The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Matt Corral's Vote Of Confidence

442 days ago
Kevin Scarbinsky
Photo: Jimmie Mitchell/SEC

They kept him in the game. The Ole Miss quarterback kept throwing the ball to Arkansas, and the interceptions piled up, six of them, two of them pick sixes, and still they kept him in the game. What seemed like a total nightmare for Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral became an inspiration.

Why? They kept him in the game.

"They kept me in that game for a reason," Corral said. "They didn't yank me. They made sure that I was the guy. They made sure that I knew that I was the guy, and I think that was -- that spoke volumes to me. That spoke volumes to the team. That gave me the confidence in myself that I could bounce back from it."

Head coach Lane Kiffin pulled Corral aside afterward and explained. Corral remembered it this way: "He said he believed in me."

Corral made believers out of a lot of people last season in his first full year as the starter with a new head coach in Kiffin and a new offensive coordinator in Jeff Lebby, without the benefit of a spring practice eliminated by the pandemic. The week before the Arkansas debacle, Corral and the Rebels torched eventual national champion Alabama for 647 yards, the most ever surrendered by the Crimson Tide. Alabama won 63-48, but Corral's talents were on full display.

For the season, Corral finished fifth in the nation in passing yards per game (333.7) and became just the fourth player in SEC history to lead the nation in total yards per game (384.9).

"I think he played as well as anyone in the country at times," Kiffin said. "He played great at times and really poorly at times. I think a lot of people forget that it was his first year as a starter. So we know what to build off, and we know what it should look like."

Corral showed what leadership looks like Tuesday as he was asked repeatedly about the Arkansas game.

"That game was fully my fault," he said. "I take full responsibility."

He praised Kiffin and Lebby for mentoring him on and off the field.

"They've done a great job of forming me into this quarterback, ultimately," Corral said. "Not only a quarterback, but a better person off the field. But they changed my whole thought process, man. They changed my whole thought process in how I look at a defense and how I just approach the game and the way I get ready for a game. It's something different that I didn't do two years ago when I was a freshman. Now it's become a habit.

"Truly, I'm blessed. I got lucky with them. I did."

And what if Arkansas throws that rare Drop 8 defense at him again when the teams meet Oct. 9 in Oxford?

"I can promise you, the next time I play that defense, it'll be a lot different," Corral said. "I know I messed up, and I know I have an opportunity to fix it. That's all the motivation I need."