Lane Kiffin's first year at Ole Miss was a wild ride. The Rebels offense entered the Outback Bowl against No. 11 Indiana 15th in the nation with 64 plays of 20 or more yards. Meanwhile, their lowly defense finished 111th in the nation in defensive plays of 20 or more yards allowed with 55. It's only natural that the final game of Kiffin's inaugural season was won by his defense.
The Rebels defense got a sack from Cedric Johnson and forced quarterback Jack Tuttle to toss two straight incompletions -- the last of which was on fourth-and-18 with 55 seconds left -- to ice away a 26-20 win. They gave up just 369 yards and 4.3 yards per play in the win -- their best defensive performance of the season in both metrics.
It wasn't just about the defense for Ole Miss, though. Wide receiver Elijah Moore, tight end Kenny Yeboah and running back Jerrion Ealy were all out on Saturday, but quarterback Matt Corral still found a way to shine. The redshirt sophomore went 30-of-44 passing for 342 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions in one of the most efficient performances of his season.
The Outback Bowl win -- which was, by far, the most complete game of Kiffin's first season in Oxford, will set the tone for an offseason that has plenty of promise. Corral, Ealy, wide receiver Jonathan Mingo and several other key contributors are scheduled to return, and the young defense built a solid foundation against the Hoosiers should prove incredibly beneficial heading into what will hopefully be a somewhat normal offseason.
The win over Indiana wasn't the only good news Ole Miss got on Saturday. The school announced that it had agreed to a contract extension with Kiffin, who came to the program after three successful seasons as the head coach at FAU.
It's safe to say that the future is bright for Kiffin and the Rebels. As for the Hoosiers, a 6-2 season under coach Tom Allen is nothing to be disappointed about. The program burst onto the scene in the first week of Big Ten play with the win over Penn State, gave Ohio State one of its toughest games of the season and established a winning culture for a program that has been starving for success.