On a night when a team loses it’s biggest bowl game in years, in somewhat embarrassing fashion, you would imagine the aftermath of such a loss would very deflating. Don’t misunderstand, losing 21-7 to Baylor in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, and in the process seeing star quarterback Matt Corral go down to injury, is very depressing. However, when assessing the Rebels’ 2021 season and anticipating the future, there’s more good than bad in Oxford Mississippi.
First, the bad.
Losing Matt Corral to injury, early in the game, certainly set the tone and put Ole Miss at a huge disadvantage. Baylor’s defense was already going to be a bear (pun intended) to tame even with the SEC’s All Conference 2nd team QB. Without Corral head coach Lane Kiffin was forced to go with true freshman QB Luke Altmyer. Obviously, the results weren’t good. Corral was sacked twice before leaving the game and Altmyer was sacked seven times, for a total of nine. Altmyer also threw two interceptions in addition to Corral’s one.
It certainly wasn’t a good night at the Superdome in New Orleans. The worst part, however, was Matt Corral’s injury. Thankfully, it’s diagnosed as being just a sprained ankle. That’s excellent news for the soon-to-be NFL Draft pick, who could land somewhere as high as the first round.
It wasn’t the best of nights for the large contingent of Ole Miss fans, but the loss to Baylor and Corral’s injury should not damper their spirit.
Now, the good……
The Rebels, despite the loss, were still competitive with the Bears. Baylor, Big 12 champs and the number seven team in the nation going into the Sugar Bowl, is a really good team. Head coach Dave Aranda, who has SEC coaching experience as defensive coordinator with LSU, is doing a magnificent job building his program. The Bears look like a true contender going forward and Ole Miss still was able to hang with them. Baylor did next to nothing offensively and that’s credit to an Ole Miss defense that’s improved mightily all season.
Very rarely have the Rebels been adequate defensively. Even though they still have a long way to go, that’s starting to change. We already know Lane Kiffin will have the offense be explosive as ever, and that’s despite losing offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby. The foundation has been set, and for once, it’s seemingly on both sides of the ball.
Recruiting is only getting better. It’s a safe bet Kiffin will find his next star QB on the recruiting trail or in the transfer portal. Also, Altmyer, despite having the rough game overall, showed flashes.
Then, when looking back at the regular season, the Rebels showed signs of a team that’s simply learning how to win. For example, take a look at the Texas A&M. Close game throughout, but it was Ole Miss not the favored Aggies that made the winning plays to win the game. There’s still work to be done, but games like that usually ended in an Ole Miss loss.
So, while it wasn’t a good look for Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s night, the future is definitely bright. A program that’s had to suffer through a lot over the years can finally take solace that the good is starting to outweigh the bad.