'We figured fans will stay longer if Plumlee has the ball:' What Lane Kiffin said after Ole Miss win
OXFORD — The first three quarters were for the win. The fourth quarter was for the fans.
Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin addressed the media Saturday night after his No. 20 Rebels' 54-17 win over Austin Peay. He broke down what he saw from his offense and defense in the first three quarters then joked about how his second- and third-string players performed in the fourth quarter.
In particular, Kiffin explained why quarterback-turned-receiver John Rhys Plumlee took so many snaps at quarterback in the fourth quarter despite never practicing there during the week.
Here's everything Lane Kiffin said after the Rebels' win.
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Well, we're 2-0. That's the best that you can be after two games. I've got to just remind myself too going to the locker room that this is a challenging week with two less days and we only had one day of practice. I think we came out and played pretty well in the first half. It was a good job by the players of getting that done. It got sloppy in the second half. Unfortunately these games tend to do that. When they're lopsided it's kind of hard to get them to come out and play the same way in the second half.
But we did get to play a lot of players so I'm excited about that because we didn't in the first game. It's good to get those guys on film and get them on film.
I thought we gave up too many yards on defense. And we weren't very good on third down again for the second week in a row on offense. When we go for it on fourth down that saves us. But we've got to improve on third downs.
We've got work to do. It sounds like Tulane played really well in the first half. (Athletic director Keith Carter) gave me an update. We were going out and I was all excited (for the Walk of Champions) and he was like 'Oh, by the way, Tulane scored like 50 points in the first half.' So I said 'OK, we're just trying to win this one.'
The Walk was cool. The energy was amazing that early. To be out there. I know our players and coaches appreciated that and felt the support. We've got to keep playing better so we can fill the stadium.
What do you learn about your team in a lopsided game like this?
Kiffin: I do enjoy the part of seeing backups play. Those guys work really hard. But also most of those guys think they should be playing and they get to show it. Sometimes they show where they should be and sometimes they don't. But at least they see it.
I've over the years pulled our starters earlier than most people. We didn't in the opener because I wasn't there. We played our guys a little too long, especially on offense. But it was good to see those guys get in. I hate that Snoop had the one fumble. We would've had two games in a row with no turnovers, not even putting the ball on the ground. Which you're going to win a lot of games if we move the ball like we do and don't turn the ball over.
It didn't have that same feeling today of the defense just really knocking them out and being super physical. I'm not going to buy into the short week and that's why. We should be more physical. We're going to have to this week.
The concern is outside, the deep balls and the pass interferences on the corners.
What are you seeing from Sam Williams? Is his consistency starting to show through?
Kiffin: We've seen that from Sam all camp. He came back from this summer just a different player. We struggle every day with him in practice with our 1s on both sides. I was just hoping that would carry over into the game and I think what we're doing, we don't do as many things defensively. I think that's helping him.
Like I've said, in the system we play, if your two ends aren't very good rushers, it isn't a very good system. We've only got three guys rushing and they double the nose every time. Luckily we've got Sam and Cedric out there that can give people problems.
What was the philosophy on staying aggressive on fourth downs with a lead?
Kiffin: I kind of went above the book a little bit on some of those. We felt like our matchups were really good on offense. Our quarterback was hot and our three receivers were hot. We may have some fourth and mediums that say punt or kick but we're going to go for them because we like our percentages.
And we really should've thrown a touchdown to Drummond on the one versus Cover Zero and we waste a good play that should've beat Cover Zero because he was too casual with the ball. So that was disappointing.
What went into rotating the quarterback play in the fourth quarter between Luke Altmyer, Kinkead Dent and John Rhys Plumlee?
Kiffin: We made a big thing about fans staying for the fourth quarter. Plumlee had not practiced at quarterback all week. He was trying to get receiver down. We figured fans will stay longer if Plumlee has the ball. That's why you saw us basically give him the ball at receiver and then at quarterback.
Lebby was like 'You know he hasn't practiced these plays?' I said 'He'll be fine. We've got to keep the crowd around.' It was cool to see him have success.
Do you expect Orlando Umana and Jake Springer to be back next week?
Kiffin: We do. Two very critical players. Obviously they're really centerpieces of our system at center and where Springer plays in our defense. You saw how many hits he had in the opener. So we need those guys back.
Was there something consistent happening on the pass interference calls?
Kiffin: There were some early that definitely were, there were some that were questionable. But we're turning and we're arm-barring the guy before we get our head around and blocking him off. So it's like the targeting. We can sit and complain all we want. Like, our coaches are complaining. But it's a penalty. It doesn't matter what you say. They're not going to pick it up.
We've got to coach it better.
Are you surprised by Dontario Drummond's contributions to start?
Kiffin: He's had a really good camp and he's worked really hard. I probably didn't know the numbers would be like that. He really had two more touchdowns today. He dropped one and then Hudson Wolfe didn't crack down on the right guy or he would've had another one.
He's done a great job and you just never know. This system and going fast, you never know how they're going to play. We can't tell you who's going to catch all the balls. I think in the opener especially and in this game they stayed deep on the outside. I'm sure they read reports of Braylon running by everybody every scrimmage we have. Plus when we open practice to you guys you report how great Braylon is and now they cover him. So Braylon thanks you guys.
Kiffin: I kind of thought Braylon's numbers would be the best of the three just based off of scrimmages but it is what it is. It's kind of cool down there that we get one for Braylon late. He didn't ask for it, but I just thought let's get him a touchdown on a crossing route. The guy hasn't really touched the ball very much. We ran him in motion to get the ball just because the guy works really hard.
The targets aren't on purpose the way that they are. Mingo and Drummond had 21 targets today and they played what, two and a half quarters?
Can you speak to Jonathan Mingo's day?
Kiffin: Not to sound not excited but he's got the deep post that's close to a catch. (Kiffin's son) Knox FaceTimed me at halftime and he said it was definitely a catch. So I told him I'd tell the officials for him. That would've been a big play. Obviously it would've changed his stats.
But he's played great. Even in the first game with a few catches, how physical he looked. Actually Knox said today when we were talking before the game, he kind of looks like DK Metcalf's brother. So that's a pretty big compliment as well.
How has the addition of kicker Caden Costa proven worth the scholarship?
Kiffin: It's great. The guy did well in camp but he actually kicks better in the games than he has even in camp. Kickers are like players. There are ones that are gamers. They just show up. So it's awesome to see, especially when you invest a scholarship.
If you're doing it right, you're only doing it every four or five years because the guy is really good who kicks. So it looks like we got a good one.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or [email protected] Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.