By JOHN ZENOR, AP Sports Writer
Matt Corral and Bo Nix are trying to rebound from games they’d rather forget. The same thing can be said for their teams.
Corral, Mississippi’s quarterback, is coming off a six-interception performance in a season that had been terrific up to that point. Nix enters Auburn’s game Saturday at Ole Miss having thrown three picks in an upset loss to South Carolina.
Their hope-for-redemption tour begins in Oxford, Mississippi.
Corral and the Rebels (1-3) lost to Arkansas after committing seven turnovers to derail Lane Kiffin’s high-powered offense. Corral entered the game with one interception.
Kiffin said his quarterback “played really poorly” but also didn’t get much support, including some dropped passes.
“I think he learned a lot from that,” the Rebels coach said.
Nix went 251 passes without throwing an interception before the Georgia game. Against South Carolina, he made mistakes and was at times too quick to take off running under pressure.
“Stop the run and make him make bad decisions,” Ole Miss linebacker Momo Santogo said. “That’s the plan, really.”
It’s not just Nix. Auburn has struggled at times on both sides of the ball. The Tigers fell from a No. 7 ranking all the way out of the Top 25 after getting routed by No. 4 Georgia and barely eking out a win over Arkansas.
“Well, I mean, it’s a very important game, I’ll tell you that,” Auburn coach Gus Malzahn said. “Obviously, when you lose a game, you’ve got to bounce back. So yeah, it’s a very important game.
“Our guys understand that, the big picture of this thing. We need to win and we need to get some momentum, and we need to play good, Auburn football. That’s going to be our mindset.”
Ole Miss has one of the nation’s most prolific receivers in Elijah Moore, who’s No. 2 nationally in yards and catches per game. Kenny Yeboah, likewise, has been one of the most productive tight ends despite not having a catch in the Arkansas game.
There’s no doubt who Nix’s top receivers are: Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz, though Eli Stove’s return from an injury is a boost.
Freshman tailback Tank Bigsby has emerged as Auburn’s best offensive weapon in recent weeks. He has run for 257 of his 311 yards in the past two games and also has 11 catches this season. Ole Miss’s Jerrion Ealy is also a threat (355 rushing yards, five touchdowns).
Auburn’s leading rusher against Ole Miss has averaged 157.3 in the 10 meetings with Malzahn as either head coach or offensive coordinator.
Ole Miss continues to be hit by COVID-19. Defensive starters Tariqious Tisdale and Jakorey Hawkins missed the Arkansas game. Kiffin said the number of players in isolation because of the virus or contact tracing went up this week.
“We’ve got some more in the last three days,” Kiffin said early this week. “It’s becoming very challenging. This is not easy. Especially when for whatever reason is continues to hit us on defense.”
He didn’t give names or a specific number.
Ole Miss has the SEC’s most generous defense, but Auburn’s has been uncharacteristically bad, too. The Rebels are last in the SEC in total, scoring and rush defense and 12th against the pass. Auburn has been solid in pass defense (fourth), but is 10th in scoring and rushing defense.
KIFFIN VS. TIGERS
Kiffin faced Auburn twice as Alabama’s offensive coordinator with impressive results. In 2014, the Tide won 55-44 in the highest scoring Iron Bowl. The next season Derrick Henry ran 46 times for 271 yards in a 29-13 win en route to the Heisman Trophy.