Rapid Reaction: Corral spectacular as Ole Miss outlasts Tennessee
Tennessee came into Saturday’s game confident in its offensive explosiveness.
Mississippi was too and, as it turned out, the Rebels had plenty of reason. Starting with quarterback Matt Corral.
Ole Miss defeated the Vols 31-26 Saturday night at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville in a game that featured plenty of offensive highlights, even if it perhaps did not turn into as much of a shootout as many predicted. Between the copious number of plays run (Ole Miss ran more than 100) and a long delay because of objects thrown onto the field, the game took well over 4 hours.
Corral got it done with both his arm and his legs, showing why he has been mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate in recent weeks. The junior ran for a career-high 195 yards and passed for 231 yards and two touchdowns. He left the game for a play after limping off, and Ole Miss was unable to convert on 3rd down, leading to a punt.
The Vols took over but their drive came up short; UT tight end Jacob Warren made a catch on 4th and 24 and nearly got the first down but was marked a couple of feet short. Then came one more delay in a night full of delays as debris was thrown onto the field. With 54 seconds left on the game clock, the game was put on hold for about 20 minutes until several sections of the stands were cleared out.
Ole Miss went 3 and out and punted, and Velus Jones returned it to the Rebels 47-yard line. Vols QB Hendon Hooker ran for a first down but left injured. Joe Milton came in and threw for a first down but could not drive UT to a winning TD.
Corral’s first interception of the season, thrown to Vols defensive back Trevon Flowers with 11:37 left, gave Tennessee the opportunity to take the lead in the fourth quarter. However, the Ole Miss defense stopped UT on the ensuing drive.
Dontario Drummond’s 16-yard touchdown reception from Corral over the middle with 2:04 left in the third quarter capped a 68-yard drive and put the Rebels ahead 31-19.
Hooker’s 5-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter brought the Vols within 31-26 on a night when players from both teams went down either with cramps or injuries dozens of times. Hooker passed for 233 yards and a TD and ran for 108 yards and a score.
Tennessee started the second half with a 77-yard, 8-play drive for a touchdown, as Jabari Small punched in a 1-yard scoring run. The Vols were without leading rusher Tiyon Evans and lost right tackle Cade Mays to an injury in the first half.
Ole Miss looked like the No. 2 total offense in the nation (at 561.6 yards per game) in the second quarter. The Rebels drove 54 yards in 8 plays, taking just 2:30, capped by Dannis Jackson’s 33-yard TD catch from Corral. On a later 91-yard drive, Corral tightroped down the right sideline on a run to convert on 3rd and 12 in Ole Miss territory. That led to Drummond’s 52 yard run-and-catch, thanks partly to some missed tackles, and eventually to Snoop Conner’s second 1-yard rushing TD of the first half to give the Rebels a 24-9 lead.
The Rebels outgained the Vols 313-141 in the first half (running 61 plays) and had 17 first downs to Tennessee’s 10, doing a good job early of slowing down a UT team that came in ranked 18th in the country in total offense (474 ypg).
The Rebels, ranked 13th in the Associated Press poll, converted a 4th down on their first drive of the game. Another 4th-down conversion was wiped out by a penalty but Tennessee gave the ball right back by fumbling a punt. Ole Miss recovered, leading to Conner’s 1-yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead. Coming in, the Rebels led the nation in 4th-down attempts with 24 and had converted 18.
Another 4th down attempt by Ole Miss went awry when Corral was stripped of the ball and UT’s Tyler Baron returned it for an apparent TD. But officials ruled that Corral’s forward progress was stopped before he lost the ball, negating the Vols score.
On the next Ole Miss drive, Tennessee got a defensive score that did count. Corral was called for intentional grounding in his own end zone, so the Vols got on the board with a safety. UT took over on offense after that and Cedric Tillman caught a 16-yard TD from Hooker to put UT ahead 9-7 with 3:51 left in the first quarter.
Ole Miss was still without receiver Jonathan Mingo (foot).