Lane Kiffin’s first Mississippi team is many things, but boring is not among them.
Quarterback Matt Corral is deftly leading one of the nation’s most prolific offenses. Receiver Elijah Moore and tight end Kenny Yeboah are putting up huge numbers on an offense that was virtually all about the running game last season.
A still-porous defense has led to the Rebels being involved in three consecutive shootouts to open the season while winning only one of them.
While the results have not been what Ole Miss fans would want, the games have been entertaining.
The Rebels (1-2) visit Arkansas (1-2) Saturday coming off a 63-48 loss to No. 2 Alabama that more closely resembled the score of some of their basketball games. It was the highest scoring regulation SEC game in history.
“We had a chance to beat them in our first year here,” Kiffin said. “Like I’ve said before, we’re getting started. Got a lot of work to do. This is just the beginning. I said it the other day, this is the beginning of the future.”
The Rebels still have many of the same defensive shortcomings that plagued them last season. The offense hardly resembles that run-oriented attack of a year ago.
The result: Ole Miss games have produced a whopping 93 combined points on average and few punts. The Rebels have punted 10 times, and opponents only five, meaning few defensive stops on either side.
There's seldom a shortage of action for the fans.
“Our offense is pretty entertaining,” Ole Miss right tackle Royce Newman said. “We make pretty big plays. I figure it would just be really fun to watch.”
The Rebels tallied 647 yards last weekend, the most ever produced against an Alabama defense. Of course, they also gave up a whopping 723 yards.
Kiffin’s fast tempo is an adjustment for defenses, but also for his own players.
“Sometimes during this past weekend, I was like ... we need to slow down a little bit. Getting a little tired,” Newman said. “It’s a pretty fast offense.”
And a productive one. The Rebels rank fourth nationally in passing yards per game, up from 102nd last season. They rank second in total yards per game and have scored 35-plus points in three straight SEC games for only the second time.
They have the nation’s total offense leader in Corral and the leading receiver in Elijah Moore. Yeboah’s 118.3 yards per game is tops among tight ends. Ole Miss has produced eight plays of 40-plus yards already, already halfway to last year's total in 12 games.
Last year’s team ranked ninth in rush offense but 82nd in scoring (compared to 11th in a smaller pool of active teams because of COVID-19).
Then there’s the defense. The Rebels rank last among the 76 FBS teams currently playing in scoring, run and total defense.
One concern about the Rebels’ defensive players is their psyche after getting abused at times.
“Confidence is very fragile, no matter who you are,” Kiffin said. “The best quarterbacks in the world get hit around in Super Bowls and we’ve seen them play bad. I’ve always said that. When you’re in a run like this where we’re struggling in that phase of the game, it’s hard.
“We’re playing some great players. A lot of first-round picks we’re trying to cover there. It usually takes a game or a part of a game to play well and get that back. Hopefully that happens this week.”
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