Rapid Reaction: Corral, Plumlee team up as Ole Miss holds off Indiana in Outback Bowl
Mississippi confirmed its faith in Lane Kiffin even before Saturday’s Outback Bowl, announcing a contract extension for the program’s first-year coach.
The Rebels then reinforced that faith with their performance against No. 11 Indiana in Saturday’s game in Tampa.
Matt Corral passed for 342 yards for an efficient and versatile, if not terribly explosive, Rebels offense. But more important, a team that had the worst total defense in the nation had a solid game as Ole Miss held off Indiana 26-20.
And on a critical fourth-quarter drive, Corral’s favorite target turned out to be his own backup.
John Rhys Plumlee, the quarterback who Corral beat out for the starting job, converted to receiver for this game with Ole Miss very thin at receiver. Plumlee caught an 8-yard pass in traffic, then had a 44-yard catch and run on the next play to set up the Rebels on the Indiana 5-yard line. Two plays later, Corral hit Dontario Drummond for a 3-yard score and a 26-20 lead with 4:12 left. Luke Logan missed the PAT.
That drive followed IU’s tying touchdown.
IU running back Stevie Scott scored on a 2-yard run — his second one in the fourth quarter, both out of the Wildcat formation — as Indiana tied the score 20-20 with 5:58 left in the game. That capped a 12-play, 80-yard drive.
Scott’s 3-yard TD run on the first play of the fourth quarter got the Hoosiers within 20-13. Ole Miss drove down the field in response but Luke Logan missed a 37-yard field goal.
IU started the second half with a 53-yard field goal by Charles Campbell, a career long and program bowl record, to get within 13-6.
But Ole Miss, even with Corral out temporarily with apparent cramps, struck right back on its next drive. Snoop Conner ran for 33 yards deep into Indiana territory, then scored on a 4-yard run on the next play for a 20-6 lead. It was the second long TD drive for the Rebels, this one covering 87 yards in 12 plays.
The Hoosiers, with backup quarterback Jack Tuttle at the helm, struggled in the first half, gaining just 141 total yards. But the IU special teams got a fine play to end the first half, blocking Logan’s 49-yard field goal attempt as the clock hit 0:00.
Tuttle held his right shoulder often toward the end of the first half and into the second half, in apparent pain.
Corral threw a 5-yard touchdown to freshman tight end Casey Kelly with 7:17 left in the first half to give the Rebels a 13-3 lead. That capped an 18-play, 76-yard drive with excellent balance: 10 pass attempts and 8 runs.
The ensuing Indiana drive was promising for the Hoosiers as the reached the Ole Miss 26-yard line. But Rebels defensive back Otis Reese, a Georgia transfer, picked off Tuttle’s pass. Reese fumbled during the return but the Rebels recovered.
Ole Miss was the No. 3 total offense in the nation at 562.9 yards per game, but the Rebels were without All-American wide receiver Elijah Moore and fellow WR Kenny Yeboah, plus starting running back Jerrion Ealy. The Rebels were so thin at receiver that they put Plumlee out wide.
The Rebels were 127th of 127 FBS programs on D, allowing 535.7 yards per game coming in.
Indiana, upset that it was overlooked for a New Year’s Day 6 bowl, came in 93rd in the nation in total offense and hadn’t looked the same since quarterback Michael Penix, who threw for 491 yards in a narrow 7-point loss to Ohio State, was lost for the season with a knee injury. But the Hoosiers still had WRs Ty Fryfogle, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, and Whop Philyor, plus Scott, a second-team all-league pick.