Ole Miss football: Last 4 games a chance for Corral to show consistency for 2020 and beyond
Matt Corral looked like a confident quarterback again Saturday. He threw just 3 incompletions in a 412-yard performance that featured 6 touchdowns in Ole Miss’ 54-21 rout over winless Vanderbilt.
Yes, much of it had to do with the opponent. Vanderbilt was outmanned on defense, particularly in the secondary, where it was dealing with injuries and COVID-19 absences. But Corral threw the ball more deliberately and made better decisions. After turning the ball over 9 times in 2 games in what was the most tumultuous stretch of his short career, the sophomore quarterback threw the ball with more confidence. His chemistry with Elijah Moore — who tallied 14 receptions for 238 yards and 3 touchdowns — looked as strong as ever.
The Vanderbilt game was an opportunity for Ole Miss, now 2-4, to gain a collective confidence boost heading into the back half of what is a very manageable schedule, and no one took better advantage of it than Corral. The performance alters the lens through which you look at his redshirt sophomore campaign. Aside from the Week 4 loss at Arkansas, Corral has looked like one of the best passers in the sport. He has thrown only 3 interceptions combined in the other 5 contests and has a chance for a 3,000-yard season in a 10-game slate.
So what does this mean for the Rebels as they barrel down the home stretch? To start with, each of the remaining 4 games serves, in a way, as a vote of confirmation for Corral heading into the 2021 season. When he was temporarily benched for John Rhys Plumlee 2 drives into the Auburn game, a seed of doubt was planted as to what the future at quarterback held in the early years of the Lane Kiffin era. And with the current staff making it bluntly obvious that it does not trust Plumlee to throw the ball frequently enough to be the primary quarterback, the uncertainty only intensified — making Corral’s short-term resurgence all the more important. If you look at the sample size as a whole, Corral’s resume is sturdy enough to make the case that he is the guy for 2021 and beyond. But bad performances against South Carolina and Texas A&M could once again alter this ever-evolving storyline.
These final 4 games — 3 of which come against pedestrian to poor defenses in South Carolina, LSU and Mississippi State — are a chance for Corral to show consistency for the first time in his career. If Ole Miss reels off 3 wins in the last 4 to get to 5-5 with Corral playing well, the program enters the offseason with the quarterback position settled, and Corral enters with the same coordinator and system for the first time in his college career. There is an argument to be made that the dysfunction around Corral in the Ole Miss program has bred inconsistent play on the field. And these final 4 games are a chance to emerge past that as he takes the next step as a passer in the SEC.
There has been more good than bad with Corral this season. That is indisputable. He has shown the arm talent that made him such an enticing prospect, and he has been put in better position to succeed in Kiffin and Jeff Lebby’s scheme. These last 4 games for him are about widening the margins between good and bad, eliminating mistakes and putting 3 or 4 consistent performances together to end this unorthodox season. If he’s able to do that, Ole Miss will enter Kiffin’s first normal offseason with a crucial piece to build on. If he is not, then it may be back to the drawing board at quarterback, with no viable option currently on the roster.
My bet is on the former. It’s now on Corral to solidify the confidence his performance at Vanderbilt garnered amongst Ole Miss’ fan base.