Indiana's defense wants to put major pressure on Ole Miss QB Matt Corral
One might think the key to beating Ole Miss in Saturday’s Outback Bowl is to slow down Rebels’ quarterback Matt Corral.
And that’ll have something to do with it, for sure.
But the way Kane Wommack sees it, the Indiana defense might be best served to try to slow everyone else down around him. That’ll be a prime directive when the seventh-ranked Hoosiers (6-1) take on the Rebels (4-5) in Raymond James Stadium for the Outback Bowl at 12:30 p.m. Saturday.
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Wommack, Indiana’s defensive coordinator, says he’d prefer to make Ole Miss one dimensional.
“From our end, we’ve got to do a great job of not only stopping the run, but we’ve also got to stop the quarterback scrambles,” Wommack told media during a Zoom conference Monday. “That means we’ve got to do a great job of creating pressure, and when we do create pressure, we’ve got to find a way to get Corral on the ground. That’s something we’ve worked very hard at and have to go execute on game day. It’ll be a good challenge for us.”
That’s because the Ole Miss offense has largely been multifaceted — and really good ¬— all season long. Directed by Corral, Ole Miss has the country’s sixth-best passing attack, averaging 344.8 yards per game. But first-year coach Lane Kiffin likes to keep the offense balanced, and the Rebels can run the ball too, as they average 217.7 yards on the ground.
Maybe Ohio State’s offense is the best comparable for the Hoosiers. The Buckeyes have one of the country’s best and most balanced offenses, being No. 5 in the nation in rushing offense and No. 42 in passing.
And Indiana didn’t necessarily slow it down in the teams’ only meeting this season, but its defense did give the Hoosiers a chance. Indiana allowed OSU to roll up 607 yards of offense in the Buckeyes’ 42-35 late-November victory, but the game was closer than predicted because the Hoosiers did what they have done all season: They collected turnovers. Indiana picked off Justin Fields 3 times, in part because the Hoosiers were able to pressure the QB frequently, including pulling him down for 5 sacks.
IU feels it should be able to slow the Rebels much more than it could the Buckeyes, while still collecting turnovers (because why not? IU does lead the country in interceptions per game). For one, Ole Miss doesn’t have Master Teague III and Trey Sermon running the football; and secondly, the Rebels will be without many of their top-flight skill position players. Leading receiver Elijah Moore won’t play, nor will Ole Miss’s second-leading receiver Kenny Yeboah, a tight end. They’ve opted out to focus on the NFL. And Kiffin could also be without No. 1 running back Jerrion Ealy and wide receiver Braylon Sanders due to injury, although Ealy, who had 745 yards rushing this season, is expected to give it a go in the Outback.
But this isn’t the Rebels’ first rodeo without Moore and Yeboah. The pair opted out before Ole Miss’s season-finale vs. LSU — the Tigers won 53-48 — and the Rebels still racked up points and yardage. Corral passed for 251 yards and rushed for another 158, while accounting for 4 touchdowns. Sanders had 70 yards and 2 touchdowns as the No. 1 receiver, but he’s thought to be questionable Saturday due to an injury.
Oh, but there were problems; outside of the yardage numbers, Corral did have issues vs. LSU without his top weapons, throwing 5 interceptions. The Rebels also had a fumble.
If Wommack gets his final IU wish — he’s coaching his last game at IU before becoming the head coach at South Alabama — he’ll force Corral to make plays in the air by limiting the Rebels’ rushing game and limiting the QB scrambles. (Fields, by the way, had 78 rushing yards and a touchdown in Ohio State’s win over Indiana).
Do that, and Corral, who has 14 picks this season, might be prone to give the ball away, and Indiana can add to its 17 interceptions.