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Matt Corral’s passion, injury debunk Kirk Herbstreit’s bad take

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Matt Corral's passion, injury debunk Kirk Herbstreit's bad take

NEW ORLEANS — Matt Corral craved more yards, and he wasn’t going to let some 6-foot-3, 237-pound linebacker stop him from getting them.

So, the Ole Miss quarterback lowered his shoulder and barreled over Baylor’s Matt Jones amid a 15-yard run to move the chains on fourth down during the first quarter of Saturday’s Sugar Bowl.

After sustaining a right leg injury, Corral was unable to walk on the field for four plays. injuryWhile being fired. His college career was over.

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MATT CORRAL INSURY:This is why college football players choose to avoid bowl games

Corral watched his teammates play from the sidelines on crutches for the next three quarters while Corral supported them. 8 Rebels (10-3) lose 21-7 to No. 6 Baylor (12-2) at the Superdome.

Corral’s injury coupled with Baylor’s relentless pass rush and three interceptions neutered an offense that ranked among the nation’s best. The nature of Corral’s injuryIt is not clear if it will impact his first-round NFL Draft stock, but Lane Kiffin stated that an X-ray was done Corral’s injury came back negative.

Throughout Corral’s final college season, Ole Miss’ man of moxie supplied the strongest wind in the Rebels’ sails. He’s a football-loving, hard-nosed guy who cares about his team.

Corral refutes the hot takeESPN’s star analyst, Chris Anderson, provided the following Saturday morning: Kirk Herbstreit, who came off as a grump when he bemoaned that “this era of player just doesn’t love football,”While he thought through the lense bowl-game optouts.

What metric is Herbstreit using to measure his claim? Did he poll players’ love of the game in 1991 and again in 2021?

Herbstreit was a former Ohio State quarterback. He explained that while some players still love the game, it is not as passionate as in his time. He cited distractions and video games for clouding players’ passion. I guess Herbstreit never played Tecmo Super Bowl.

Herbstreit’s finger-shaking called for an “OK, Boomer” retort, except that Herbstreit is a member of Generation X. Herbie hasn’t even hit his curmudgeonly prime.

Desmond Howard, a fellow analyst, said that bowls were more important to players of their era than they are today. Well, sure. In that era, there was no College Football Playoff or national championship game. Bowl games were the season’s crowning finish. Now, the CFP. Herbstreit’s employer spends the season hyping up the playoff at every turn.

The youngsters didn’t change the system. The sport’s powerbrokers did, while seeing dollar signs.

College football players throughout the country have opted out of bowl games that were devalued by the playoff’s arrival in increasing numbers since running backs Leonard Fournette of LSU and Christian McCaffrey of Stanford started the trend in the 2016 season. The Orange Bowl saw the Michigan tight end Jake Butt tear his anterior cruciate ligament. Butt’s draft stock suffered. He literally lost his money by playing in a bowl.

This trend of bowl game opt-outs isn’t evidence of players not loving the game. These are business decisions arising from a sport which has grown into a major business.

Saying players in this era don’t love football rings hollow when you consider how much work is required to be a Division I football player nowadays. Although games are only seasonal, training, conditioning, and preparation take place all year. The campus is where players spend almost the entire year honing their craft. Road games can also be referred to as business trips.

I’m not advocating for bowl game opt-outs – or against them. That’s a decision each NFL-bound player must weigh. I admire Corral’s choice, which he characterized as a no-brainer, to play in the Sugar Bowl.

“I definitely wouldn’t have been in this position if it wasn’t for (my teammates),”Corral before the Sugar Bowl. “I’m not just going to leave. … I’m going to give these guys everything I’ve got ‘til it’s over.”

Corral, who was still wearing his turf-stained pants and crutches, joined the sideline in the second quarter. Several teammates came over to give Corral hugs and handshakes.

“He brings a lot of juice to the team and a lot of excitement and a lot of hope,” Ole Miss linebacker Chance Campbell said of his teammate after the loss.

Corral was not a sideline statue. Luke Altmyer was his replacement. He wanted to consult about possessions.

Altmyer’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Braylon Sands in the third quarter was a huge win for Altmyer. Corral rode several yards along the sideline with his crutches, so that he could be among those who congratulate Altmyer.

That moment was as pure as any from Herbstreit’s day.

Blake Toppmeyer is an SEC Columnist for the USA TODAY Network. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer.