Tuesday, June 6, 2023

No. 16 Ole Miss Takes on Liberty in the Last Non-Conference Matchup

By Adam Brown
Sports Editor

No. 16 Ole Miss steps out of conference this weekend as they play host to the Liberty Flames. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. on SEC Network.

Ole Miss (6-2, 2-2 SEC) is coming of a 31-20 loss to the Auburn Tigers last weekend. 

This season, the Rebels rank top 20 in the country in eight separate offensive categories: total offense (531.5), rushing offense (249.9), scoring offense (39.1), first downs (221), team passing efficiency (156.1), fourth down conversion percentage (.706),  turnovers lost (6) and passes had intercepted (2). The 249.9 rushing yards per game ranks third nationally, while 531.5 total yards ranks fourth.

Junior quarterback Matt Corral ranks No. 8 in the FBS in total offense (340.2). He has also thrown for 2, 203 yards with 15 touchdowns and ran for another 519 yards on the ground with another 10 scores.

Going into the Auburn game, Corral had thrown for a touchdown in 19-straight games. He found the end zone with his feet.

The Liberty game, starts a three-game home stand for the Rebels to close out the home slate of the schedule.

The Liberty Flames bring a red-hot offense to Oxford for Saturday’s matchup. Hugh Freeze and company are 7-2 on the season and are coming off a big 62-17 win over UMass last week. 

Spearheading Liberty’s offense is dual-threat quarterback Malik Willis. The former Auburn quarterback burst into the spotlight last season and has attracted national attention after throwing for nearly 2,000 yards and 21 TDs, while adding 684 yards and nine scores on the ground through his first nine games this season. Joshua Mack and T.J. Green split time in the backfield. Both running backs have tallied 315 yards and three touchdowns on the season. Demario Douglas and CJ Daniels have been two of Willis’ top targets out wide. Douglas has caught 37 passes for 562 yards and five touchdowns, while Daniels has hauled in 26 passes for 456 yards and seven scores on the year already. Overall, Liberty’s offense ranks 32nd nationally, averaging 445.3 yards per game. 

Defensively, the Flames are led by Storey Jackson, who leads the team with 67 total tackles, including 7.0 for a loss. As a unit, Liberty has recorded an interception in seven of its nine games this season and is 6-1 when registering a takeaway.

Saturday will be the first ever meeting between the two programs. The Rebels are currently 3-2 against FBS independent schools. In 2019, Ole Miss defeated New Mexico State 41-3 over the last independent school the faced.