Ole Miss football: 10 memorable moments from the Rebels' 2020 season
Ole Miss capped the first year of the Lane Kiffin era with a 5-5 record, culminating in an Outback Bowl win over a top-10 Indiana team.
Without question, it was an overwhelming success for a group that entered the year with uncertainty at quarterback, a handful of young talent at the skill positions and all kinds of questions on defense. The offense was better than almost anyone imagined and compensated for the Rebels’ struggles on defense.
But if there is one word to summarize the 2020 season, it has to be “fun.”
Let’s take a look at the 10 best moments of the 2020 season.
1. Outback Bowl ending
How could this not be one of the top moments? Ole Miss’ much-maligned defense got an emphatic stop to seal the program’s first bowl in half a decade. The celebration afterward among the players and fans was a fitting and savory end to the season. The Rebels upset a top-10 team and cemented a .500 record, which very few thought possible before the season began.
2. Kiffin’s playsheet throw
This could win the award for most viral moment of the 2020 season.
Ole Miss trailed South Carolina 42-38 with 12 minutes left, backed up deep in its territory and trying to keep pace in a shootout. A stop could’ve spelled yet another frustrating loss. The Gamecocks blew a coverage leaving Elijah Moore wide open for a 91-yard touchdown strike and a 45-42 lead.
Kiffin hurled his playsheet into the air so high it was visible on the television screen before Moore even caught the football.
In other words, Kiffin knew it was a touchdown as soon as Matt Corral threw the football. The play helped seal a win and Moore’s third 200-yard receiving game of the season. It made for a viral and light-hearted moment in a win.
3. Corral’s 6 touchdown performance at Vanderbilt
The game was rather ho-hum and Ole Miss did exactly what it needed to do against a bad team, but it was fun watching the offense operate at such a high level. Corral was 31-for-34 for 412 and 6 scores, sparking what ended up being the best 3-game stretch of his career to this point. Keep in mind that this performance came 8 quarters removed from a 6-pick game at Arkansas followed by a pedestrian performance in a home loss to Auburn. There were questions about whether Ole Miss had its guy, and this performance was a confidence boost that was incredibly fun to watch.
4. Corral to Moore to beat Kentucky in OT
The play itself is not all that memorable — a short 3-yard strike from Corral to Moore in overtime to answer a Wildcats score, but the moment — thanks to a Luke Logan extra point after Kentucky missed theirs — helped cement Ole Miss’ first win under Kiffin and was a joyous moment for a program that had not had much to celebrate in the previous 18 months. This score and overtime win evened the record at 1-1 and hinted that Ole Miss was going to be a frisky team that was fun to watch.
5. John Rhys Plumlee in the slot
Back to the season-finale we go, where quarterback turned slot receiver John Rhys Plumlee saw his first extensive action as a receiver. He had 5 catches for 73 yards and snagged arguably the 2 biggest passes of the game to help preserve a win. Plumlee showed promise and this outing made his future at Ole Miss all the more enticing. His skillset is electric and he has pro potential if he commits to learning the intricacies of the position. The moment was born out of necessity as Ole Miss was down to 4 scholarship receivers, but it ended up creating a storyline to watch in 2021.
6. Deane Leonard’s Egg Bowl fumble return
This was a fun play. Tylan Knight — a 5-7 running back turned defensive back with a knack for making plays — stripped Mississippi State receiver Austin Williams just before he crossed the goal line in a 7-0 game at the time. Leonard picked it up and returned it 84 yards to set up an Ole Miss touchdown. It ended up being the most impactful play of a game in which Ole Miss did not play particularly well but held on for a 31-24 win.
7. Offense goes toe-to-toe with Alabama
Ole Miss lost 63-48, but the Rebels were tied at 42 with under 12 minutes remaining.
Alabama ran the table and won the national championship. Objectively speaking, Ole Miss gave the Tide its toughest test all season.
This was the third game of the season, and if the Kentucky game hinted that the Rebels were a dangerous offense, this game solidified it. Corral threw for 365 yards with 2 touchdowns and no interceptions and the offense went toe-to-toe with the best in the sport for 60 minutes. Ask an Ole Miss fan they’ll likely say that this was the most fun they’d had in a loss in some time.
8. Moore’s 200-yard game in the opener
Ole Miss lost 51-35 to Florida but busted out powder blue uniforms for the first time as if to signify the dawning of a new day. The offensive performance reflected that too, as Corral connected with Moore 10 times for 227 yards. If nothing else, this was a warning that Moore was going to be a force. And did that ever prove to be true. He compiled 1,193 yards on 86 receptions in 8 games in a conference-only slate. This was the start of a truly remarkable season that likely won’t get remembered for just how insanely good it was.
9. Kiffin calls his shot at LSU
Kiffin’s sideline antics again crack the list, this time in the pouring rain at LSU. Ole Miss led 41-40 with 12 minutes left and faced a 4th-and-goal from the 2-yard line. Coming out of a timeout, an exasperated Kiffin relays the play into the huddle and then walks away from the end zone where the action was set to occur and throws his hands up signaling a touchdown — before the ball was even snapped.
Corral faked a handoff so well it fooled the side judge and ran a bootleg to the short-side of the field, toppled over the out-of-place official who was trying to locate the football, and into the end zone for a crucial touchdown. Ole Miss lost 53-48, but Kiffin calling his shot, soaking wet on the sideline in a game that had gone off the rails, was certainly an iconic moment in this 2020 season.
10. Rebels ink top-20 recruiting class
The Early Signing Period is as significant as anything else that has happened for Ole Miss since Kiffin took over. The Rebels landed what currently sits as the 19th-best class in the country, proving that Kiffin is capable of replenishing the talent-depleted roster he inherited, particularly on the defensive side of the ball. Signing Day was fun for Ole Miss for the first time since 2016.
This 2020 Ole Miss team will be remembered as a fun group to watch that made the best of a trying situation and laid the foundation for what’s to come under Kiffin in Oxford. These moments from this roller coaster ride of a season stood out the most.