'I was really hurting for him:' What Lane Kiffin said about Matt Corral, Sugar Bowl loss

Nick Suss
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

NEW ORLEANS — Lane Kiffin isn't accepting a moral victory.

No. 8 Ole Miss lost 21-7 in the Sugar Bowl against No. 6 Baylor on Saturday, ending its season with a 10-3 record. The 10 wins are tied for the most in a season in program history, but Kiffin isn't resting on that fact. 

"We did some neat things, special things, some great memories," Kiffin said. "But we didn't finish it, and that's what we came here to do, not just to get a participation trophy. So not real excited."

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After the game, Kiffin spoke to the media about quarterback Matt Corral's injury, freshman Luke Altmyer's performance and the direction the program is headed. Follow below for a complete transcript of everything Kiffin said after the Sugar Bowl.

What Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said

Opening statement:

First off, congratulations to Dave (Aranda) and Baylor. They played a great game today. He had them ready to go. Magnificent defensive performance by them. Ten sacks, four turnovers. We're into the analytics. And I bet you don't ever win a game with that happening. So congratulations to them, well-deserved.

We had a perfect storm of, like we just said, ten sacks, four turnovers, three times in the red zone early on. Not only did we not get any points, we actually gave them seven with the pick six. So your defense can't play lights out forever. Eventually, the ball broke and we gave up big plays. So it's just a shame.

It is what it is, obviously Matt (Corral)'s injury was disappointing for the team, for him. So we didn't do a good enough job calling plays around Luke (Altmyer) and making plays. A tough situation to put him in. Again, congratulations to them.

I'm not going to sit up here and talk about our miraculous season. We did some neat things, special things, some great memories. But we didn't finish it, and that's what we came here to do, not just to get a participation trophy. So not real excited.

Did you get a sense of Matt Corral's injury? Does he have player insurance?

Yeah, I am not going to get into Matt's insurance. He does. This does not appear to be that type of injury where that would ever be a factor. Actually, his x-ray was negative. He just wasn't able to go. So I don't think that that's a factor.

What were your emotions seeing Corral's injury?

I probably didn't do a good enough job. That's obviously a difficult situation, especially when a kid is playing in the game. So my mind raced with a lot of thoughts right there. And that's just for my love for him, just like I would if it was my own son in that situation.

So maybe I didn't do a great enough job with the team because I was really hurting for him in that situation because I know how much he's put into it, how much it means to him. And for that to be taken away like that really sucks.

How do you evaluate Altmyer's performance?

I thought Luke did some good things once he got playing a little bit and made some out-of-rhythm plays running around. It's a hard setting. That's a really great defense. They give a lot of people problems. Not many people score a lot of points.

Like I said coming into this, this would be like an NFL game, I thought, more low scoring. You are going to have to protect the football, play field position at times — which we were not really aggressive in the fourth-down stuff because of that. And we screwed it up.

Like you say, you are going in to kick another field goal at least, and we get a ball tipped for a pick six and missed two field goals. So that right there obviously changes the outcome of the game a lot.

How do you sum up what Matt Corral meant to this team?

He's been unbelievable and the things you don't see besides the playing, just how he is. I had a cool moment this morning in the team meeting, just listening to him talk. I told our own coaches and players: You can be a freshman and you're supposed to listen to the leaders. You can be a 50-year-old coach and you should listen to this guy.

I mean, what he said today to the team about after last season, after the Outback Bowl, and all he wanted to do was come back and impact players the way that Elijah Moore impacted him off the field as a person. He's just real special, and he is going to make a great NFL player and do great for a franchise.

We didn't play well, and we had things happen that I just wouldn't have guessed. All the COVID work and everything and then I'm looking there playing the game thinking, our kicker is out, our quarterback is out, and our right tackle is out. So kind of freak stuff.

Can you address reports about Wilson Love and D.J. Durkin potentially leaving the program?

Wilson is going to Oregon. We're happy for him. When you win like we did, and have an historic regular season, people come and want a piece of what you are doing. So that's happened. We lost a couple the year before. Lebby obviously is going and splitting time between there (Oklahoma) and back here. We appreciate him doing that in the bowl prep. That was not easy for him.

And the way our defense played tonight, D.J. has probably got a lot of opportunities. He's done a great job all season. I don't know of any other opportunities or anything. But he's done a fabulous job with our players, not just performance, but recruiting and flipping over a roster that, you guys have followed it here, one that statistically over the last five years of defense here, as bad as anybody in the country. He's done a great job, along with the other coaches, with flipping the roster over to play like they did tonight and like they did most of the season.

Are you confident in Altmyer being your starting quarterback next season?

Yes, that's a very difficult situation for any backup quarterback, especially a freshman, to go into in a Sugar Bowl versus a really good defense. It's not like we were lighting it up before he went in. We were struggling before. I don't think we did a great job game-planning.

I thought they did a great job, and I thought it showed up. They outcoached us today on that side of the ball. Dave (Aranda) has done that to a lot of people, including myself at times.

What have you seen from Dontario Drummond's development?

Yeah, I think Drummond will play a long time at the next level. He will be a great special teams player, even though we don't utilize him on that stuff, in the core of special teams. Really strong, hard to bring down. Played through a lot of injuries and really had a real special year and great kid.

Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or nsuss@gannett.com. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.