Ole Miss fell one yard short to California Berkeley, 28-20.
On the first leg of a home-and-home the Former Bears fell to the Golden Bears 27-16 at Berkeley in 2017. It was a similar trial in the second meeting, all but ending Ole Miss’ 2019 bowl hopes.
Both offenses opened the game with momentum, but the Rebels missed a field goal, and the Bears punched it in for six. Remember that.
Then began a frustrating sequence of triumphant frustration.
On the second offensive drive, Corral found four different targets before Scottie Phillips punched it in from one-yard out. Corral looked patient and comfortable, and Braylon Sanders made his first catch of 2019 after returning from a hamstring injury. The game was tied, it was good.
The defense forced a punt and the Rebels took the ball back. A competent drive saw Demarcus Gregory get involved, and Jerrion Ealy bring the ball to the red zone. Everybody was getting touches, and Ole Miss was knocking on the door again.
Nobody was home, and the Rebels settled for a field goal. Remember that.
California took possession and Mike MacIntyre’s secondary struggled to contain the deep ball, as it had a week prior against Southeastern Louisiana. Quarterback Chase Garbers led a 75-yard drive, highlighted by a 24-yard pass to the sideline. Three plays later, the defensive backs couldn’t catch up with a check-down wheel-route, and the Golden Bears took the lead 14-10.
While adding a field goal before the half appears positive for Ole Miss on paper, it was not.
On the preceding California possession, Ole Miss cornerback Deantre Prince picked off Garbers and returned it 21 yards to the California 35-yard-line. With the best field position of the night, Corral couldn’t find his receivers, and would finish the night going a dreadful 22-of-41.
As opposed to adding a field goal, it was settling for one. Remember that.
In the second half, the Golden Bears led the whole way. With the Rebel secondary wrapped around his finger, Garber would throw for 357 yards and four touchdowns on the day, with two in the third quarter to take a 28-13 lead.
In the fourth, Ole Miss drove 48-yards to set up a field goal. It wasn’t pretty, but it was a chance for points, until Luke Logan missed his second kick of the night from 29-yards out. Remember that.
Seemingly down and out, Corral got the ball back with just over six minutes left. He completed just 3-of-8 pass attempts before exiting the game with sore ribs and shortness of breath.
John Rhys Plumlee entered the game on 3rd-and-10, instantly putting the team on his back.
Needing a first down, he scrambled for 47 yards inside the red zone. Ealy scored on the next play and all of a sudden, it was a one score game.
The Rebel defense stepped up and forced a punt with 2:51 remaining.
Ole Miss was alive.
Plumlee, a true freshman from Hattiesburg, Miss., had the game in his hands. He went 7-for-7 on the potential game-tying drive, and brought Ole Miss to the 3-yard-line with 18 seconds on the clock— without a timeout. Remember that.
He took the snap, rolled left, and completed the quick out-route to Elijah Moore for what seemed to be a touchdown.
Moore, who broke the 100-yard receiving mark on 10 catches, appeared to be in the end zone. But the Pac-12 referees called him short.
Thinking that Moore broke the plane, the Rebels celebrated. The referees would not take a look at the play, in which Moore more-than-likely scored a touchdown, and the clock continued to run. Needing to get a play off, the Ole Miss offense scurried to the line and ran a quarterback sneak as time expired.
Plumlee was stopped dead in his tracks, and the Rebels fell one yard short, a questionable ending where Moore was at least down at the half-inch line, at the worst.
In a game where Corral struggled, Logan missed two field goals, and play-calling was questionable, Ole Miss still finished with 525 total yards of offense. The win was within reach, but the Rebels couldn’t get out of their own way. Though blame can be spread wide, a big finger points at head coach Matt Luke.
Now, sitting at 2-2, Ole Miss is in a tough situation. The team needs just four wins for bowl eligibility, but it’s hard to see where they will come. With eight games left, and Alabama, Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU, and Mississippi State ahead, the loss to California may have been the preemptive the nail in the coffin.