Corral leads No. 13 Ole Miss to first win at Tennessee in 38 years

Published 12:29 am Sunday, October 17, 2021

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As debris rained down to the field from atop the bleachers at Neyland Stadium, Lane Kiffin was nearly hit by a golf ball.

After Tennessee’s Jacob Warren was ruled down a half yard short on a 4 & 24 play with 54 seconds remaining, the Volunteer faithful reacted by sending trash, and just about anything they could get their hands on, down onto the field towards the Ole Miss sideline.

It was all the climax to what eventually ended up being a 31-26 victory for No. 13 Ole Miss, their first win in Knoxville since 1983, who has won two straight Southeastern Conference games since their loss at Alabama.

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The game was delayed for nearly 20 minutes as Rebel players and staff were ushered onto the field as they were getting hit with debris. Officials tried to restart the game but once the team was back on the sideline, more debris was thrown causing another small delay.

“I just wanted to play. The players got helmets,” Kiffin said. “It’s the coaches that are going to get hit. I still have my souvenir golf ball that I got hit with. I said, ‘Put the helmets on. Lets play.’ The Tennessee people, down there on the field, were really taking care of us. … There were a number of bottles with some brown stuff in them. Probably not moonshine. I don’t think they’d waste moonshine on me.”

What might have been lost in the midst of the chaos at the conclusion of the game was the Herculean effort Rebel quarterback Matt Corral gave. Missing Jonathan Mingo, and Braylon Sanders who left the game early with a lower body injury, Corral was without his key weapons in the passing game, forcing his legs to do the work.

The Rebel ground game was paced by Corral’s 195 rushing yards on 30 carries — the most carries by a Rebel in a single game since Benjarvis Green-Ellis. Corral also threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns, including throwing his first interception in 233 pass attempts.

Corral’s 426 total yards of offense nearly matched what Tennessee finished with as a team (467).

“I don’t know what you say about him,” Kiffin said of Corral. “He doesn’t have his left. He doesn’t have two of his top three receivers. … Carried the ball 30 times. That was not by design. Some of the quarterback draws, his big plays, were by design because they were coverages. You can’t say enough for a guy to do that on the road and put the game on his shoulders.”

Snoop Connor rushed for 24 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries while Henry Parrish, Jr. rushed for 41 yards on 10 carries. Dontario Drummond finished with two catches for 66 yards and a touchdown while Dannis Jackson also had two catches for 42 yards and a score.

Opposite of the shootout that occurred at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium last week against Arkansas, the Rebel defense managed an improved performance. Tennessee (4-3, 2-2) was forced to punt on five of their first six possessions.

After giving up two touchdowns and two field goals on four straight possessions, the defense forced a punt and back-to-back turnover on downs to end the game and seal the win.

“This is a lot better feeling, defensively, than a week ago,” Kiffin said. “A week ago we made the one two-point play stop but this one we stopped them a number of time, including a fourth down stop. We just make it dramatic. I think it was 4 & 24 and they made 23 and three-quarters. I guess that’s the story of our life: it just don’t go real easy.”

Tennessee still had a chance to pull out the victory, Joe Milton III ran out of bounds without attempting a throw as time expired.

Safety Jake Springer returned to the lineup after being out since the season opener in Atlanta. Springer provided a spark to the defense, finishing with a second-best seven tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss.

Ole Miss returns home next Saturday to host LSU (4-3, 2-2) who is coming off their 49-42 win over No. 20 Florida. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. CT and will air on CBS.