If Ole Miss repeats Vanderbilt sleepwalk, 'we're going to get blown out' in Egg Bowl
OXFORD — Lane Kiffin was going to take it easy on his players after Ole Miss only beat Vanderbilt by 14 points on Saturday. Quarterback Matt Corral didn't let him.
No. 10 Ole Miss (9-2, 5-2 SEC) did what it needed to Saturday, beating Vanderbilt 31-17 to finish off an undefeated season at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. But it wasn't a good win. Playing a team that hasn't won an SEC game since 2019, Ole Miss gave up 454 yards, went 1-for-9 on third and fourth downs and let Vanderbilt (2-9, 0-7) run 93 plays compared to the Rebels' 65.
Kiffin said he wanted to go into the locker room afterward and tear into his players. As he approached the door, he changed his mind. It was Senior Night. He might as well just highlight the successes and congratulate them on an unbeaten year in Oxford.
Corral had other ideas.
OLE MISS FOOTBALL GRADES:'Blah" performance yields 'blah' grades vs. Vanderbilt
"Matt had the offense over before I got there and he was basically doing what I wanted to do and ripping them from up and down," Kiffin said. "Saying 'Don't you guys dare go out tonight, don't you do anything. That's embarrassing how we're playing. This ain't going to happen again because if we do we're going to get our ass kicked next week.'"
The potential kickers of butt on the horizon is instate rival Mississippi State. The second Egg Bowl of the Kiffin vs. Mike Leach era comes Thursday at 6:30 p.m. It's the first Egg Bowl in Starkville since the notorious Elijah Moore unsportsmanlike penalty game and, as Ole Miss running back Jerrion Ealy puts it, it's the first Egg Bowl in years that's going to mean something.
The Bulldogs are 7-4. They've won four of their last five. Over that stretch, they're scoring 40.4 points per game. Quarterback Will Rogers has thrown for 1,951 yards and 20 touchdowns in that span, more touchdowns than Corral has thrown all season.
Mississippi State is hot. Ole Miss just wheezed its way through a game it was favored to win by five touchdowns. Corral said practices weren't good Monday and Tuesday, just as they weren't two weeks ago before a lackluster performance against Liberty.
Bad practices plus a lackluster opponent can make for a bad formula.
"We can't be 80%," Corral said. "Everybody needs to be 100% because when we're 80% that's what happens. When we play teams of our caliber, they're going to win. If we play like that against Mississippi State, we're going to get blown out. That's just the reality of it."
Saturday was Corral's last game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. He announced that much on Twitter on Friday. And his send-off was appropriate. The likely first-round draft pick was 27-for-36 for 326 yards and two touchdowns. It was his 11th-career 300-yard passing game, tying him for the second most in Ole Miss history. With a 300-yard game against Mississippi State, he'll tie Jordan Ta'amu and Chad Kelly for the school record.
He'll need help. He'll need his teammates to play up to his level. Hence the locker room reprimanding.
"You've got to do the little things over and over and over," Corral said. "That's just how you don't miss the easy things. The hard things will take care of itself when you do the little things right."
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or email@example.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.