When Lane Kiffin was the offensive coordinator at Alabama, his boss, Nick Saban, did not want the media to heap too much praise on his teams because he wanted his players to know they can always improve.
Saban phrased the media’s shining coverage as “rat poison” — as in the players would read about their accomplishments and rest on their laurels. “I’m trying to get our players to listen to me instead of listening to you guys,” Saban said. “All that stuff you write about how good we are, and all that stuff they hear on ESPN, it’s like poison. It’s like taking poison … like rat poison!”
When Kiffin joined Paul Finebaum earlier this fall before the Rebels had yet played Alabama, the coach jabbed at the host for suggesting Kiffin would be the first former assistant of Saban’s to emerge victorious against him — referring to the infamous rodent imagery.
"Can you please stop predicting that we're going to beat Coach Saban for the first time ever as a former assistant coach? That's rat poison, Paul."@Lane_Kiffin takes a parting shot at @finebaum 😂 pic.twitter.com/FRrDGLRHV7
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) August 20, 2020
And after the Rebels played Alabama? Kiffin again used the rat poison analogy as he went on to describe how well quarterback Matt Corral was playing.
"I don't want to rat poison the guy. But, A-plus" – Kiffin on Corral's play through three weeks. #OleMiss
— Jake Thompson (@JakeThompsonOE) October 12, 2020
After Ole Miss beat South Carolina 59-42 Saturday, paced by record-setting performances by Corral and wide receiver Elijah Moore, Kiffin was able to pull out an exterminator’s tank and spray a few shots around to keep his players from ingesting anything rodent related.
The main target of the insecticide-proof criticism went to the offensive line, although it is worth noting the Rebels racked up 708 yards of total offense.
“This is probably going to surprise you with those on the stats, but the tackles played really well. The three inside guys did not play well, especially in the run game, did alright in the pass game,” Kiffin said of his o-line.
“Sometimes numbers can be skewed a little bit based off of other guys making plays, but our grades were not great inside, but the tackles were really good.”
Coach Lane Kiffin on the O-line
One of those tackles, sophomore Nick Broeker, earned SEC Co-Offensive Lineman-of-the-Week honors.
“Obviously, this is an awesome honor this is something you really strive for,” Broeker said. “I mean just to receive it though is just awesome. It’s a great feeling.”
Despite that effort the Springfield, Ill., native agrees with his coach the Rebels up front need to improve to sustain winning in the SEC. “As a unit, we did not run the ball super well compared to how we have been running it in previous weeks, that definitely starts with us,” Broeker said of the line’s performance against South Carolina.
“But as far as keeping Matt (Corral) protected, I think we did a good job with that obviously, I mean he lit it up for 513 (yards) or whatever it was, so in the pass we did a lot better but there are still some things to clean up in the run game.”
OL Nick Broeker
Broeker has received notoriety this season for his tenacious style. Against Arkansas, he drove a defender off the line, through the end zone and put him on his back just past the end line where the Razorback was planted. Saturday, he took a Gamecock from the line of scrimmage all the way to the South Carolina sideline where he ended up on his back.
Ole Miss LT Nick Browker escorts defenders to the sidelines. pic.twitter.com/ugZUoOn13H
— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) November 16, 2020
“I think that’s just how I was taught to play growing up by my brother, by my dad and all throughout high school,” Broeker said. “I think that’s been the main thing, just finish all your blocks and be really competitive.”
Kiffin: Rebs are ‘up and down’ on run game
Kiffin is pleased with the pass protection he has seen this year but is concerned about the rushing attack falling behind where it was a season ago.
“I think we’re really good in pass protection for the most part,” Kiffin said. “We’re up and down on the run game. A lot of those guys played last year, and they ran the ball well, led the SEC in rushing a year ago. We’re doing some good things, but we can improve there.”
Kiffin would also like to have the opportunity to get more young linemen playing time.
“We’re trying to develop (depth). We’d like to rotate a little bit, but we’re just not there yet.”
Coach Kiffin on O-line depth
Ole Miss rushed for 195 yards against the Gamecocks but were a perfect four-for-four in fourth down conversions and converted 7-of-13 times on third down which is respectable.
But Kiffin would probably like to keep that praise quiet. He does not want to have his players take some complimentary bait and end up in a rat trap.