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Ole Miss, Tennessee Game Brings Two of Nation’s Fastest Up-Tempo Offenses to the Field Saturday

Ole Miss, Tennessee Game Brings Two of Nation’s Fastest Up-Tempo Offenses to the Field Saturday

OXFORD, Miss. — Rebel fans are used to hearing the words “up-tempo” to describe the Ole Miss offense’s style of play.

The way quarterback Matt Corral and company have been churning out yards and points this season, that is almost an insult to the offense. It is certainly an insult to adjectives, as Dictionary.com defines up-tempo as  “characterized by a fast or bouncy tempo.”

Fast or bouncy?

Perhaps the analysts should invest in a thesaurus. This Ole Miss offense is more of a speedball or supersonic. Breakneck, blue streak or posthaste also apply. If nothing else, the Rebels’ offense is accelerated.

As much as it means big numbers on the stat sheets or looks effortless on the field, the offensive success has not been easy to produce.

It’s hard but I’m getting used to it. Just getting on the ball as fast as I can, getting the play and making the calls.

Ole Miss center Orlando Umana on the Rebels’ pace

The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Utah transfer is not only in charge of snapping the ball, but he also makes the line calls on the fly. The Rebels have not had too many problems in the fast-paced offense, but Umana thinks the line can improve.

We just need to talk more. It’s hard to like talk on the line when we’re trying to go fast. I just hope everyone knows their job pre-snap, but yeah, we need to communicate more. Especially me, I need to get it down the line.

Center Orlando Umana

Because Umana has been getting the calls out fast, that means the offense can go fast. This season, Ole Miss is averaging 76.4 plays per game. The Rebels have had success with running that many plays.

In five games, Ole Miss has notched 61 drives, with 36 of them resulting in scores – 30 of them touchdowns.

Last week, as the Rebels edged Arkansas 52-51, Ole Miss gained 324 yards on the ground. The rushing attack opened the passing game for Corral who completed 14-of-21 for 287 yards and two touchdowns.

No pass was bigger than the 68-yard strike Corral threw to a wide-open Braylon Sanders who ran away from the Razorback defense for the game-clinching touchdown with just over a minute left to play. While the play looked like an easy pitch-and-catch for the duo, being so alone in the secondary gave Sanders a moment to have a thought before the ball arrived.

“Don’t drop it, just don’t drop it,” Sanders said he thought during the play.

When you’re running that wide open and then, you know it’s a big game, the focus is to just catch the ball first, use your legs after that.

Braylon Sanders on his 68-yard TD catch

The pass last Saturday looked like a wide-receiver screen compared to what the pair has done in the past. They hooked up for an 81-yard touchdown in a win over Mississippi State last season. Sanders believes they could connect for an even longer gain in the future.

I think (Corral’s) still got more in the tank that he hasn’t let out yet honestly. But the longest (he has thrown) will probably be the one from State. The State one you know, but he’s definitely got some more room in there.

Braylon Sanders on how far Corral can throw the ball 

Vols run tempo offense, too

This would be a good week for Corral and the rest of the Rebels to let it loose. Ole Miss heads to Knoxville to take on Tennessee and its offense that is looking for some superlative adjectives itself.

Coach Josh Heupel, in his first year with the Vols after leading UCF to years of great offensive production, has Tennessee’s offense racing of late.

The Rebels’ and Vols’ plays-per-minute numbers are the highest in Power Five football.

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is no stranger to meeting the UT coach. In the three years Heupel was at UCF, Kiffin’s time at Florida Atlantic overlapped, and he knows what to expect in Neyland Stadium this week.

What we’ve seen for years at UCF. (They) run the ball really well with tempo, and then hitting big plays outside. We’ve seen it, we’ve lived it at FAU.”

Coach Kiffin on the Vols’ offense

Like Ole Miss, the Vols pride themselves on getting to the line of scrimmage and getting the ball snapped. Tennessee is averaging 75.2 plays in its six games this season.

The SEC Network audience could see mirror images when the teams kick off at 6:30 (CT).

“The tempo aspect of it and how that’s managed and practiced (is similar to Ole Miss),” Kiffin said. “How receivers play positions and get the ball, all of that stuff is the same. We moved a little bit from where they’re at with different plays just like they have with us, but the base system, not necessarily the routes, but the base system of how it’s practiced, run and efficient during a game is the same, which is the same as what we just played last week.”

Considering how fast the offenses complete drives – whether they score or not – will keep the defenses on the field a lot.

This could be a football game that becomes a war of attrition.

(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)

About The Author

Steve Barnes

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.

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