Ole Miss football: Report card on Egg Bowl win over Mississippi State
Lane Kiffin etched his first Egg Bowl win in stone on Saturday evening as Ole Miss topped Mississippi State 31-24.
The Rebels won in rather mundane fashion. They were never in any serious danger of losing, but they failed to create much separation on the scoreboard due to red-zone dysfunction and an inability to run with much consistency. But it was a win nonetheless, and one that got Ole Miss to the .500 mark for the first time since early October. As we do in this space every week, let’s take a look at some position grades.
It feels strange to give Matt Corral this grade when he went 24-of-36 for 385 yards with 2 touchdowns and no turnovers, but his remarkable play this season has contributed to the stiff curve that he’s graded on. Corral played well, and his services were more than enough for Ole Miss to win this game comfortably. Aside from a couple of overthrows on crucial downs early in the game, there is not a lot to nitpick here. Braylon Sanders dropped a potential touchdown on 4th down on the Rebels’ 1st possession, and a critical incompletion to Elijah Moore late in the 2nd quarter opened the door for Mississippi State to remain in the game for much of the 2nd half.
Corral played well, and Ole Miss won comfortably despite not playing their best game. That’s what good quarterbacks on well-coached teams do.
Running backs: B-
Jerrion Ealy led the Rebels with 93 yards on 18 carries and a touchdown. He averaged 5.2 yards per carry. True freshman Henry Parrish saw his most extensive action of the season with 8 carries, and Snoop Conner ran the ball 6 times. Ole Miss struggled to run with much consistency behind Ealy, and that was a primary cause for their red-zone struggles. The Rebels ran the ball 45 times for just 3.6 yards per rush.
This would likely be an A grade if not for Sanders’ drop and a couple of others sprinkled in. Moore had 12 catches for 139 yards, broke A.J. Brown’s program record for receptions in a season with 86 — and needed just 8 games to do so — and continued his historic year. Corral connected with 7 players, including a 48-yarder to Dontario Drummond for a touchdown. The catch dispersion was better than it has been in most games this year. Collectively, this group played a fine game.
Offensive line: C-
Mississippi State got consistent pressure on Corral, and Ole Miss’ inability to run with much consistency prevented them from taking control of this game on multiple occasions. As short-handed as the Bulldogs are on defense, they still boast one of the best defensive fronts in the conference, and that unit played well. The Rebels’ offensive line had a couple of holding calls that thwarted drives, and it allowed a pair of sacks. This was not its best game, and the offense struggled as a result, which is weird to say in a game that saw Ole Miss accumulate 550 yards of total offense. But the Rebels scored 2 touchdowns on 5 red-zone trips. That is a poor percentage, and it’s what allowed State to remain in the game.
Defensive line: B+
Though it generated only 1 sack, the Ole Miss defensive line got pressure on freshman quarterback Will Rogers and forced him to move outside the pocket a lot. The Rebels generated 6 hurries and were enough of a presence to slightly disrupt what State wanted to do through the air. This was a different type of test for this unit, as the Bulldogs never really tried to run the ball. The Rebels were up for the challenge from a pass rush standpoint, something they have struggled with for much of this season.
Similar story here. There wasn’t much to be done in terms of stopping the run. State, who entered the game with less than 160 yards rushing on the season, ran just 16 times. Lakia Henry led the Rebels in tackles with 10. Jacquez Jones and MoMo Sanogo each had 7 and played pretty well in coverage. This group didn’t really stand out for any particular reason, but it played a solid game.
This was a weird curve to grade this group on. State threw it 62 times and completed 45, but Ole Miss didn’t make too many earth-shattering mistakes in coverage deep down the field, and they got enough stops for it to feel as if the Bulldogs never seriously threatened to take the lead. Otis Reese played well in his 1st game since being ruled eligible, and A.J. Finley played well in coverage. The secondary having a poor game would have been more consequential to the outcome than anything else, and that did not happen, so a B+ grade feels fair.