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Guilbeau: An Injured Ole Miss With QB Matt Corral Not Himself Still Toyed With LSU In Easy Win

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OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral was not himself. He started and played, but he was hurting from an ankle injury and just getting beat up last week at Tennessee through 30 carries for 195 rushing yards.

The No. 12 Rebels were also without starting wide receivers Braylon Sanders and Jonathan Mingo and had a patched up offensive line.

And they still slapped LSU around for most of the game Saturday afternoon in a 31-17 win at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium that was a much more demonstrative victory than the score indicates.

Ole Miss rushed for 266 yards on 50 carries with Snoop Conner gaining 117 on 14 rushes and Jerrion Ealy geting 97 on 12 rushes while Corral completed 18 of 23 passes for 185 yards and a touchdown.

“We did a good job in the run game, and you have to when your quarterback is banged up,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said.

So, it was not all a smoke screen last week as LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron said of Kiffin’s diagnosis on Corral.

“Matt wasn’t 100 percent, and we were down with some injuries,” Kiffin said. “But I need to be more positive.”

Yes, he does. For the second week in a row this coach with the passing reputation won a game because of his defense and his running attack – a part of one of the nation’s best offenses that he doesn’t get enough credit for, even though he had a very good one last season, too.

Ole Miss held on to beat Tennessee, 31-26, last week, throwing a shutout in the fourth quarter that was nearly as impressive as the Houston Astros’ pitching of late. And the Rebels stuffed LSU’s run game this week, holding it to 77 yards on 35 carries for a 2.2-yard average. This was a week after Tigers’ tailback Tyrion Davis-Price broke the school rushing record with 287 in a 49-42 win over Florida.

These are two straight workmanlike victories for Kiffin. Ole Miss appears to no longer be just a flashy finesse team, though it can do that, too, and will when Corral gets healthy again. Next Saturday would be a good time for as the Rebels (6-1, 3-1 SEC) play at Auburn (5-2, 2-1 SEC) at 6 p.m. on ESPN.

“We’re good. We’re not great, but we’re close,” Kiffin said. “If we can just get healthy, we can be a special team.”

Just OK was good enough to manhandle LSU on this day. The Tigers looked out of it after a fast start and soon were.

After gaining 198 yards on 32 plays through its first three drives, LSU led only 7-0. That could have been a 10-0 or 13-0 lead for LSU. But Orgeron chose to go for it on fourth-and-goal from the Ole Miss 3-yard line on the Tigers’ second drive, and Ole Miss defensive back Tysheem Johnson intercepted quarterback Max Johnson at the 1-yard line. After the third drive, Cade York missed a 55-yard field goal after LSU’s next drive.

LSU’s next five drives netted 44 yards on 17 plays through the third quarter as Ole Miss co-defensive coordinators D.J. Durkin and Chris Partridge solved the Tigers. Meanwhile, the Rebels scored 31 unanswered points through the third quarter to take a 31-7 lead and put the game away.

“That was a big stop and a huge momentum shift,” Kiffin said of the Johnson interception.

“You have to score points to beat this team,” Orgeron said of his decision to go for it.

Ole Miss pressured LSU quarterback Max Johnson throughout the day and sacked him four times. He finished with a season-low 13 completions in 21 attempts for 146 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

“Too much pressure on the quarterback,” Orgeron said. “The protection wasn’t there to throw down the field. And we couldn’t run the ball when we wanted to.”

Orgeron has recited sentences similar to those three throughout this season, which begs a question. Does he regret his decision to coach the rest of the season?

“No,” he said. “Never.”

LSU athletic director Scott Woodward may be saying, “Never say never” during the open week leading into No. 4 Alabama and coach Nick Saban on the road on Nov. 6. Could he now be considering letting Orgeron go completely for the rest of the season?

But is there an LSU assistant coach willing to become an interim coach and take on that task? Probably not.

 

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Written by Glenn Guilbeau

Guilbeau has been on the LSU beat since 1998 with multiple outlets in Louisiana, prior to that he had covered both Auburn and Alabama. He won first place for his game feature on LSU's upset at Florida last season from the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He was also named Beat Writer of Year, by Louisiana Sports Writers Association in July; placed in three Associated Press Sports Editors (APSE) categories – Beat Writer, Explanatory, Game Coverage – last spring. Guilbeau was also the FWAA first-place winner for columns in 2017 and was also the top overall winner in 2016 FWAA placing first for his game story, second in columns, and receiving honorable mention for features.

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