2021 Grove Bowl Recap: Blue Team defeats Red, 28-6
OXFORD, Miss. — Wet and sloppy weather conditions started the party in the Vaught — but would not stop it.
The 2021 Grove Bowl was all offense in the opening half, as QB Matt Corral and Co. scored 28 first-half points for the first team offense. The first team offense and second team defense were on the Blue team while the Red team featured the first team defense and second team offense.
Saturday’s game marked the first Grove Bowl since the hiring of head coach Lane Kiffin, as last year’s Grove Bowl and spring camp were cancelled due to COVID-19.
First half action
Matt Corral launched a deep ball on the very first play of the day (just like he did at last Saturday’s practice), connecting with senior receiver Braylon Sanders for 62 yards. The first team defense would bend but not break after that play, stopping the first team offense for four straight after the opening bomb.
The Rebels’ first team defense would follow a similar theme on the ensuing drive. They would give up a broken play made by backup quarterback Kinkead Dent and tight end Sam Murphey along the sideline, but then it was Jon Haynes who intercepted Dent a few plays later. Haynes almost had a wide-open seam to the end zone but was tackled before scoring.
Then, the Rebels started the real party when running back Jakwaize Walker scored the first touchdown of the day from three yards out after refusing to be taken down in the backfield. The Rebels’ second team defense would again force another punt and put the ball back in Corral’s hand where he again found Braylon Sanders for a big play, but this time Sanders caught it for a 10-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone.
Later in the half, wide receiver Jonathan Mingo would practice the tip drill in the back of the end zone on a play-action for a two yard touchdown. Senior Keidron Smith nearly came up with the interception/pass block but it was Mingo who made the heads-up play for the score.
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Following the Red team’s last punt of the half, the first team offense would drive all the way inside the five yard line again. With no timeouts and three seconds left in the half, the Rebels trusted Jakwaize Walker and he delivered, scoring his second and final touchdown of the day.
The two teams went to halftime with the score favoring the Blue team, 28-0.
Second half action
The second half didn’t provide the same fireworks as the first; however, there was plenty of action.
The Red team would start the second half with the ball but would eventually end up punting on that first drive. Coach Kiffin decided to keep Corral out of the second half so he could evaluate his entire QB room.
Both defenses were solid, with neither allowing another score until the fourth quarter. The defense would also record four total interceptions on the day, evidence of the improvement we’ve seen this spring.
In the fourth, quarterbacks Kinkead Dent (initially on the Red teamed) and Luke Altmyer (initially on the Blue team) would switch teams so they could get work in with and against both sides.
On the final drive of the game, with score still at 28-0, it was Altmyer who led the Red team, putting the ball right on the numbers in the middle of the end zone for junior tight end Jonathan Hess on the final play of the game to end the game 28-6, Blue team.
Players Who Stood Out
Senior wide receiver Braylon Sanders
It was impressive to watch Sanders come up with some big plays for the first team offense with a touchdown and 62-yard reception on the first play. I think the most important thing to note here is how many times Corral targeted Sanders (wide open or not), and the chemistry between these two seems strong. Corral won’t have Elijah Moore or Kenny Yeboah as targets this season, so it will be interesting to see if Sanders becomes someone Matt relies on during the season. Sanders ended the day with 135 receiving yards on four catches along with a touchdown.
Senior running back Jakwaize Walker
Due to the lack of depth at the running back position today, Walker was able to shine in an increased role on the first team’s offense and managed a heavy workload. He ran hard every carry and on multiple occasions would not go down on first contact. He was also able to run for 75 yards on 11 carries along with two first-half touchdowns.
Freshman quarterback Luke Altmyer
The true freshman looked solid as Corral’s backup today for the Blue team in his limited playing time. Altmyer was able to throw the short and deep balls well today and completed three of his nine pass attempts for 18 yards and a touchdown along with an interception. One of his first balls was a deep ball that was eventually dropped due to a big hit — but you couldn’t ask for more from Luke on one of his first plays in front of the excited crowd. It will be fun to watch his career as a Rebel.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)