Ole Miss hoped to finish their special season with a win in the Sugar Bowl against the Baylor Bears. Instead, they were forced to overcome some difficult obstacles throughout the game and ultimately came up short, losing 21-7. Here are three takeaways from the game:
Matt Corral Gets Carted Off Early
On a third down play, Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral was scrambling out of the pocket and was tackled awkwardly by Baylor defensive tackle Cole Maxwell.
Corral was instantly in pain and was forced to get carted back into the locker room, as he had trouble putting pressure on his right leg. It was reported that Corral suffered a lower leg injury and was doubtful to return.
He later came back to the sideline on crutches and backup quarterback Luke Altmyer took control of the Ole Miss offense.
Corral, a potential first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft, put the football world on notice as he showed why multiple highly-talented draft prospects choose the route of opting out of bowl games instead of playing in them.
But, who could blame him? He’s shown how much he loves this football team and he wanted to fight with them until the end. His passion for the game was on full display as he was visibly emotional on the sidelines on crutches following his injury.
Offense Looked Lifeless
After Corral was forced out of the game due to injury, the Rebel offense looked stale and ineffective. The entertaining and high-scoring offense that people were so used to watching all season long didn’t show up.
Ole Miss was shutout in the first half for the first time all season. The Rebels ended with just 322 total yards and gave up three interceptions, one coming from Corral and two others by Altmyer.
The Rebels converted just six of their 22 third down attempts, which forced head coach Lane Kiffin to make a decision he never enjoys making: calling out the punt team.
Other than a 38-yard touchdown pass by Altmyer to wide receiver Braylon Sanders in the third quarter, the offense was non-existent.
Of course, give credit to Baylor’s defense. It seemed that they were all over the football, coming up with big interceptions and creating havoc in the backfield. But, it felt like Corral was the beating heart of this offense.
Special Teams, Special Teams, Special Teams
Due to five star kicker Caden Costa’s ineligibility to play because of an NCAA protocol involving an endurance substance, Ole Miss was forced to turn to backup kicker Cale Nation.
It didn’t go all that great for Nation and the field goal unit. Nation missed both of his field goal attempts, one from 49 yards and another from 35. That 35-yard missed field goal came during a 13 play, 74-yard drive by Ole Miss.
Due to the struggles of Ole Miss’s offense, redshirt senior punter Mac Brown was able to showcase his leg. Brown punted five times for a total of 238 yards and an average of 47.6 yards per punt. Three of the five punts were inside the 20 yard line and helped backup Baylor’s offense.