Ole Miss football: Injuries compound mistakes in loss to Auburn
The injuries were simply too much for Ole Miss to overcome on Saturday night in a 31-20 loss to Auburn.
Ole Miss entered the game without Jonathan Mingo, and fellow receiver Braylon Sanders, a gametime decision, didn’t play. Dontario Drummond injured his leg in the 1st half, and though he came back in, he limped visibly all night and wasn’t close to fully healthy. The Rebels lost Ben Brown for the season earlier last week, which furthered their reshuffling on the interior offensive line to accommodate Caleb Warren, who is playing through an injury that cost him 2 games.
And the proverbial leak that sank the ship was quarterback Matt Corral injuring his left leg on the 3rd drive of the game. Luke Altmyer replaced him for the rest of that drive and most of the next as Corral went into the locker room for an MRI. Corral later returned, but for as much grit and toughness as he showed, he was clearly compromised. He couldn’t move as swiftly in the pocket, he was limited running and he uncharacteristically missed a couple of throws that one could only think were caused in part by the depleted receiving corps and in part by his ailing left leg.
Ole Miss doesn’t have the depth to overcome this many injuries on offense. We all knew this going into the season. It showed at times during the Tennessee and LSU games, but the Rebels were able to survive. It finally became simply too much to overcome. Depth at receiver will be a top priority in the offseason, but there is only so much this coaching staff can do right now with a group of youngsters who have yet to develop into SEC-caliber receivers. Jahcour Pearson played well, but he isn’t dynamic enough to carry the load by himself.
Think about it from this perspective: Ole Miss trailed 28-17 at halftime. The defense was getting gashed by the run and outschemed in general. That same defense allowed 3 points and forced a turnover in the 2nd half, and the Rebels still lost by double digits. Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby seemed stumped about what to do with the slew of injuries. It showed inthe hyper-aggressive play-calling and decision-making. Ole Miss had 4 drives go into plus territory in the 2nd half and got a grand total of 3 points out of them. That simply isn’t a recipe for success with the way this team is constructed, and truthfully, that would be hard for any team to overcome.
Corral and the Rebels fought valiantly, but they simply didn’t have the ammunition to come out on top. A bad end zone interception epitomized the night. An injured Corral rolled out to the right and then hurled one slightly back across his body that Auburn picked off. It was a product of trying to make a play in dire circumstances and was likely a throw Corral is confident in with his full complement of weapons.
Ole Miss needs to get healthy to have a chance to win the remaining 4 games on its schedule. That is stating the obvious. Drummond and Sanders need to play the final 4 games, and if they don’t, it’s going to be a daunting uphill battle for this offense to score points.
Twenty points was never going to be enough to beat Auburn on the road. The fact that the Rebels were in the game late in the 4th quarter is a credit to the defense and the resolve of this team. But in the end, this dynamic offense that has fueled the Rebels’ rise this season simply had too many parts break down to get the car across the finish line.