Braylon Sanders

Ole Miss wide receiver Braylon Sanders scores the go-ahead touchdowns on a 68-yard pass play in Saturday's fourth quarter against Arkansas.

OXFORD – There’s usually one thing and one thing only going through Braylon Sanders’ head when he’s tracking down a deep ball off the golden arm of Matt Corral.

Please, please don’t drop it.

The Ole Miss senior wide receiver had several chances to overthink things last Saturday in the No. 13 Rebels’ 52-51 thrilling victory over Arkansas but came through when the Rebels needed him most

Sanders caught just two passes in the game, but he made them count – one went for 59 yards and the other for 68 yards. The latter served as the go-ahead touchdown, just 15 seconds after the Razorbacks had tied the game at 45.

Sanders is no stranger to catching long heaves from Corral – he’s averaging 24.3 yards per reception this season – but it still never gets old.

“’Don’t drop it’,” Sanders said with a grin, asked what goes through his mind on deep passes. “When you’re running that wide open, and you know it’s a big game, focus is to catch the ball first and use your legs after that.”

There’s something special about being so wide open that head coach Lane Kiffin throws his clipboard in the air before the pass grazes Sanders’ fingertips, particularly at a critical juncture in the game. Sanders was open down the sideline on his go-ahead touchdown catch by seven or eight yards.

After totaling 59 receiving yards over the first two games of the season, Sanders has been hot of late, with at least 74 yards in two of the last three games.

“Exciting, exhilarating and a blessing, just being able to catch the touchdown pass at that moment of the game,” Sanders said. “Coaches put us in the right position to make plays, Matt put the ball on me, and it was the end zone after that.”

Sanders has dealt with injuries for much of his career. Healthy thus far in 2021, Sanders is just four grabs way from surpassing his most receptions in a season (16 in 2018). The potential has always been there for Sanders, a four-star prospect coming out of Georgia’s Callaway High School. In August, Kiffin went so far as to say Sanders had first-round ability.

With his health in-tact, Sanders is thankful to be putting it all together.

“It’s all a blessing. Just staying the course and just continue to put my head down and work each and every day. Just using the resources around me to get better and just doing what I have to do each and every day to get 1% better each and every day.”

Corral’s skillset continues to bring out the best in Sanders. Corral ranks 13th nationally in yards per completion (14.82) and fifth in yards per attempt (10.3). The longest pass play between the two is the 81-yard touchdown during last year’s Egg Bowl, a ball that traveled about 60 yards in the air.

As great as that pass was, and as exceptional as his heroics against Arkansas were, Sanders thinks Corral still has more in the tank. Yes, he can throw the ball even farther.

“I think he’s still got more in the tank that he hasn’t let out yet,” Sanders said. “The longest would probably be the one from State. But he definitely has some more room in there.”

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