Injuries finally caught up to Ole Miss in its 31-20 loss to Auburn. The offense has been decimated with them, particularly the wide receiver position. The Rebels were able to get by against Tennessee and LSU without Braylon Sanders and Jonathan Mingo. Dontario Drummond and a hodgepodge of secondary options provided just enough sufficiency catching the football to allow the offense to adequately function. But when Drummond pulled up with a hamstring injury early in the second quarter in Saturday night’s loss, it served as the iceberg that finally sunk the ship.

Compound that with Matt Corral reaggravating an ankle injury he suffered against Tennessee and this once explosive offense was rendered hapless in a second half that saw them score just 3 points.

“It was a product of being without some key offensive guys,” Lane Kiffin said. “We are playing a lot of guys that have not played a lot.”

Ole Miss now enters a November stretch that will largely define whether this season is considered a success or a disappointment.

Assuming Corral plays against Liberty this weekend, the Rebels should be fine in 2 of their remaining 4 games — against the Flames and Vanderbilt. But unless Ole Miss gets healthier at the receiver position, it doesn’t stand much of a chance against Texas A&M or Mississippi State, and the difference between 10-2 or 9-3 versus 8-4 is pretty significant in terms of the bowl game this team will land in and the way Year 2 under Lane Kiffin is viewed as a whole.

This is Ole Miss’ reality and the reason for it is a lack of depth caused by a lack of development among some of the younger receivers. John Rhys Plumlee still is just an occasional threat. Neither Dannis Jackson or Jadon Jackson have emerged into viable options to this point in their career. Qua Davis has been a nonfactor and it would be unfair to ask a true freshman like JJ Henry to become a go-to guy immediately. Ole Miss’ only viable pass-catching options are tight end Casey Kelly and Western Kentucky transfer Jahcour Peason. And credit to Pearson for stepping up Saturday night. He caught 7 passes for 135 yards and did the best he could as the No. 1 option when there was no other option — but if he is the Rebels’ No. 1 receiver for any extended period of time, then this offense is in trouble. It’s not a knock on Pearson, it is simply the reality of the situation.

Sanders dressed on Saturday night but didn’t factor into the game. He’s missed essentially 2 1/2 games due to a hamstring injury he suffered early in the Tennessee game. Ole Miss needs him back, whenever that time is. Kiffin noted that Sanders went thru warm ups prior to the Auburn game, but did not feel comfortable cutting off both legs.

“Braylon tried to go,” Kiffin said. “But watching him and talking to him, he said ‘well, I can go off this leg, but I can’t off this one’ and I said we aren’t going to do that. It was a very tough decision and we had to go with some guys that haven’t played a lot.”

He has 4 games remaining in his college career and one can’t help but wonder when the sense of urgency that accompanies the clock ticking on a career will kick in with Sanders. I imagine Drummond will return at some point this season and Mingo’s status doesn’t seem promising.

There’s no quick fix without this trio.

“With where we are injury-wise, have we ever experienced anything like this? Not on this side of the ball that I can remember,” Kiffin said. “We have tried. We have tried to push them in practice, but for whatever reason, there has been a lack of consistency. There is some talent there. But if you don’t know what to do and don’t know where to go, it makes it hard on the quarterback. We are going to keep pushing along, but as of today, we are in a worse position than we were before the Auburn game.”

Kiffin’s words are a dead giveaway that notion. Ole Miss simply doesn’t have the reinforcements to survive without one or more of Mingo, Drummond and Sanders on the field. They could get by against Liberty, but certainly won’t against Texas A&M, which makes how the 3 are handled over the next week in terms of what role they play on Saturday, if any, ¬†fascinating to watch play out.

Ole Miss needs to get healthier everywhere on offense, but its health at the receiver position will define this next month perhaps more so than anywhere else.