Ole Miss Head Coach Lane Kiffin, QB Matt Corral discuss loss to No. 1 Bama, what comes next
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Saturday in Tuscaloosa, No. 12 Ole Miss lost its first game of the 2021 season, falling 42-21 to No. 1 Alabama, 42-21. The Tide took full advantage of the Rebels’ decisions to go for it on fourth down, as three times in the first half Ole Miss went for it without converting and Alabama followed with touchdowns.
In his opening statement in the postgame presser, head coach Lane Kiffin gave kudos to the Tide.
“Credit to Alabama, first off,” Kiffin said. “Players, coaching staff, that’s the reason they are the number one team in the country. Coming in here (Bryant-Denny Stadium) and playing in front of a hundred thousand — said it all week, you have to do everything right to give yourself a chance and we didn’t do that. We had chances to get off the field. We had Bryce (Young) sacked a couple of times and let him out.”
After the game, Coach Kiffin explained his decision-making on the fourth downs.
“I’m sure I got killed on going for it on fourth down. That’s analytics. We believe in our players. It doesn’t work all the time. When it doesn’t work and you follow the book, it doesn’t look good. But also that’s why it’s analytics and not just doing whatever you want to do. You can have a punt blocked or give up a punt return for a net of absolutely nothing.”
Lane Kiffin on going for it on 4th down
The Rebels’ head coach was specifically asked if playing Alabama influenced him going for it in his own territory.
“No, that’s actually the opposite,” Kiffin said.
“If anything, 100% you go for it and that’s the other way. A lot of people don’t do it because that’s like scared money. At the blackjack table with $5 it’s easy. Put a couple of thousand out there and you get scared. I said we weren’t going to do that. We were going to trust the analytics and not get scared because we’re in Alabama and not have confidence in our players and punt and then they can go score. They scored every possession but one in the first half. I know it looks bad when it doesn’t work. But you can punt it away and it just takes longer for them to score.”
Dominated on both sides of the line: ‘We got dominated up front’
But beyond the fourth down conversions, the bigger picture is Ole Miss got beat on the offensive and defensive lines. The Rebels uncharacteristically struggled running the ball against the Crimson Tide, finishing with just 78 yards on 34 rushes.
“They played a lot of odd type with 4i’s and that’s hard up front when you do that. I tell it how it is good and bad, we got dominated up front.” Kiffin said.
Conversely, Alabama ran for 210 yards on 50 attempts — led by Brian Robinson Jr. who notched 36 carries for 177 yards and 4 TDs.
“Brian’s a good player,” Kiffin explained. “I remember him playing right here in high school in Tuscaloosa when I was there. They ran him a lot to their left side. I guess that left tackle might be the first pick in the draft. They ran behind him a lot, that guy is a dominant player and Brian did a really good job.”
Back to work
Now, the Rebs return to Oxford and turn their attention to facing Arkansas Saturday. Kiffin was asked what the key is to keeping the teams morale up after a loss of such.
“Making sure we understand it’s one game,” he said.
“There was a lot of hype and build up for the game. One game does not define your season. It doesn’t define you it molds you.”
Quarterback Matt Corral agrees with his head coach. “Just get back to work,” he said when asked what comes next. “Keep everyone’s head up. We’ve got a big one next week.”
Corral: "We were on a roll. We got knocked down. (It's now) how do we respond? I know everybody in that locker room will be ready to go on Monday."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) October 2, 2021
The Ole Miss offense struggled to get much of anything going in the first half as the Rebels went into intermission behind 28-0, a credit to Alabama’s defense. Corral finished the game 21-of-29 for 213 yards and one touchdown and also added a rushing touchdown in the game.
“I think it’s going to sound strange, I think Matt played alright. He threw no interceptions. We didn’t do a whole lot around him and we didn’t protect, that’s hard when you don’t have a long time to throw. Actually he moved around and got out of trouble and made some plays or it would’ve been worse. I thought Matt still played well.”
Lane Kiffin on Matt Corral
Corral was asked if the offensive woes came as a result of something the Alabama defense was doing, or if it was a lack of execution on their part. “It was just us trying to catch a rhythm, then go for the shot play.” Corral said. “Every time we got our rhythm, it was a holding or something negative towards us so we couldn’t do that because they were getting their rest. Our job was to wear them out then take a shot deep so we didn’t get to that as much as we wanted to.”
Corral: "Our coaches trusted us to make the (4th down) plays. It's on us for not executing those fourth down plays when we needed it. They did a little bit of drop 8. They did everything they showed on tape."
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) October 2, 2021
Ole Miss plays Arkansas next Saturday at 11:00 a.m. at Vaught-Hemingway in Oxford.
(Feature image: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
Nick Filipich was born and raised in Biloxi, MS. He is an Ole Miss alum with a degree in Sports and Recreation Administration. A sports junkie with a great passion for all things Ole Miss, Nick played baseball and football in high school — which is where he discovered his love for sports. He is an avid Braves and Saints fan, and in his free time enjoys spending time with family, friends and his black lab, Dixie.