Ole Miss’ rushing attack shined, but it wasn’t enough to knock off No. 1 LSU on Saturday night.
The Rebels rushed for 402 yards as a team‚ 212 of which came from quarterback John Rhys Plumlee — but the secondary was gashed by Heisman-hopeful Joe Burrow in the 58-37 loss.
Although Burrow threw two picks late in the game, his 489 passing yards and five touchdowns were enough to get the job done. With the loss, Ole Miss can finish no better than 5-7 if they win the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving.
The Rebels’ focus will now shift to their in-state rival and possibly securing an APR bowl bid. A loss on Thanksgiving night guarantees the Rebels will miss the postseason for the fourth straight year.
Ole Miss’ primary offensive identity still resides in running the football. In fact, a late passing touchdown from Matt Corral to Elijah Moore was the first passing touchdown the Rebels had since Oct. 12 against Missouri. It stands to reason that the Rebels will continue this attack next week against Mississippi State, who has struggled to stop the run at times this season, allowing 161.9 yards a game.
The Bulldogs will likely need the Egg Bowl to reach six wins and bowl eligibility, assuming they knock off Abilene Christian next week. Neither the Rebels nor the Bulldogs have lived up to fan expectations this season, and the road team has won the last four Egg Bowls.
Even if Ole Miss beats the Bulldogs on Thanksgiving, securing an APR bowl bid is not a guarantee. Ole Miss sits at No. 38 in the country for APR, but in order for a 5-7 team to earn an APR bid, there has to be too few six-win teams around the nation to fill every postseason game.
Even with an Egg Bowl win, Ole Miss fans will continue to ask the same question heading into next season: Is this coaching staff getting the job done? It appeared that LSU was preparing to boat race Ole Miss when halftime rolled around, but the Rebels managed to come out and outscore the Tigers 30-27 in the second half — no small feat against the top-ranked team in the nation.
The writing on the wall has been that a 5-7 record was probably this team’s ceiling. It could be the result of a talent discrepancy because of NCAA sanctions, questionable coaching decisions or a mixture of the two. Still, bragging rights and a potential for a bowl game are still on the table for this team.
Matt Luke winning the Egg Bowl in 2017 likely helped him lose the interim head coach tag and earn the full-time job, and this year’s battle for the golden egg will be an important one for the head coach looking to pull in momentum.