) points, a dropped interception deflected directly to a Bulldog wide receiver for a first down to extend the drive that cut Ole Miss’ lead to seven late in the fourth quarter, and the events that allowed State to get in position for last-second shot at the end zone were all anxiety-riddled experiences for which we did not care.
Fortunately, our Running-the-Sip sons did enough good things that those mistakes didn’t matter. It also means they’ve won three straight SEC games for the first time since the Alabama-Texas A&M-Tennessee stretch in 2014, moving one step closer to Lane Kiffin’s goal of finishing the season as one of the hottest teams in the country.
Winning five straight is a little too fever dreamy, but taking four of the last five is grounded in reality, considering LSU’s struggles, which we obviously hate to see. Given Wednesday’s COVID news, let us hope the team gets a chance to play the last two games because it’s fun caring about Ole Miss football again.
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 (redux)
As I alluded to earlier, the points per scoring opportunity against Mississippi State were what the advanced stats folks call NOT GREAT, BOB. Per Red Cup Rebellion statistics professor Will Gates, 3.9 points over eight scoring opportunities to be exact.
HOWEVAH, let’s take a look at some team averages over this three-game win streak:
- 48 points/game
- 633 total yards/game
- 7.9 yards/play
- A billion passing yards (roughly)
- 183.3 rushing yards/game
Okay, fine. You’ve twisted my arm. I’ll take those numbers.
Going a little further into the details, let’s take a look at the combined game logs for Matt Corral and Elijah Moore:
- Corral - 83 of 102 (81.4 percent), 1,310 yards, 12 touchdowns, 0 interceptions
- Moore - 39 receptions, 602 yards, 5 touchdowns
That’s hard to do in whatever version of NCAA Football you’re playing, even in your ninth year at Oregon State where you’re passing 45 times a game and running it up on USC because that five-star QB signed with them instead of you. SELFISH PUNK, IMO.
(2) Corral versus his predecessors
Our Ventura, California son is putting together an absurd season, but it’s a little difficult to compare with seasons from previous Ole Miss quarterbacks. However, it’s not as difficult to compare runs like the one he’s on right now.
With the help of a white-bearded steward, I tracked down the scrolls containing game logs of previous Ole Miss quarterbacks to compare three-game stretches in conference play. I only looked at Jordan Ta’amu, Chad Kelly (whispers: CHAD KELLY), Bo Wallace, and Eli Manning because, fam, without looking, I know no one else comes close.
- Ta’amu, 2017 (Arkansas, Auburn, South Carolina) - 84 of 127 (66.1 percent), 1,090 yards, 3 TDs, 1 INT, 250 rushing yards, 2 TDs
- SWAG, 2015 (Auburn, Arkansas, LSU) - 76 of 119 (63.9 percent), 1,029 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs, 212 rushing yards, 5 TDs
- Dr. Bo, 2012 (Vanderbilt, LSU, Mississippi State) - 61 of 106 (57.5 percent), 1,007 yards, 8 TDs, 5 INTs, 98 rushing yards, 3 TDs
- Manning, 2001 (LSU, Arkansas, Georgia) - 90 of 133 (67.7 percent), 794 yards (lol vertical passing game), 11 TDs, 2 INTs, and Eli is not running the ball
Factoring in rushing yards, Ta’amu and SWAG are in Corral’s total yardage neighborhood, with SWAG and Dr. Bo’s rushing touchdowns doing the same for total touchdowns. Manning is also near him in passing touchdowns, but that Arkansas game featured seven overtimes, and five of those touchdowns were thrown in overtime.
The point of all this math being, ENJOY THE HISTORY BEING MADE BEFORE YOUR EYES.
(3) Matt Corral, forever 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.
It shows up in this space in every edition of this dog and pony show because Corral keeps doing it. Against Mississippi State on passing downs, Corral was 9-12 for 237 yards and two touchdowns, with the average completion yardage sitting at a very healthy 26.3 yards.
Pro Tip From Not A Pro: Keep throwing 81-yard touchdown passes.
(4) Elijah Moore: Crown him
Our they-can’t-cover-him son now holds the Ole Miss record for most receptions in a single season. As we’ve noted before, he broke said record in fewer games and didn’t need to pad those stats against the likes of UConn, though him dropping 300 yards just because he could would’ve been fun, not to mention the random salary bonuses it would’ve cost Randy Edsall.
(5) Is this good?
The pass traveled about 61 yards in the air and NARY A WOBBLE IN FLIGHT.
To quote a news anchor who is also from Southern California, “I mean, that thing is good. I want to be friends with it.”
(6) We’re seeing trophies paraded into rooms more and more
(7) Matt Corral has writers
Whether he came up with it or it came via huge Stonecutters’ energy, it gives you a peek behind the curtain of Kiffiin and Corral’s relationship. If you’ve watched interviews during which Corral has talked about Kiffin, this same friendly nature shows up in all of them.
It even shows up with offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby. On last week’s The Season episode, Corral calls Lebby “Jeffrey”.
Going to steal this when we throw away a couple of plays by running wildcat. JEFFREY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?
(8) Otis Reese, pretty good!
Prior to the season and throughout the last few weeks, Kiffin said Reese was one of the best defensive players on the team. Turns out, he wasn’t overselling!
Reese was the best defensive player on the field for Ole Miss against State, as the coaches asked him to do a lot. Whether dropping into coverage or spying running backs leaking out of the backfield, Reese was everywhere.
He finished second on the team with eight tackles, as well as one pass break-up, and made the defense a better defense in his first game since what feels like 2011. If you haven’t watched this week’s The Season episode, you should know that he’s not short on confidence and loves to talk, which will upset the haters and losers, of which there are many.
(9) Where are we after Game Eight?
Despite making things more difficult than they had to be, Team SHOOTOUT LIFE has won three in a row and proved they can win when the offense isn’t as efficient as it has been. I know we have had very little to say about the defense other than [insert exasperation], but they did just enough on Saturday and deserve credit for it.
With Reese’s arrival, we could see more than marginal improvement because I think he’s that good. He does his job well and has the ability to lessen the damage when others make mistakes or lose their matchups. Again, we’re not looking for a defensive rebirth, we just need to get to not terrible. IT’S GOOD TO HAVE GOALS.
I think there’s a real possibility Ole Miss gives Texas A&M a highly annoying game that leads to multiple instances of Jimbo Fisher, with his bifocals perched on the end of his nose, staring out at the field in open-mouth frustration.
Whatever happens with A&M and LSU (if the games happen), Year One of the Lane Kiffin rebuild has given us what we needed to see: coaching competence, a program that’s getting better, and reasons to be excited about where this is headed.
(10) What should we expect on Saturday?
Another free Saturday! Good luck to those also involved in the struggle to be right somewhere in the neighborhood of 53 percent to 55 percent of the time.