No. 13 Ole Miss defeated Tennessee 31-26 on a night highlighted by chaos and bedlam in a deafening Neyland Stadium.
It was Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin’s first time back in Knoxville, Tennessee as a head coach since 2009 before leaving Tennessee for USC. As predicted, Tennessee fans didn’t show him much love as he was hit in the arm with a golf ball during the closing minutes of the fourth quarter.
That’s right. A golf ball. That was just one of the various forms of debris thrown onto the field by Tennessee fans. There were water bottles, beer cans, pizza boxes and even a bottle of mustard thrown towards the Ole Miss bench.
It all started when the Rebels held Tennessee about a yard shy of the first down marker on a fourth-and-24 pass attempt with about a minute to play in the fourth quarter. The referees reviewed the spot of the football and confirmed that it was short of the first down, resulting in a turnover-on-downs.
Tennessee fans were outraged by the call and started to throw garbage onto the field to show their frustration. The police were forced to clear out Tennessee’s student section, and the band and dancers had to evacuate in order to not get harmed by flying debris.
But Kiffin couldn’t care less. He just wanted to play football and finish out the game.
“I just wanted to play,” Kiffin said about the delay in the fourth quarter. “The players have helmets. It’s the coaches that are going to get hit. I’ve still got my souvenir golf ball that I got hit with.”
Aside from the havoc of the crowd, Ole Miss created some explosiveness of their own.
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral didn’t throw the ball as often as he normally does, throwing for 231 yards, two touchdowns and his first interception of the season. This was largely due to Ole Miss being without key targets such as Braylon Sanders and Chase Rogers.
But, Corral did create a big impact rushing the football. Corral posted a career-high in both rushing attempts and yards with 30 carries for 195 yards.
Corral was the first Rebel to rush 30 times in a game since 2007 when running back Benjarvus Green-Ellis did so against Missouri.
Running back Snoop Conner had another monster game, running for two touchdowns. It was clear that wide receiver Dontario Drummond wasn’t playing at 100 percent, but he was still able to reel in two catches for 66 yards and a touchdown.
Ole Miss’ defense was able to bounce back in a big way, holding Tennessee to just 26 points after giving up 51 to Arkansas a week ago.
The Rebels were able to get after Tennessee’s quarterback Hendon Hooker, posting five total sacks. Linebacker Mark Robinson had an exceptional game. Robinson tallied a total of 14 tackles, two sacks and five tackles for loss.
“It just gives us all the confidence in the world, believing in all the work we have been putting in,” Corral said when asked about the growth of the defense. “Believing in our standards. Believing in our worth ethic.”
Corral went on to say, “We just had to depend on each other. We all we got, we all we need. That’s just how we play ball.”
Ole Miss will look for another victory when they host LSU this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. CST on CBS. SEC Nation will be in Oxford to cover the game as well.