OXFORD, Miss. — Mississippi believes its two-quarterback attack worked well enough last week that it’s an option against Texas A&M.
Redshirt freshman Matt Corral and true freshman John Rhys Plumlee both played quite a bit in a 38-27 loss at Missouri. The Rebels may continue that strategy as they host the Aggies on Saturday.
“If you are good enough to win with, no matter if there are two or three guys, we will play you,” offensive coordinator Rich Rodriguez said. “The hardest position to do that is obviously quarterback because you can only play one at a time. As long as they stay healthy, we will keep trying to do that.”
Rodriguez is no stranger to two-quarterback systems. He’s used that philosophy in previous stops at Arizona, Michigan and West Virginia. It sounds as if he will do it yet again as Ole Miss tries to navigate through the teeth of its SEC schedule.
“We have two really good competitors that have unique skill sets,” head coach Matt Luke said. “That’s the difference. Most people have guys that are similar. I was very impressed with how they fed off each other and how unselfish they were, pulling for each other on the sideline. That impressed the other guys on the sideline as well.”
Plumlee has rushed for 470 yards in 13 quarters. Corral is more skilled as a passer at this point in his career and opens the field more for the offense. Rodriguez’s system lends itself well to a quarterback who is mobile, but Plumlee’s inconsistencies throwing the football make the Rebels one-dimensional at times.
Ole Miss started using two quarterbacks partially out of necessity.
Corral injured his rib in the fourth quarter of a Sept. 21 loss to California. Plumlee stepped in and nearly erased a 15-point deficit.
Plumlee started the next two games, a road loss at Alabama and a home win over Vanderbilt. He rushed 47 times for 274 yards and two touchdowns in those two games, and went 20-of-38 through the air for just 240 yards and two touchdowns.
Although Plumlee started again at Missouri, Rodriguez elected to go back to Corral after five series. Corral led a productive drive that ended in a turnover on downs at the 1-yard line just before halftime.
Corral went 4 of 6 on the march and sparked a floundering offense in his first game action in three weeks. Both Corral and Plumlee played in the second half.
The players split drives in the third quarter. Both played on the same drives in the fourth quarter with Rodriguez alternating the two every couple of plays.
“It may be unconventional, but it is how I do it in practice and have done this in the past,” Rodriguez said after the loss. “I thought the kids handled it pretty well.”
Corral was 10 of 16 for 133 yards against Missouri. Plumlee was 8 of 17 for 103 yards and two scores. Plumlee also ran 23 times for 143 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
The Ole Miss offense may have been the most productive when both played in the same series.
On the three fourth-quarter drives, Plumlee ran for 62 yards with two scores, and Corral threw for 57 with 16 rushing yards. The offense compiled 182 yards in the final quarter despite not touching the football for the final six minutes.
“We noticed they were adjusting to who was in the game at quarterback,” Plumlee said. “I think it is more momentum. I think when we are both doing well, things are going good. I don’t think it is a singular thing or rhythm. When the team is doing well, I think everyone feeds off of that.”
Ole Miss believes the different styles of Plumlee and Corral can throw a defense off balance.
“They have to play them totally different, so I don’t know if confusion is the word, but it’s a whole different set of problems that a defense has to worry about,” Luke said.