Saturday’s blowout win over Louisiana-Monroe gave the Ole Miss football Rebels the opportunity to give playing time to some of their younger talent, including freshman second-string quarterback Matt Corral.
Corral dazzled against the Warhawks’ defense, going a perfect 10-10 through the air for 143 yards and two touchdowns. Corral also finished as the team’s leading rusher with six carries and 78 yards, 61 of which came on his lone rushing touchdown.
“I felt like it could have been a lot better,” Corral said. “There’s always room for improvement. I’m not overly happy (about my performance). I’m happy I did good, but it’s not something I’m satisfied about.”
Corral’s performance in the second half caught the attention of head coach Matt Luke, who commented on his young quarterback in Monday’s press conference.
“I was very pleased with him,” Luke said. “He showed the ability to hand the ball off, to make the throws in the RPO (run, pass, option) game, having to make those decisions and, obviously, the ability to pull it and run it and make a big play.”
Many of Corral’s snaps came with first-string backs and receivers in the game, and Luke said it was critical for the young signal-caller to get reps with some of the elite members of the Rebel offense.
“I think he brings something a little bit different to the table,” Luke said. “Just a little bit different personality, but was happy to get him some quality reps and get it with the first team offensive line and the first team receivers. I thought that was important.”
Offensive coordinator Phil Longo also voiced his pleasure with his young quarterback on Saturday, especially with his decision-making.
“Matt has done a phenomenal job of preparing,” Longo said. “Jordan (Ta’amu) has helped him, and that’s kind of the culture in our room. Mentally, he made some really good decisions, and he played well, so I was happy with both of those.”
Although Corral saw snaps with some of the starting receivers, he also saw reps with second-string offensive players like Elijah Moore, Braylon Sanders and Alex Weber, which could be a glimpse into the future of the Ole Miss offense. Longo said it was important for Corral to take snaps with both groups and thinks his decision-making was still a strong aspect of his game with the second string.
“I thought it was important,” Longo said after the Rebels’ win on Saturday. “(We hadn’t) had an opportunity this season to see Matt Corral with the starters, so we got a few series of that. Whether it’s with the starters or not, the decision-making part is the same. That’s the part I’m most pleased with. He did a good job today. He’s as aggressive in practice, so I think the way he played today wasn’t a surprise to our football team.”
Corral was a U.S. Army All-American, selection out of Long Beach Polytechnic High School in California and was a consensus four-star and top-100 recruit, according to major recruiting services. In his senior year at Long Beach Poly, Corral threw for over 2,000 yards and 29 touchdowns and racked up more than 10,000 yards and 100 touchdowns in four years of high school ball.
“(When) I transferred to Long Beach Poly, I had all of these (former) NFL coaches,” Corral said. “That really boosted my (football) IQ a lot. That year I did at Poly gave me a huge advantage in college.”
In his first appearance this season against Southern Illinois, Corral went 1-2 passing for 31 yards and carried the ball one time for one yard. Corral can appear in up to two more contests this season and still retain his redshirt status heading into 2019.