Ole Miss football: Grading the Rebels' loss to Auburn
Ole Miss had Auburn beaten on Saturday. Up by 1 and needing one stop in the final minutes, the Rebels allowed an explosive play from Bo Nix to Seth Williams in the form of a 58-yard touchdown pass as the Tigers prevailed, 35-28.
The Rebels are still a young team with a roster devoid of the talent needed to win consistently in the SEC. Let’s take a look at how each position graded out.
This has quickly become the overarching storyline surrounding this team. Matt Corral’s play the past two weeks has been poor, and Lane Kiffin has played more of John Rhys Plumlee as a result. Coming off a 6-interception performance in a loss at Arkansas, Corral needed to get off to a fast start to reaffirm Kiffin’s confidence in him, as well as the rest of the team’s. That didn’t happen. A 3-and-out to open the game was followed by a back-breaking interception in the red zone. Plumlee played the next series, and the two split time for the remainder of the game. Corral’s decision-making is crushing a team ill-equipped to overcome them.
The predicament is interesting. Plumlee is clearly not the guy long-term. The coaching staff does not trust him to throw. He had 1 pass attempt in the game. How can the two coexist in an effective manner without Corral’s confidence eroding more than it already has? That remains to be seen. But his 16-for-27 performance for 154 yards and 2 interceptions is not going to cut it.
Running back: A
This is why Ole Miss remained in the game as long as they did. The running game carried them against Auburn’s defensive front. It was a balanced effort, too. Corral actually led the team with 88 yards, while Snoop Conner had 75 and Jerrion Ealy had 74. All three had double-digit carries as the Rebels rushed for 283 yards as a team. For all of this team’s flaws, Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby have been able to find creative ways to run consistently. It has kept them in the game the past two weeks.
Tight end Kenny Yeboah led the team in receiving with 83 yards on 4 catches. Elijah Moore was held to a season-low 5 grabs for 16 yards. The storyline coming into this year was how Ole Miss would complement Moore with a collection of young receivers. They have been unable to do that, aside from a career performance by Jonathan Mingo in a Week 2 win at Kentucky. This group also had a couple of drive-killing drops and was not effective overall. After being the best form of offense the Rebels had for the first three weeks, the passing game needs work.
Defensive line: B
Sam Williams is really good off the edge for the Rebels. He is long, athletic and disruptive, but there isn’t near enough around him for this unit to be effective. The line generated 2 sacks and a hurry on Nix and had 7 tackles for loss. Auburn still ran for 224 yards, but by this team’s standards, this was a serviceable performance from the defensive line.
Getting Jacquez Jones back helped this group, and MoMo Sanogo and Lakia Henry were productive. There were a couple of backs leaking out of the backfield in the passing game that hurt Ole Miss on a few occasions, but overall, this group faired decently.
Nix had been bad on the road in his career, and the Rebels secondary was there to remedy that narrative. Nix was 23-of-30 for 238 with 1 touchdown and no turnovers. Williams had a 150-yard game, and this defense lost Williams, the most dangerous player on the field, on the game’s most crucial play. It was a microcosm for this defense’s struggles this season, and it cost Ole Miss dearly.
Overall, the Rebels are struggling as they hit the teeth of their SEC schedule. The offense has struggled, and the defense is not good enough to mask any struggles on the offensive side. Ole Miss heads to Vanderbilt next week looking to snap a three game skid.