Oxford was in the nation’s spotlight Saturday, as ESPN’s “College GameDay” came to see the best matchup of the week between No.15 Ole Miss and No.11 Texas A&M. The show hadn’t been back in the Grove since 2014 when pop star singer Katy Perry stole the show.
But, the show last Saturday did not disappoint. Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin was selected as the celebrity guest picker and he was the first picker to be a guest and coach for the same game featured on the show.
“Chip Kelly told me that I’m the first dual-threat coach,” Kiffin said when asked about being the guest picker. “He said, ‘You’re picking and it’s the day that you’re playing.’ It felt kind of cool.”
Ole Miss’s offense was overshadowed by their defense as they tallied an impressive 257 rushing yards against a stellar Texas A&M defense.
The rushing attack was led by running back Jerrion Ealy, who ran for 152 yards on 24 carries. Ealy became the eighth player in Ole Miss history to pass 2,000 career rushing yards.
“We got the ball moving really in the first half, but we really couldn’t capitalize on some drives when we should have,” Ealy said when asked about the team’s offensive performance. “We should’ve been up 30 to nothing at halftime. They played good defensively.”
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral played great as well. Corral threw for 247 yards and a touchdown with 24 completions in 37 attempts.
“For most of these guys in the locker room, including myself, it’s probably the biggest game that we’ve played here at Ole Miss,” Corral said when talking about what the game meant to him. “The timing, the matchup, ‘College GameDay.’ That was the biggest game in my college football career.”
Corral went on to say, “It was sloppy offensively towards the end and there was just miscommunication between me and the receivers. Really just have to learn from that and be on the right page.”
In the fourth quarter, Ole Miss attempted a fake field goal and they were stopped about a yard short of the first down marker.
“It was just something that we’d seen schematically that was there,” Kiffin said when asked about the decision to attempt a fake field goal. “Of course it looked a lot better and easier. It wasn’t supposed to be that difficult.”
Aside from the impressive numbers produced on the offensive side of the ball, the defense probably played their best game all year.
Ole Miss’s defense gave up just 19 points and 378 total yards to the same Texas A&M offense that put up 41 points against Alabama’s defense a few weeks ago.
The defense forced Texas A&M to punt on five of their first six possessions. The other possession resulted in a safety in the second quarter caused by Ole Miss linebacker Chance Campbell to give the Rebels a 15-0 lead.
Ole Miss also managed to get a couple of interceptions against Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada.
Linebacker Ashanti Cistrunk reeled in an interception to set the Rebels up in great field position, which led to a score by running back Snoop Conner to extend Ole Miss’s lead to 22-13.
The other interception came from defensive back AJ Finley, which resulted in a pick six to ice the game for the Rebels with four minutes left to play.
“That was a crazy moment for me,” Finley said when asked about the pick six. “That was my first pick six since I’ve been here, so that was really big for me.”
Finley went on to say, “We knew they were going to go with the out route, so I drove it and the rest is history.”
Ole Miss will look to keep their momentum going as they host an abysmal Vanderbilt team (2-8). The Rebels shouldn’t take this game lightly, as every game counts. The game will be played this Saturday at 6:30 p.m. CST on SEC Network.