After coming off an emotional win against Texas A&M last week, Ole Miss was hoping to “Lock the Vaught” and end the season with a perfect record at home.
And they did, although the Rebels didn’t necessarily win the way they wanted to. The game felt sloppy and ugly, but a win’s a win.
“Ideally we would’ve liked to play better and get some backups in with the short week coming up,” Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin said about the team’s performance. “It is what it is.”
Kiffin went on to say, “It was not the exact sendoff I was hoping for, especially for Matthew (Corral).”
A downward trend for the Rebel offense has been the inability to score in the third quarter. In the last four games, Ole Miss had been outscored 24-6 in the third quarter.
“I think part of that has been our lack of depth,” Kiffin said about the team’s third quarter struggles. “We do not play a lot of players, especially when receivers have been banged up. So I think that’s part of it. But still, we’ve got to execute better.”
Kiffin mentioned something special that Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral displayed in the locker room following the game.
“Matt had the offense over before I got there and he was basically doing what I wanted to do and ripping them from up and down,” Kiffin said. “That’s pretty cool when a player takes over doing what he knows you were probably going to say.”
Corral threw for 326 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. Corral didn’t seem affected by the emotions surrounding him in his final game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
“Honestly, none of that stuff’s really hit me yet,” Corral said when asked about his emotions coming into the game. “As much as I’m trying to feel some type of way about it, giving my brothers a hug every time I see them walking off the field, it still is yet to hit me.”
Corral went on to say, “All I’m thinking about is tomorrow and getting ready for (Mississippi) State because it was a sloppy win today. We’ve just got to get better.”
Ole Miss didn’t have as much success as they would’ve liked in terms of running the ball against a mediocre Vanderbilt defense.
Ole Miss running back Jerrion Ealy finished with 55 yards and a touchdown on nine carries.
“Last couple weeks of the season, offensively we have not played good, great, or even average in the second half,” Ealy said about the struggles the team has had offensively. “Just dominating people. We’re not finishing anybody and we’re letting people stick around so that they can get back into the game.”
One major statistic that stood out was how much Vanderbilt dominated the time of possession. Vanderbilt’s time of possession was 38:57 while Ole Miss’ was 21:03.
A lot of that came down to success on third down conversions. Ole Miss was just one for eight on third downs and were forced to punt four times.
“You get really lopsided when your third and fourth downs, we go 1-9 and they go 12-26,” Kiffin said about the lack of success on converting third down plays. “Then your play counts are all out of whack 93-65 and now you’ve got problems, so not good that way.”
The Rebel defense had a tough time stopping Vanderbilt’s rushing offense.
Vanderbilt had a total of 213 rushing yards, as running back Rocko Griffin ran for 117 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries.
But, something positive to take out of this was that Ole Miss showed their resilience on defense and the mentality of “bend, but don’t break.”
On Vanderbilt’s opening possession of the second half, they marched down the field with ease. They successfully converted on two consecutive fourth downs and ultimately, were unsuccessful on the third and final one. Vanderbilt’s drive lasted 7:43 that resulted in zero points.
Another highlight from the defense came from defensive back Deantre Prince who made a spectacular and acrobatic interception in the closing minutes of the game.
“It was like I expected it, a fade ball,” Prince said when asked about the interception. “I was on it the whole night and I really wanted to go play for my team and get us off the field to get the offense back on.”
Ole Miss will look to end their regular season on a high note, as they head to Mississippi State for the highly anticipated Egg Bowl. Not only is it an enormous rivalry, but it is going to be a head-to-head matchup with two of the most interesting coaches in college football: Mike Leach and Lane Kiffin. That game will be played on Thanksgiving Day at 6:30 p.m. CST on ESPN.