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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Behind Enemy Bylines: Ole Miss Rebels

The Vanderbilt Hustler went behind enemy bylines and spoke with James Minzesheimer, Assistant Sports Editor for The Daily Mississippian, to preview Vanderbilt’s upcoming game against Ole Miss.
Claire Barnett
The Commodores play football at Ole Miss on Saturday, October 14, 2017. (Hustler Multimedia/Claire Barnett)

The Vanderbilt Commodores will play their first game since Oct. 10 this weekend, as  they prepare to face the Ole Miss Rebels at Vanderbilt Stadium on Saturday. The Commodores suffered a 41-7 loss to South Carolina in their last outing and enter this weekend seeking their first win of the season. The Rebels are looking to snap a three-game losing streak after a controversial call dashed their hopes of victory against Auburn in last week’s matchup. The game this weekend offers both sides an opportunity to gain momentum as they enter the second half of the season. The Hustler interviewed James Minzesheimer, Assistant Sports Editor of The Daily Mississippian, to talk about the Rebels and gain insight into this week’s matchup. 

Vanderbilt Hustler: Last week Ole Miss played well against Auburn and experienced a controversial call near the end of the game. What are some of your takeaways from that game? 

James Minzesheimer: I think they played pretty well. The defense was okay, but not anything special. Defense has pretty clearly been a problem with personnel and COVID-19, and [head coach] Lane Kiffin hasn’t had a chance to recruit yet after [former head coach] Matt Luke ran the program poorly. Two offensive players played on the defensive side of the ball last week, and defensive back Jalen Jones was ruled out for the season with an upper body injury. [The defense has] become weaker and weaker each week.

In terms of the call, it was a rough call, but there’s not much Ole Miss can do about that. In terms of other things during the game, the fake field goal was executed very poorly, but Kiffin might’ve gone for it because the kicker hasn’t been good so far this season. [Starting quarterback] Matt Corral threw an interception in the endzone in the first quarter, and Ole Miss needs those points. The team has played decent but they somehow seem to continuously lose games that they shouldn’t.

Ole Miss sits at a 1-4 record, but the team has played some tough competition and has been able to put up points and remain competitive in most games. What has been going well on the offensive side of the ball this season?

I think the success of this team comes down to the way that Corral plays. Football is a team sport, but the quarterback is probably the most important position on the field. Corral’s performance has been key in leading Ole Miss to success. His games against Kentucky and Alabama were much better than his performance against Arkansas, where he threw six interceptions. The offense has relied heavily on him this season, and [backup quarterback] John Rhys Plumlee has not seen the field much. The key for the offense is having Corral on and passing well. The run game hasn’t been great so far this season, and I personally think that with the weapons in the backfield, the offense should focus on running the ball more. Kiffin has been good in adjusting his approach to different defensive schemes, but he sometimes gambles too much and has had calls go against him.

This is Lane Kiffin’s first season as head coach after stops at a number of high-level programs. What has been the biggest change you have seen with Kiffin as head coach?

Kiffin is one of the most polarizing figures in college football. He always wants to look cool and relate to the players, and he’s a very “rah-rah” guy in terms of his enthusiasm. Kiffin is a good recruiter but he is going to need some time to get things going. The biggest thing with Kiffin is that he’s a much better game manager than Luke was. I sometimes question Kiffin’s decision-making, but it is nice to have someone who is a more consistent play caller and a more reliable game manager than what Ole Miss has had in the past. 

Matt Corral began the 2019 season as the starting quarterback but suffered an injury in his fourth start and never truly regained the starting role. This season it seems like he has really taken control of the starting job and is becoming a better passer. What have been some improvements you have seen in Corral’s game?

The thing about Corral is that he has always been talented, but he hasn’t really had the opportunity to shine. Last year was obviously rough for him, and he has struggled at times this season. Kiffin does seem to support him and he has had good performances. When he plays well, the entire team plays well, and there are a lot of people who think that Corral has been a good quarterback for the program. He’s a fun-loving guy who gets lots of attention, but there are questions about where he is mentally at times. The six interceptions against Arkansas definitely shook his confidence a little bit, and it is hard to tell where he’s always at because he’s so up-and-down. He needs to stop staring down routes and needs to become better at adjusting to a variety of defensive schemes if he wants to improve more. Expect to see Corral out there against Vanderbilt; this could be a confidence-boosting game for him.

What would you consider to be a successful season for this Ole Miss team with some tough games against Texas A&M and LSU still on the schedule?

 At this point, beating Vanderbilt and Mississippi State and wins against some other teams on the schedule would be good, but I don’t really see that happening. The truth about Ole Miss football is that if they beat Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl this season, the season would be considered to be a success by many people. I had Ole Miss at 4-6 coming into the season and I was confident in victories over Arkansas, Vanderbilt, Mississippi State and South Carolina. 5-5 would have been a great year, but I don’t see that happening.

Vanderbilt has really struggled on the offensive side of the ball this year, but this is an Ole Miss defense that has not played well for most of this season. Do you have any major concerns for Ole Miss heading into the game this weekend? 

The defense has definitely been an issue, but Vanderbilt is the weakest team on the schedule for Ole Miss this season. I think that the Ole Miss offense will be able to take advantage of the weakest defense that they’ve seen all season and cover up for the Ole Miss defense a little bit, but I’ve felt that this team does not meet its expectations each week. Ole Miss has been inconsistent this season, so I don’t want to put the expectations too high. Ole Miss should win, but who knows. I’ve liked the way the defense has been trending recently, so hopefully they can have a good game.

What is your prediction for the final score this weekend? 

35-17 Ole Miss


This content has been edited for clarity and length. 

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About the Contributor
Claire Barnett, Former Multimedia Director
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