FINishing Strong: Coach Kiffin, Rebels taking it one game at a time
OXFORD, Miss. — Heading into the bye weekend of the 2020 season, Ole Miss sits at 2-4 and — but for a few breaks here and there (and a couple of bad no-calls) — that record well could have flip-flopped to 4-2.
But with a week off, Rebels’ head coach Lane Kiffin is not looking back, he is looking forward.
“Let’s finish the last half of the season as one of the hottest teams in the country that people don’t want to play,” Kiffin said Wednesday. “So, we did one like that (the 54-21 win over Vanderbilt last week); we got to keep doing that.”
Ole Miss has certainly got the offense to be the team that gives defensive coordinators in the SEC sleepless nights. The Rebels are second in the conference with 325 yards per game passing and enough weapons to fill an armory.
Quarterback Matt Corral is second in the SEC in passing with 1,846 yards. For his record-breaking performance against Vanderbilt last Saturday, Corral was rewarded by being named SEC Offensive Player of the Week, Walter Camp Offensive Player of the Week, and Davey O’Brien National Quarterback of the Week.
Elijah Moore has been the beneficiary of a lot of those passes, hauling in a whopping 61 catches for 829 yards and six touchdowns. Tight end Kenny Yeboah has grabbed 22 passes for 470 yards and six scores to rank seventh in the league.
On the ground, sophomore Jerrion Ealy is third in the SEC with an average of 5.24 yards per carry and six touchdowns. His backfield mate, Snoop Conner, has found the end zone five times and is averaging 4.5 yards an attempt.
The one aspect that might be overlooked in the second half of the season is Kiffin’s experience in his coaching stops with learning how to finish strong.
“I go back to the first year we were at USC with coach (Pete) Carroll,” Kiffin said.
“I think we started 2-5 or something like that, and then finished, I think, with four (straight) regular season wins or something like that. We catapulted into a great run there and it helped in recruiting a lot.”
Coach Lane Kiffin
The rest of the way, Ole Miss definitely has some winnable games. Prior to this weekend, South Carolina sits at 2-3, LSU is 2-3 and Mississippi State is 1-4. Only Texas A&M has a winning record. The seventh-ranked Aggies are 4-1.
That schedule could set the Rebels up for a bowl bid. Just do not ask Kiffin to look past the next game for a possible invitation to the postseason.
“We don’t ever look that far out,” Kiffin said. “You know, the only thing that we talked about besides the week that we are on is just last week.”
That mentality keeps Ole Miss focused on a reasonable goal – be the team no one wants to see across the line of scrimmage.
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.