Ole Miss falls to Baylor, 21-7, in Sugar Bowl, Matt Corral’s season ends with injury
NEW ORLEANS – Although the final score was Baylor 21, Ole Miss 7 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, the story of the game happened early, and the result of the contest was an afterthought.
Late in the first quarter, the Ole Miss crowd fell silent. When all of Cole Maxwell’s 295 pounds fell on Matt Corral’s lower leg during the Bears’ third sack, the Rebel faithful could only watch as the quarterback lay still on the Superdome turf in obvious pain bringing an ending to his Rebels’ career.
“Matt is a special player, a special leader and a special player,” said linebacker Chance Campbell after the game.
“So when he’s not there, he brings a lot of juice to the team and obviously a lot of excitement and a lot of hope. I think the guys had a lot of trust in Luke [Altmyer], and I’m personally proud of how he stepped in there. As Coach [Lane] Kiffin said, it’s a really difficult situation. He’s a young guy. I’m proud of him. But when Matt went down, that was tough.“
Chance Campbell on losing Corral to injury
The crowd did not have another reason to get loud until about six minutes remaining in the first half when Corral emerged from the Ole Miss training room on crutches. It was a tribute to what Corral has meant to the Rebels’ program since his arrival from Ventura, Calif.
Coach Kiffin talked about what his quarterback has meant to the team this season.
“He’s been unbelievable and the things you don’t see besides the playing, just how he is. I had a cool moment this morning in the team meeting, just listening to him talk. I told our own coaches and players: ‘You can be a freshman and you’re supposed to listen to the leaders. You can be a 50-year-old coach and you should listen to this guy.’ “I mean, what he said today to the team about after last season, after the Outback Bowl, and all he wanted to do was come back and impact players the way that Elijah Moore impacted him off the field as a person. He’s just real special, and he is going to make a great NFL player and do great for a franchise.”
“He’s been unbelievable and the things you don’t see besides the playing, just how he is. I had a cool moment this morning in the team meeting, just listening to him talk. I told our own coaches and players: ‘You can be a freshman and you’re supposed to listen to the leaders. You can be a 50-year-old coach and you should listen to this guy.’
“I mean, what he said today to the team about after last season, after the Outback Bowl, and all he wanted to do was come back and impact players the way that Elijah Moore impacted him off the field as a person. He’s just real special, and he is going to make a great NFL player and do great for a franchise.”
In between those two events, it was the Baylor fans who had the first tangible reason to cheer.
Baylor got on the board first early in the second quarter when Al Walcott picked off a deflected pass from Luke Altmyer and ran it back 96 yards for a touchdown. Isaiah Hankins’ kick gave the Bears a 7-0 lead.
At the time of the 96-yard return, Baylor only had 44 yards of total offense.
It turned out to be the only points of the first half as the Bears took the touchdown lead into the break.
In the third quarter, Altmyer threw his first college touchdown pass. He had been 6-of-12 for 32 yards before the freshman hooked up with Braylon Sanders for a 37-yard score. Cale Nation’s kick tied the score.
Luke Altmyer's first college TD pass was a beauty 😍 pic.twitter.com/BYq4dayaVN
— ESPN (@espn) January 2, 2022
Monara Baldwin gave Baylor the lead with a 48-yard touchdown run in the fourth period. It took the Bears 48 minutes and 46 seconds to finally score against the Ole Miss defense, but Baylor had a 14-7 lead.
Another Baylor interception quickly gave the Bears the ball deep in Ole Miss territory. A few plays later, Gerry Bohanon found Tyquon Thornton for a 2-yard scoring pass and after the conversion, Baylor had a safe 21-7 lead.
Lost between the defeat and Corral’s injury was the performance of the Ole Miss defense. As the Landsharks finished last season with its best game in a 26-20 win over Indiana in the Outback Bowl, the Rebel defenders may have turned in their best effort of the season.
The Ole Miss defense held the No. 7 Bears to just 40 yards passing.
Chance Campbell tallied 10 tackles for the Rebels to lead the way.
Altmyer, the heir-apparent to Corral, performed well in his first significant action. The Starkville native completed 15-of-29 for 174 yards with a touchdown. Altmyer achieved those numbers despite being sacked seven times.
Despite the positives in the game, Coach Kiffin made it clear there’s no moral victory.
“Again, congratulations to them (Baylor),” he said.
“I’m not going to sit up here and talk about our miraculous season. We did some neat things, special things, some great memories. But we didn’t finish it, and that’s what we came here to do, not just to get a participation trophy. So not real excited.“
(Feature image courtesy of AllState Sugar Bowl)
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.