Matt Corral, Elijah Moore and Ole Miss Offense Impressive in Lane Kiffin's Debut
A Big 12 game broke out in Oxford, Miss. today.
No one really thought Ole Miss was going to upset the No. 5 Florida Gators in Lane Kiffin's debut as the Rebel head coach. But we also didn't think we'd see 1,255 yards of combined offense.
The final score wasn't pretty, as the Rebels dropped their season opener 51-35. But this brand offense showed enough against one of the nation's best teams to give Ole Miss fans reason for a lot of optimism moving forward.
What you wanted to see was signs of improvement, not necessarily a win, from the Rebels in Kiffin's debut. And, especially on offense, it's hard not to see this as a very different Ole Miss team than the one we saw in 2019.
For long stretches on Saturday afternoon, Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby's offense held right there with the nation's No. 5 team. On offense, they put up 35 points and 443 passing yards against a defense ranked No. 3 nationally by SP+.
Starting quarterback Matt Corral looked like a new man. Corral finished 22 of 31 passing for 395 passing yards, three downtowns and one interception. Yes, he threw that first quarter interception close to the redone on a ball that was tipped at the line of scrimmage, but as a whole he was really careful with the ball and made really good decisions.
John Rhys Plumlee, listed as a 'co-starter' coming into the game, simply wasn't good when he was on the field at quarterback. Plumlee actually saw some action at receiver, getting targeted on the first drive and later catching a six yard pass from Corral.
However, at quarterback, Plumlee was just 1-1 for 3 yards, adding 3 carries for just 9 yards, and the offense false started in one of the few snaps he had at quarterback. He didn't attempt a pass in the second half and finished with 4 carries for 4 yards.
Coming out of the half Corral and the offense picked up where they left off. Corral made a really good read on a deep ball to Elijah Moore, splitting a two-high safety look for 57-yard reception that likely would have scored if Corral's throw led him further.
One play later, Jerrion Ealy got into the end zone with an 18-yard rush where Moore actually got to spin Ealy around and pull him in for the score. On the next drive, Moore hit on another big reception, this one for 51 yards and then had a 22-yard touchdown called back on an offensive holding.
Moore would finish the game with 10 catches for 227 yards, coming up six yards shy of breaking the Ole Miss single game record. All other receiver combined for 14 catches for 216 yards, led by tight end Kenny Yeboah with 5-19-1.
As good as Corral and the passing game was, the Ole Miss rushing attack was really impressive as well. In fact, the Rebels ran the ball much more than they passed. Of the 78 total plays for the Rebels, 45 came on the ground. Jerrion Ealy led the team with 16 carries for 79 yards and one score. Corral even had rushes of 7, 7, 8, 11, 17 and 20 yards in the game. He's a more than capable runner in his own right.
In total, Ole Miss and Florida combined for over 1,200 yards, a blistering single-game figure.
Ole Miss has a lot of work to do. The defense has a LOT of work to do. But there's at least some encouraging signs from the new Lake Kiffin and Jeff Lebby offense to build on.
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