OXFORD, Miss. — The Ole Miss offense made a dramatic turnaround in the Rebels’ Week 2 win over Arkansas.
Behind a much-improved offensive line, redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Corral went 16-of-24 for 246 yards and two touchdowns through the air and ran for another 46 yards on 10 rushing attempts. His performance against the Razorbacks earned him SEC Freshman of the Week honors.
Congratulations to Ole Miss Quarterback Matt Corral for being named Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week! In his first career #SEC start, Corral completed 16-of-24 passes for 246 yards and 2 TDs in the win. He also added 46 yards on the ground. #HYDR #Rebels pic.twitter.com/RKiv42fIhG
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) September 9, 2019
So, what did the Rebels do in practice last week that led to so much success against Arkansas?
“You know, just by paying attention to the details,” explained Corral after the win Saturday. “(Offensive Coordinator) Rich Rod really broke down their defense and made an easy game plan for us,” he added.
“They were giving us the looks we wanted, and we did a good job of executing. And, you know, coming from last week, I knew what to expect. I anticipated them bringing more pressure, but they really, didn’t. And, you know, the run game was open for us and that made the pass game easier for us.”
QB Matt Corral on the game against Arkansas
Corral looked quite confident in his first game as a starter in Vaught-Hemingway.
“After last week, I didn’t have any nerves,” Corral said. “I was just going in there (with the mindset) ‘I need to win.’ That was my mindset. I need to win. I don’t care what my stats are. I don’t care about any of that. I need to win. I was comfortable out there and it was contagious from the defense, to the offense, to special teams, it all rubbed off on those.”
Elijah Moore’s big game
Throughout the night, Corral kept going to Elijah Moore in the slot to help move the ball down the field.
The 5-foot-9, 183-pound sophomore receiver accounted for seven of the sixteen receptions made by the offense in the win over the Hogs. In the first quarter, Moore was able to give the Rebels their first touchdown of the game with a 2-yard completion from Corral.
Coach Luke praised the talented young receiver after the game. “He made some big plays,” Luke said.
“Two touchdowns. On the biggest play of the game, he beat his man on Cover One and took it to the end zone. He’s just a sophomore, and he’s one of the leaders. He’ll continue to get better…”
Coach Luke Matt on Elijah Moore
After the game, Moore offered his assessment of the offensive performance along with thoughts on his seven catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
“It was a big blessing,” began Moore. “We play like this all the time. When things start flowing — Matt (Corral), and the line, and basically the team — that’s the result we are going to get. We didn’t play to our full potential and we made a lot of mistakes, but we are going to clean it up and be back next week.”
Moore also gave an explanation as to why he thinks the Ole Miss offense had so much more success against Arkansas than it did against Memphis. “We came in determined and ready,” he said. “‘We had a chip on our shoulder and we executed.”
Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez took note of the spectacular performance from his sophomore receiver. “He’s the most dynamic receiver we have, particularly in the slot,” Coach Rodriguez stated.
“From week one week two, I could see the improvement he made, and I think he’ll keep doing better, too, because he’s a guy that’s like Matt (Corral) and Scottie (Phillips)—football is really important to him. And so he’ll keep getting better.”
Rebel tight ends step up vs. Arkansas
Not only did the wide receivers do a better job of getting open against the Razorbacks, the tight ends also did a really good job of moving the chains in some tough situations. Senior tight ends Octavius Cooley and Jason Pellerin each had two catches on the night for a combined 43 yards of offense.
Cooley put on a show with his ability to make defenders miss him in the open space. “He’s got a unique talent. I mean, he’s a very good athlete. He loves the game,” Coach Rod said of his 6-foot-3, 270-pound tight end.
“Cooley made some big plays for us, and he blocked really well. Cooley may be one of the best blocking tight ends in our league.”
Coach Rodriguez on Octavious Cooley
Preparing for Week 3
Moore says the offense won’t settle for the improvement they made from the Memphis game to the Arkansas game. He knows this team can continue to get better, and he’s not shying away from the expectations.
“We are going to grow tremendously. We have a lot of talent and we have a lot of people you don’t know yet—but you will by the end of the season, I promise you that.”
Ole Miss receiver Elijah Moore
Don’t expect the Rebels to take their foot off the gas pedal against FCS opponent Southeastern Louisiana this Saturday. Ole Miss has a very tough opponent the following week when the Rebels face California in Week 4, so they’ll likely want to smooth out as many wrinkles as they can before that PAC-12 matchup.