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What we know, kinda know, and don’t know about Ole Miss football at the midway point

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After sifting through the Knoxville trash, we break down what we learned heading into the LSU game.

Josh McCoy-Ole Miss Athletics

If you’re scoring at home, and who among us isn’t, Saturday’s win over Tennessee marked the second consecutive game that came down to the final play and went in Ole Miss’ favor. Living on the knife’s edge for six more games is not sustainable, both in a mathematical sense (no one with Ole Miss’ talent level wins a high percentage of close games) and in the sense that none of us may live through mid-November at this rate.

Saturday’s win also marked the first consecutive game Ole Miss won after a 20-minute delay with a minute to go because some of the worst fans in college football decided to act like entitled assholes and throw a shitfit when something didn’t go their way. How psychotic do you have to be to bring golf balls into the stadium to throw at another human being? Just a legion of people who deserved to be the cause of a forfeit.

Originally, I thought the SEC should enforce a fan ban for Tennessee’s next home game, but obviously the SEC home office doesn’t have the spine to send a meaningful message. Instead, I concur with our own Will Gates’ suggestion.

What We Know

Matt Corral is the one

On a night when our Southern California, Wayne Gretzky-taunting son did not have his starting left guard, two of his top three receivers (and main deep threat), his starting tight end, and his passing A-game, he found a way to put up 426 total yards. Given those limitations and the environment, it was as sensational of a performance as I can remember from any Ole Miss quarterback.

When the aforementioned deep threat, Braylon Sanders, went out with an injury in the first quarter, it didn’t take Tennessee long to figure out there was no other deep threat, and Ole Miss was much deeper into its receiver rotation than they wanted to be. The Vols smartly started to squeeze the field, gambling that Ole Miss wasn’t going to win a lot of one-on-one matchups with the receivers who had to play.

Making things more difficult, the offensive line wasn’t exactly paving the way for the running game.

That would be ZERO POINT EIGHT yards before contact from all Ole Miss running backs. You do not need an analytics wizard to tell you that is #bad.

Adding those things together, only Matt Corral doing something extraordinary was going to produce enough offense to give them a chance to win. As we know, he did.

He kept plays alive with his scrambling ability, and Lane Kiffin/Jeff Lebby saw the opportunities available with a quarterback draw, which Corral used to devastating effects. His will to win while carrying the weight of the offense when he didn’t have his best stuff was a privilege to watch.

Kiffin could not have been more right when he said after the game that Ole Miss fans need to appreciate the greatness we’re seeing because it doesn’t happen often.

Wide receiver depth is officially a problem

With Jonathan Mingo out and all signs pointing to Braylon Sanders either being out or playing but not being himself, Ole Miss has a Tennessee game situation going on headed into this weekend. They desperately need guys or a guy to step up and be a relief valve because Matt Corral is not going to see the end of the season if every game turns into a Matt Corral Game™.

Shout-out to Dannis Jackson for torching Tennessee on the slant and go for a touchdown. Gonna need more of that, fam.

Maybe things improve with more practice reps for guys who haven’t been getting as many, but this is a fire that needs to be put out. Of course, that assumes it is a fire that can be put out.

As always, DRINK.

Ole Miss defense: Not dead yet, feeling better

As you may have heard, the defensive numbers against Arkansas were what some might call GRIZZLY. While the numbers against Tennessee were not great, they qualified for DID ENOUGH, which is what we’re going for.

I know Tennessee had injuries on the offensive line that made Ole Miss better than they are, but what we learned was Ole Miss has a few players that can take advantage of other team’s depth issues.

The performance also confirmed Kiffin’s belief that the defense would be better when Jake Springer returned and got someone like Otis Reese back in his natural position. And a special shout-out to Mark Robinson of SEMO fame, who played fast and looked like he belonged on the field at all times.

Finally, as Kiffin said, Tennessee got the ball back twice with a chance to win and couldn’t do it. While it was not easy on the blood pressure, the defense got results on those possessions.

What We Kinda Know

Belief

As previously mentioned, Ole Miss could’ve been on the wrong side of the last two games, yet they did enough to get wins. What does that do for a team’s psyche? It can’t hurt!

As I said earlier, they can’t keep playing these type of games and expect the same results, but this has huge “forged by the fires, we’re seeing confidence more and more” energy. The idea being that they don’t get rattled by emotional storms and recognize the need to act on kill shot opportunities when they have them.

What We Don’t Know

How will Kiffin and Lebby address the wide receiver issue?

Not a clue, but they’ve shown the ability to adapt to almost any situation. Who knows how long the Kiffin era will last at Ole Miss (or Lebby with him), but it is relaxing to know there are wildly competent, innovative coaches trying to solve problems.

I would add that, after putting the QB draw with Corral on film at least 8 or 9 times on Saturday, you better believe we’re dialing up this nasty twist on a concept from Week 1 either this week or next.

Someone tell Orlando Umana and Ben Brown to chill for like .7 seconds.

Recovery

I brought it up last week, but it feels like we are slowly being ground down and it’s a matter of time before depth/fatigue catches up with us. I hope I’m wrong, but as the title of the section says, WE DON’T KNOW.