Tuesday, June 22, 2021

COLUMN: Ole Miss Football Has A Fighting Chance

By John Macon Gillespie

It was a historic night in Oxford, Mississippi.

Matt Corral broke the school record for passing yards in a single game (513), Elijah Moore had his third game this season with over 200 receiving yards, and Ole Miss knocked off South Carolina 59-42 in a shootout at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Let’s start with this: the offense is special. There was the one hiccup game against Arkansas, but Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby have shown that they are elite offensive minds and have helped Matt Corral and that unit overcome their mistakes that were evident on that day. Corral, Moore, Kenny Yeboah, Jerrion Ealy, Snoop Conner and others are just the start of the studs that take the field for the Rebels on offense every week. When almost every game is a shootout, these guys give Ole Miss a chance in every ballgame.

Now to the other side. The defense is hard to watch more times than not. The pass rush is oftentimes nonexistent, and tackling and pursuit angles on the Rebel defense are the things of nightmares. Still, even with how bad the defense has been, three times this season, they’ve managed to muster enough stops to give the offense a chance to win it. It hasn’t been pretty, but there have been times when the defense has done just enough to give the Rebels a win.

I’ll say it again: this is a problem that will take recruiting and the transfer portal to fix. There are those who are frustrated with the coaching on the defensive side of the ball, and maybe they have a point, but the bottom line is that this defense is not talented enough to be successful in the SEC. That takes some time to fix.

Even with the poor defense this season, there’s reason to believe that Ole Miss can finish this season on a strong note. At least two of the games left on the schedule are winnable for the Rebels, in my opinion, and finishing 5-5 is definitely on the table, and in a season fret with COVID issues and the lack of a spring and normal fall camp, that would be a definite win, not to mention the prospect of playing 10 SEC games.

The future is bright in Oxford; I firmly believe that. There’s an energy around the program that hasn’t been there in years, and fans are believing. Expectations aren’t unreasonably high at the moment. Fans realize that this team isn’t perfect, and establishing a winning program takes time, but there is hope and excitement nonetheless, and that’s something to be happy about.