Thursday, December 2, 2021

COLUMN: Corral has an Opportunity to Bounce Back Against Auburn

By Jeff Roberson

Sometimes turnovers happen. Sometimes a lot of them.

Saturday in Fayetteville, Ole Miss had three games’ worth.

It was tough to watch Matt Corral, so good thus far, be so bad in game four. Six interceptions in one game.

Seven turnovers for Ole Miss to two for Arkansas.

Every year when Ole Miss and Arkansas play, before and after the game, the conversation comes up about past games and the sheer craziness of the series. Some think 2015 was the craziest. Maybe it was, that day when Ole Miss had an SEC West title on its mind and was close to wrapping it up but couldn’t wrap up the visiting Hogs. Atlanta would have to wait. Again. 

The consolation prize, a ninth Sugar Bowl for Ole Miss, was still really nice but not what they were playing for that season.

For me, the Arkansas game that comes to mind, negatively for the Rebels, is always 2001. Eli Manning vs….what was his name? Sure, I remember. Jones. Matt Jones. And only a freshman. Every time the Rebels scored in that seven-overtime affair, then the longest game by periods in NCAA history, I’d think, “OK, that should do it.” Then there’d be more from Jones and the Hogs.

Ole Miss lost 58-56 and it ruined the season. There were much more serious moments during the late summer and autumn of 2001. It had already been a strange and disturbing time, due to Sept. 11. 

After some schedule rearranging all over the country, Ole Miss beat Vanderbilt in the last game of the regular season for its seventh win of ‘01. But there would be no bowl. Alabama, which Ole Miss had beaten in the regular season, got to the postseason with six wins. Ole Miss stayed home. You can decide if there’s such a thing as Alabama bias. 

Speaking of Alabama, the Rebels and the Crimson Tide once played in the Sugar Bowl, back when postseason games were often more regional matchups for various reasons.

The Crimson Tide had four turnovers that day. Good for Ole Miss, right? Yes, except the Rebels had nine – and still almost won. Alabama kicked four field goals for a 12-7 win.

Corral’s day at Arkansas might best be summed up in an Archie Manning story. Then a sophomore, his six interceptions tossed at Tennessee in a 31-0 Volunteer victory likely helped Archie more than it hurt him, crazy as that sounds. Oh, he’s admitted it hurt him that he let his team down that day. But he never forgot it or how it felt. He used it to improve.

There were comments made by UT that Archie dictated with his eyes where he’d throw, among other things the Vols said. In the months that followed, Archie worked. He made himself a better quarterback, arguably the best in college football the next two years, although a broken arm halfway through his senior season sidetracked any Heisman hoisting.

In his junior season, Ole Miss beat Tennessee 38-0, one of the most memorable games in UM history. It came one year after losing to the Vols 31-0 and those six picks.

On Sunday via Twitter, Lane Kiffin said he tried to pick his quarterback up by letting him know his father in law, the late John Reaves and a sensational quarterback at Florida during the same era Archie played at Ole Miss, threw nine picks in a game against Auburn in 1969.

Corral seems to have a strong will, a lot of determination and appears to be a fighter. And he’s still young, just a sophomore in eligibility. On Monday he took the blame, but of course, there were circumstances besides only what he did that led to a loss. For one thing, Arkansas’ defense.

Matt Corral had a very bad day, and he can bounce back from it. Starting with Auburn in Oxford, my guess is that he will.