Ole Miss football: It is time to fully appreciate the greatness of Elijah Moore
In the moments after Ole Miss defeated South Carolina 59-42 on Saturday evening, Rebels quarterback Matt Corral sounded in awe of his favorite target.
Corral’s performance was nearly flawless in its own right. He went 28-of-32 for 513 yards and 4 touchdown passes. Two of those to went to junior slot receiver Elijah Moore, who had his 2nd consecutive 200-yard game and 3rd of the season. Moore caught 13 passes for 225 yards, ran for 45 more on 6 touches and terrorized the South Carolina defense.
“There were 2 times where he was just wide open,” Corral said. “He had one on a corner route where the defensive back was just nowhere to be found. I didn’t want to mess up that throw, just like I didn’t want to mess up the long one. That kid is special, man. His route-running is just different. He deserves to be in the NFL.”
The highlight of the game — and 1 of the 2 times Moore was open by a shocking margin — came on a 91-yard touchdown pass that helped Ole Miss seal the win. It was one of many highlights of a ridiculous junior year for Moore, who has totaled 74 receptions for 1,054 yards and 8 touchdowns in 7 games. He’s as true of a slot receiver as you’ll find in the sport. His route-running is immaculate, and the footwork and quickness that fuel that skill have improved all 3 years he has been on campus. What Moore is doing is remarkable, particularly when you consider he has already passed his 12-game totals from 2019, when he was the focal point of a sputtering offense that force-fed him the ball in an often predictable manner.
Moore caught 67 balls for 850 yards last season. He has shattered that in 7 games in a new offense without a prototypical offseason. Moore isn’t often mentioned in the conversation about the best receivers in college football, presumably because he doesn’t posterize defenders on jump balls or overpower them in the red zone on the outside. At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Moore’s physical stature is not all that overwhelming. What is overwhelming is how wide open he remains throughout a game while simultaneously being by far the biggest threat on the Ole Miss offense.
Just ask Lane Kiffin about Moore. Kiffin has seen his fair share of dominant receivers. Moore’s skill set is unique, and Kiffin and offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby deserve credit for utilizing it in the most efficient way possible. The biggest difference between 2019 and 2020 for this offense has ben how creatively Moore is used across the field, in motion and sometimes out of the backfield.
Kiffin offered an interesting comparison when discussing Moore’s skill set.
“We’ve just never had anybody this quick,” Kiffin said. “All of those guys, really, are more prototypical outside receivers. This is a true slot. He looks like Carolina’s Steve Smith. His ability to get in and out of breaks, I mean watching the tape, he ran the ball so well. When someone drafts him, they have to look at utilizing him back there a few times a game, too, because that’s very hard to prepare for.”
Moore has changed the ceiling of this Ole Miss offense in Year 1 under Kiffin and played his way up draft boards in the process — potentially into the 1st round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Corral being awestruck by Moore is no surprise. The 2 have had a chemistry from the time they arrived in Oxford in 2018. The seeds of their on-field bond showed in limited action as freshmen and have only grown since. The 2 have helped each other — Moore helping Corral’s confidence as he has evolved into one of the best passers in the SEC, and Corral helping Moore by consistently getting him the ball on target and in good position.
What’s the word to describe Moore’s game?
“Electrifying,” Corral said. “I don’t believe there is another dude in the country like him. Even the guys at Alabama, just his route-running. Have a receivers coach break down that kid’s film; it is prolific.”
These final 3 games may be the last times fans see Moore in an Ole Miss uniform. One would be wise to soak it in while you can. If his level of play continues to rise like it has in the season’s first 7 games, Moore will likely have a professional quarterback in awe this time next season.