Notes and thoughts from the Rebels’ 28-20 loss to Cal. …
We can all debate whether Elijah Moore’s catch should or should not have been a touchdown, but the more important debate is what happens at quarterback for Ole Miss moving ahead?
The last thing Ole Miss coaches want is a quarterback controversy as the September soon turns to October, but there’s no denying what happened when John Rhys Plumlee entered the game.
Plumlee lit a fire under the Rebels … or should I say re-lit a fire.
Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez went against his normal tendencies and came out throwing the football, and in this air attack Matt Corral hit 11 of his first 14 passes.
Yes, the Matt Corral who has at times struggled with accuracy. Corral was in rhythm, and the Rebels were moving.
The Rebels weren’t finishing drives, however, not enough to take control of the game.
Ole Miss reached the Cal 30 on its first possession but bogged down after an incompletion on second down and a batted ball on third down. Luke Logan was wide right from 47, and the drive ended.
Corral was 5 for 5 on the Rebels’ second possession, a 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with his own 1-yard run, and Ole Miss tied the game at 7.
But Corral began to fade, and the rest of the Rebels’ first-half scoring was field goals, which is a sketchy proposition these days as Luke Logan has become more inconsistent.
Corral hit 11 of his first 14 attempts then missed eight of his next nine.
He finished the game 22 for 41, and a 53.6 percent completion rate isn’t good enough for that many pass attempts. Too many empty plays in there.
Remember, Matt Corral is a redshirt freshman. Some level of growing pains are expected. But if Rodriguez is going to keep opponents off balance and sometimes throw this much in a game he’s got to have a quarterback who is more accurate.
It’s still a very small sample size with Corral through four games, but missing open receivers is more a thing than it needs to be.
The Rebels have a lot invested in Corral right now, but not so much that others shouldn’t be included in the conversation.
It’s way too early to think about moving on from Corral, but it’s not too early to think about involving another quarterback.
It may be that with Ole Miss so young at the position that two quarterbacks need to play.
Certainly Plumlee comes to mind. His heroics almost put the Rebels in position for an unlikely comeback in the game’s final minutes.
Plumlee came off the bench cold, and as impressive as his 47-yard run was on his first college play, so was the fact the he was 7-for-7 passing the rest of the way.
The question about Plumlee, at least from people who have seen him play because I had not before Saturday, is can he be an effective passer as a starting quarterback?
I don’t think a 7-for-7 outing Saturday when he was running on adrenaline against a team that hadn’t seen him on film and didn’t really understand his skill set proves that he can.
Based on the little bit I’d seen of these freshman QBs in drill work and what coaches and teammates had to say about them through August, I concluded Grant Tisdale might be the better all-around quarterback and more suited to lead the offense long-term.
I’d heard that Plumlee is an electrifying athlete, and I could see him coming out and running a package designed for his skills.
That’s a lot different than dropping in the pocket and throwing.
I will say this. Based on what had transpired in the second half I don’t believe the Rebels would have been in position to tie and force overtime had Corral remained in the game.
So where all this is headed with the QBs remains to be seen. The first order of business will be to determine Corral’s health.
It will be an interesting week.
Other items …
I thought Corral was effective in the run game, and he finished with 56 yards on 16 carries, the team’s leading rusher.
There were many times last week I thought Corral should have pulled the ball back and kept running. Clearly Rodriguez was waiting to unveil that this week, and Corral was up to the challenge. …
On a day that Rodriguez wanted to feature the passing game he was able to reinsert Braylon Sanders into the mix at receiver, and Sanders responded with a career-high five catches on five targets for 73 yards. One of them was a 40-yard gain.
Sanders makes the receivers look smoother and more confident as a group. They’re better when he’s in there.
That said, it was a good day for many receivers. There were a few drops, not many.
I’ve liked Demarcus Gregory since he got on campus. He hasn’t really separated himself from other receivers this season, but he had that nice grab of 41 yards from Plumlee in the frantic final minutes.
With all the passing going on there was only one catch among the tight ends, a 7-yard gain by Octavious Cooley. Jason Pellerin had a critical drop.
There was better play for the offensive line. After Southeastern Louisiana had 11 tackles for loss, Cal had three.
Defensively, I get more confidence in these guys in stopping the run every week.
I would imagine that if Cal’s Christopher Brown had truly been healthy he’d have carried more than eight times, but Marcel Dancy is quite a capable back, and the Rebels were able to contain quarterback Chase Garbers in the run game too. In all they held Cal to 60 rushing yards.
It’s been 11 years since Ole Miss has held three-straight opponents to fewer than 100 rushing yards, but that’s what’s happened now.
As consistent as the Rebels have been against the run, they’ve been inconsistent against the pass.
Mike MacIntyre is going to have to figure out ways to get pressure on the quarterback earlier in games. Ole Miss got their later against Garbers, but too many times when the game was undecided Garbers sat in the pocket and looked all over the field before making a throw.
That a team would be 6 for 12 on third downs isn’t great, but that a team would be 4 for 6 on third downs of 9 yards or more is inexcusable.
This team needs consistent pass rush to help its DBs cover for a shorter period of time.