OXFORD • Ole Miss may or may not be settled into a two-quarterback system for the remainder of the season.
Offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez scoffed when the question was posed on Monday.
“I wouldn’t tell you if I was,” he said.
What Rodriguez is saying is what most people are seeing – that the Rebels need to get better in the passing game.
The best way to do that, Ole Miss coach Matt Luke says, is to “focus in on us” this week as the Rebels prepare to face winless New Mexico State, which has lost eight games by an average margin of more than three touchdowns.
The average margin is part of the frustration for Ole Miss right now as the Rebels have been close but not over the hump. Losses at Missouri, at home against Texas A&M and at No. 11 Auburn have come by an average of eight points per game.
“It’s disappointing because the object is to win. There are no moral victories,” Luke said.
The Rebels punted on six-straight, first-half possessions at Auburn before scoring a late touchdown after a short field was set up by Elijah Moore’s 55-yard punt return.
Six Ole Miss drives last five plays or fewer.
The Rebels had just 99 passing yards with 14 completions on 27 attempts.
Rodriguez says he doesn’t believe playing both quarterbacks John Rhys Plumlee and Matt Corral is the cause of execution problems in the passing game.
“It’s unconventional but I’ve done it before, and other teams have done it before,” he said. “Switching them in and out, in my opinion, is not a problem.”
Luke is involved in offensive staff meetings and in the quarterback decision-making process along with Rodriguez.
“As head coach I’m involved in all facets of our program. I take responsibility for our setbacks as much as our successes,” he said.
While both quarterbacks played against Auburn, Corral – statistically the more accurate passer – had his least amount of action since bruised ribs caused him to miss games against Alabama and Vanderbilt. He played only 13 snaps and was 3-for-6 passing for 13 yards.
Plumlee played the Rebels’ other 56 snaps, and Corral didn’t play at all in the second half.
Plumlee was 11-for-21 passing. He hit two long throws to wideout Braylon Sanders – the first wiped out by a holding penalty – on the Rebels’ last drive. He threw one interception, that coming on the last play of the game, a desperation throw right before he was hit.
“I think it’s little things, whether it be on me or whether we cut a route short one yard, I just think it’s a lot of little things that go into it,” Plumlee said. “Me individually I can get a lot better, I know that, I can get a lot better for this team.”
Rodriguez says he sees the Rebels execute the passing game in practice but for some reason haven’t made the same plays – or enough of them – in the current three-game skid.
He said his own execution needs to improve as well.
“We can get better in the passing game. The frustrating part is I’ve seen it. We do some really good things in practice, and some of it’s not carrying over to the game. Some of that obviously has to start with me and some of the play-calling.”