COVID pulls away Aggieland welcome mat from Rebels; Kiffin, players react to game postponement
OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin prefers to not look too far into the future. Instead, he likes to focus on the task for the week at hand.
That is not easy when from week-to-week teams do not know if there will even be a game in the near future.
Ole Miss was informed Monday its game at Texas A&M has been postponed due to the Aggies not having enough players available due to the COVID-19 protocols.
“They told us last week that it (postponement) was probably going to happen, just because they (Texas A&M) weren’t going to get guys back with the 14-day contact tracing” Kiffin said. “I didn’t really think much of it because we were just focused on the (South Carolina) game. It is what it is.”
What it is can only be called is a shame.
Ole Miss has won two straight and the offense is on a roll. Matt Corral has thrown more touchdowns than incompletions in wins over Vanderbilt and South Carolina, while Elijah Moore became the first receiver in the history of the Southeastern Conference to record 225-yard receiving games in back-to-back weeks.
“We kind of had an idea last week just because they didn’t play, but I think when you do hear it officially it does, kind of you know, it’s unfortunate, obviously,” Nick Boecker, the SEC’s co-offensive lineman of the week, said.
“As a competitor you really want to play every week. So, I mean we’ll get another chance at it and hopefully we will get that rescheduled and we can use this week to recover and get everyone back.”
Ole Miss OL Nick Broeker on game vs. A&M
The question is, when would a make-up date be viable?
Texas A&M already must make up a game with Tennessee and that is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 12. That would make Dec. 19, the day of the SEC title game, as the only option.
As much as Ole Miss wants to take the field this week, the postponement also hurts the Aggies. Texas A&M is ranked fifth and the meeting against the Rebels was set to air as the national game on CBS. The Aggies would have loved to be able to showcase themselves for the College Football Playoff committee.
“We want to play the (makeup) game. I think that’s important,” Ole Miss athletic director Keith Carter said.
“Our league has talked a lot about that, finding ways to get the games played. I think our players want to play. Everyone wants to play. It will just all come down to do you have the dates. Obviously that (Dec.) 19th has been opened up. We’ll see how it all plays out.”
Ole Miss AD Keith Carter on making up games
Should the game be made up the same date as the SEC Championship – assuming that game features Alabama vs. Florida – the day will be must-see TV for the playoff committee. The winner of the conference would certainly be invited to the playoffs, making the loser of the championship game looking for a berth — along with A&M who would need an impressive win over Ole Miss.
But as Kiffin believes, that is too far into the future to consider now. One of his defensive players agrees with that philosophy.
“It’s always frustrating knowing you have one less opportunity this year, so if it gets moved, I am fine with that. As long as we get the opportunity to play, I’m fine.”
Sophomore defensive back A.J. Finley
That opportunity probably will not come this week, so Finley is using the time off to his advantage.
“I guess we get to double-up on recovery so last week (the scheduled bye week) I took advantage of that and got to recover a lot,” Finley said. “So, I guess I’ll do the same thing this week.”
The Rebels’ next scheduled game is the Egg Bowl on Nov. 28 against Mississippi State in Oxford.
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.