Ole Miss led LSU midway through the fourth quarter, 48-39, in Baton Rouge last season after a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Matt Corral.
And the Rebels lost the 2020 regular season finale, 53-48, after allowing a 75-yard touchdown drive in 10 plays and a 45-yard touchdown pass in the final moments from quarterback Max Johnson to wide receiver Kayshon Boutte. LSU finished with a season-high 593 yards, and Boutte set the SEC receiving yards record with 308 and three touchdowns.
Last week, Ole Miss’s lead was cut to 31-26 on Tennessee quarterback Hendon Hooker’s 5-yard touchdown run with 13:41 to play in the game, and the Rebels’ defense threw a shutout the rest of the way for the win with the Volunteers deep in Ole Miss territory throughout the final quarter.
The No. 12 Rebels (5-1, 2-1 SEC) go into their game with LSU (4-3, 2-2 SEC) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday on CBS with the No. 106 total defense in the nation with 436 yards allowed a game. But, hey, that is improvement. Ole Miss finished 126th out of 127 FBS schools last season in total defense with 519 yards allowed – one notch ahead of No. 124 LSU at 492 yards.
“Our defense rose to the occasion,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said to the SEC Network just after the Tennessee win. “We did horrible on offense there, not finishing off, so great job by the defense. I’m actually glad that if we were going to win, we won it on defense like that instead of just another great offensive performance. For our defense to rise to the occasion really twice was awesome.”
The game ended with Tennessee on the Ole Miss 8-yard line. Tennessee’s previous drive ended on the Rebels’ 13-yard line. Ole Miss’ offense is No. 2 in the nation with 553 yards a game and gained 510 at Tennessee, but it went the final 17 minutes of the game with no points.
“We left a lot of things out there, especially in the second half,” Kiffin said of his offense.
“It’s a big deal because going into that game, coach Kiffin said it’s going to be up to the defense,” said defensive end Sam Williams, who is tied for the SEC sacks lead with Alabama linebacker Will Anderson Jr. with seven. “He said it was going to be a defensive game. So, I’m proud of the defense for battling it out to the end. We have to keep doing that.”
In LSU, Ole Miss will face the No. 20 passer in the nation in quarterback Max Johnson with 266.1 yards a game and the SEC’s No. 5 rusher in tailback Tyrion Davis-Price. He has 574 yards on 103 carries after setting the LSU record with 287 in a 49-42 win over Florida last week. Boutte, though, was lost for the season two weeks ago with an injury.
The Rebels are a 9.5-point favorite by FanDuel.
LSU’s defense has also improved over last year as it is No. 84 in the nation in total yards allowed a game at 399.7.
Williams, a senior from Montgomery, Alabama, who transferred to Ole Miss from Northeast Mississippi Junior College, could be playing for LSU’s defense on Saturday as now lame duck LSU coach Ed Orgeron recruited him before the 2019 season.
“They were coming to my junior college like all the time,” Williams said. “Different coaches every time. Orgeron, he called me. When I went there (to LSU on a visit), I met Odell Beckham Jr. and Leonard Fournette (former Tigers). It was pretty cool. So, I was heavily recruited.”
But Williams, the No. 3 defensive end in the nation out of junior college by Rivals.com, signed with former Ole Miss coach Matt Luke.
“It wasn’t difficult at all,” he said. “It was Ole Miss. I was just trying to see the world I guess.”
INJURY REPORT: Kiffin said Friday that quarterback Matt Corral remains questionable with an ankle injury suffered in the Tennessee game.
True freshman Luke Altmyer of Starkville High would start if Corral can’t go, Kiffin said. Altmyer is 0-for-4 passing on the season. The No. 11 pro style quarterback in the nation by Rivals.com in the class of 2021, Altmyer threw for 1,653 yards and 16 touchdowns last season. Altmyer played one play last week before Corral returned.
LSU is expected to be without starting senior right guard Chasen Hines, Orgeron said Thursday. Hines injured himself during pre-game warm-ups last week and left the game for good after starting and playing briefly. He was replaced by sophomore Marlon Martinez, who will start Saturday if Hines cannot play.
Backup LSU freshman wide receiver Deion Smith is also not expected to play for the second straight week after suffering an injury at Kentucky. Smith has 11 catches for 186 yards and two touchdowns on the season.