OXFORD, Miss. - The Rebel Blue team came ready to party, using a balanced attack both offensively and defensively en route to a 28-6 victory in Lane Kiffin‘s first Grove Bowl as Ole Miss head coach on Saturday.
The Blue team ended up with 268 yards of total offense while stifling the red team to just 154 on the day, and the Rebel defense on that Blue squad was particularly active in the backfield, notching 10 tackles for loss and six sacks to go along with four interceptions from the Blue team secondary.
”First off, we stayed healthy today, which is always the main goal in a spring game,” Kiffin said. “You know having a season of COVID, I just wanted to make it as funs as possible for players and fans that maybe didn’t have an opportunity to come. It seemed like the guys had fun.”
The Blue team – led by the legendary Monte Kiffin as honorary head coach – took control on the very first play from scrimmage, a monster 57-yard dime down midfield from Matt Corral to Braylon Sanders. That drive stalled out, but it wasn’t long until the Blue team found the endzone, with Jakwaize Walker crossing the goal line at the 7:02 mark of the first quarter to make it a 7-0 game.
Corral looked in midseason form coming off an electric 2020 season, ending the day 12-of-19 for 208 yards and two touchdowns in just one half of action. Corral led the FBS in total offense in 2020 with an average of 384.9 yards per game, and is the returning SEC leader in eight separate categories heading into the 2021 campaign. Offensively, that opening trio all got their moment in the sun, with Sanders leading all receivers with 135 yards and a touchdown on just four receptions, and Walker leading all rushers with 75 yards and two scores on 11 attempts.
The Blue team got all of its scoring out of the way in the first half, following that opening Walker score in the first with three touchdowns in the final four minutes of the second quarter. Corral found Sanders for six from 10 yards out with 3:58 left in the half to cap off a five-play, 90-yard drive that was wrapped up in just 1:33.
Blue got the ball right back and clipped off another 1:33 scoring drive that spanned six plays and 43 yards, capped by a Corral floater to Jonathan Mingo from two yards out. After another quick turnaround, the Blue team drained the final 22 seconds and ended the half on a one-yard punch-in from Walker as time expired, giving Blue a 28-0 lead at the break.
The Rebel Red team got its lone score with just 1:41 to play, a two-yard strike from Luke Altmeyer to Jonathan Hess. The defenses on both sides were ferocious up front, ending with a combined 15 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. However, it was the Blue squad who wound up with all four interceptions – one each from MJ Daniels (one tackle), Jon Haynes (two tackles, one TFL, one sack), Tysheem Johnson (two tackles) and Deantre Prince.
DeSanto Rollins and Tavius Robinson were both a force for the Rebel front-seven, notching three TFL and two sacks apiece. Demon Clowney added two TFL and a sack of his own. On the Red team, Cedric Johnson tallied two sacks by himself, with Jacquez Jones and Hal Northern adding one each.
”I think the goals of playing a lot of players on defense and creating competition, playing better over there we definitely did,” Kiffin said. “Our goal will be getting a lot of these guys healthy who missed spring and fall should be very competitive after that.”