Baylor Defeats Ole Miss in 2022 Sugar Bowl After Matt Corral Exits with Leg Injury

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIJanuary 2, 2022

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - JANUARY 01: Gerry Bohanon #11 of the Baylor Bears hands the ball off to \a in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at Caesars Superdome on January 01, 2022 in New Orleans, Louisiana. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The No. 7 Baylor football team capped its season with a 21-7 win over No. 8 Ole Miss in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Day in New Orleans' Caesars Superdome.

Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral left the game in the first quarter with a right leg injury and did not return after getting his leg rolled up on during a sack. Luke Altmyer replaced Corral.

Trainers helped Corral off before he was examined on the sidelines and then carted off the field. He later returned to the sidelines on crutches and without a shoe on his right foot.

As for the game, the Bears' rushing attack and defense led them to victory. Abram Smith ran 25 times for 172 yards, and wideout Monaray Baldwin's 48-yard touchdown scamper on an end-around gave Baylor a 13-7 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Baylor Football @BUFootball

A great time for your first TD 😤<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Sicem?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Sicem</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BUncommon?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BUncommon</a><a href="https://t.co/sCJFYamTYS">pic.twitter.com/sCJFYamTYS</a>

On defense, Baylor sacked Ole Miss quarterbacks nine times. Linebacker Terrel Bernard had two of them en route to 17 tackles (11 solo). Safety JT Woods picked off Altmyer and Corral once each, and Al Walcott returned an Altmyer pass 96 yards for a pick-six to open the scoring:

Baylor Football @BUFootball

This defense is 𝙙𝙞𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙧𝙚𝙣𝙩.<br><br>Baylor 7, Ole Miss 0 | 10:16 2Q<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SicEm?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SicEm</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/BUncommon?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#BUncommon</a> <a href="https://t.co/jIaKfXMd0V">pic.twitter.com/jIaKfXMd0V</a>

The Big 12 champions finished 12-2, marking the first time in program history that the Bears have won 12 games.

Ole Miss finished its season 10-3, tying a program record for wins.


Notable Performances

Baylor RB Abram Smith: 25 carries, 172 rushing yards

Baylor LB Terrel Bernard: 17 tackles, 2 sacks

Ole Miss QB Luke Altmyer: 15-of-29, 174 passing yards, 1 TD, 2 INT

Ole Miss WR Dontario Drummond: 9 catches, 104 receiving yards


Baylor's Defense Shines Again

Baylor's defense propelled the Bears from a Big 12 contender down the stretch into a conference champion and then a Sugar Bowl winner.

Along the way, the Bears held 11-win Oklahoma to 14 points, allowed just one touchdown to Kansas State, picked off Oklahoma State quarterback Spencer Sanders four times and finally held Ole Miss to seven points in the Sugar Bowl.

The Bears saved their best for last as phenomenal performances from Bernard, Woods and others guided them to a win over Ole Miss.

Granted, the Rebels were without their starting quarterback for three-plus quarters, and this game certainly could have played out far differently if Corral remained in the contest. Still, Baylor's defensive dominance can't go unnoticed as numerous stars shined.

Bernard was a big reason Ole Miss couldn't get much going. Jerrion Ealy did break loose for a 31-yard run at one point, but aside from that, the damage from Ole Miss' three running backs (Ealy, Snoop Conner and Henry Parrish Jr.) was spread out as they combined for 27 carries and 118 rushing yards.

Bernard and Jim Thorpe Award finalist Jalen Pitre were both excellent, and Thor Nystrom of NBC Sports Edge shouted them out:

Thor Nystrom @thorku

I love watching Dave Aranda defenses in general<br><br>This one is especially fun<br><br>Terrel Bernard and Jalen Pitre are both stupid disruptive <br><br>Both will play in the NFL for a long time

Woods came through in the clutch, as his second pick came with the Bears up 14-7 in the fourth quarter. He returned the Altmyer pass 16 yards to the Ole Miss 15-yard line, and Tyquan Thornton caught a two-yard touchdown pass from Gerry Bohanon five plays later.

In the end, credit goes to Baylor's excellent defensive talents as well as head coach Dave Aranda, who turned around a team that went 2-7 in 2020 by leading Baylor to its best season yet.


Ole Miss Fights Hard Until the End Without Its Leader

Simply put, Ole Miss faced a tall order to win this game without Corral, a likely first-round NFL draft pick who finished seventh in the Heisman voting this year.

He's been an invaluable member of the team en route to leading an explosive Ole Miss offense. Corral accounted for 31 touchdowns (20 passing, 11 rushing) while tossing just four interceptions.

Corral also passed for 3,333 yards and rushed for 597 more despite battling numerous ankle injuries.

Ole Miss suffered a multitude of injuries all year, to the point where nine of the team's 11 Week 1 offensive starters were unable to practice on Nov. 3. Of note, the team lost one of its top wideouts (Jonathan Mingo) for most of the season with a foot injury, and right guard Ben Brown suffered a season-ending torn biceps.

Somehow, this team still ended up with 10 wins despite playing in the brutally tough SEC, which will send Alabama and Georgia to the national championship. Corral was the most important part of that run, and his efforts to keep playing (and perform well) will not be forgotten in Oxford anytime soon.

Unfortunately, Corral and Ole Miss' season ended on a dour note after a freak injury, but that doesn't take away from the fact that the Rebels kept fighting until the end en route to a campaign filled with success.