Mississippi football: Is Matt Corral primed to set Egg Bowl records?
Matt Corral has had an interesting Egg Bowl history. From being at the center of a benches-clearing brawl in a loss in Oxford in 2018 as a freshman, to coming off the bench cold, defying play calls from the sideline and nearly leading a comeback in 2019, he’d probably tell you his current resume in this series is not close to what he would like it to be.
Mississippi’s redshirt sophomore has a shot to rectify the past 2 years this coming Saturday when a 2-5 Mississippi State club comes to Oxford. Corral has a grand total of 7 incompletions in his past 8 quarters, with 525 yards passing, 10 touchdowns and not a single interception. The Bulldogs defense is much better than Vanderbilt’s and South Carolina’s — the Rebels’ past 2 opponents — but Mississippi State ranks 8th in the SEC in passing yards allowed per game at 256.
Perhaps the largest issue for the Bulldogs has been opt-outs, injuries and positive COVID-19 tests that limited them to just 49 scholarship players last week in a valiant effort in a loss at Georgia. Starting safety Marcus Murphy opted out 2 weeks ago, and Fred Peters was lost for the year a few weeks ago. The Bulldogs have 4 scholarship corners and will also be without Nathan Pickering on the defensive line.
If Ole Miss can control the tempo, it will bode well for the Rebels, as the Bulldogs’ depth is razor thin, particularly on defense. Quick tempo is the core of Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby’s system and has been arguably the biggest factor in the offense’s success this season. The conditions are potentially ripe for Corral to etch his name in the Egg Bowl record books. Only 2 Ole Miss quarterbacks since 1988 have thrown for 300 yards in this game: Shea Patterson threw for 320 in a blowout 55-20 loss in 2016; and Mark Young totaled 334 in 1988. For reference, Corral has thrown for at least 300 yards in 5 of the 7 games Ole Miss has played this season.
Bo Wallace holds the modern Ole Miss record for passing touchdowns in an Egg Bowl when he threw 5 in a pivotal season-ending win over Mississippi State in Hugh Freeze’s first season in 2012. Corral has 1 game of 5 or more touchdown passes this season — 6 at Vanderbilt — and he threw 4 against both Kentucky and South Carolina. As consistently as Ole Miss has run the football, this record may be a tough one to crack, aside from the obvious difficulty of throwing 5 touchdown passes in any game. But Mississippi State has been very good against the run this year, allowing just 110 yards per contest, and the success of the Ole Miss offense may very well depend on Corral pushing the ball down the field in the vertical passing game.
The odds of Corral passing Arnold “Showboat” Boykin’s 1951 record of 7 total touchdowns in an Egg Bowl seem pretty slim. But if the game goes to overtime or turns into a shootout or both, I suppose there is an outside shot he flirts with this record. He could very well help one of his teammates climb into the record books, though. Donte Moncrief owns the school record for receiving yards in an Egg Bowl with 173 in 2012. Elijah Moore has 3 games of 200-plus yards this season, and this record might be the safest bet to fall on Saturday afternoon if the Ole Miss offense has consistent success. Kiffin and Lebby’s system hinges upon Moore getting a high volume of touches, and surpassing 173 yards against a short-handed Bulldogs defense is not all that far-fetched.
Realistically, Corral’s central focus should be putting together a good enough performance to win the game. But the numbers he has put up this season, coupled with the offense’s collective success, makes one wonder if he can crack the record books en route to his first win in this rivalry.