With or without Lane Kiffin on the sideline, the Ole Miss Rebels are primed to continue the trend they started last season – scoring plenty of points.
After a spectacular start to the season, No. 20-ranked Ole Miss opens its home schedule Saturday night against FCS opponent Austin Peay.
And what an opener it was for Ole Miss (1-0, 0-0 SEC) on Monday.
With Kiffin back in Oxford due to a breakthrough case of COVID-19, the Rebels – who made news as one of the first college teams to become fully vaccinated – took their high-flying offense to Atlanta and squared off in an SEC/ACC tilt against Louisville.
The result was a resounding 43-24 win behind the explosive play of quarterback Matt Corral to put away the Cardinals rather handily.
Ole Miss rolled through Louisville’s defense in the first half – leading 26-0 at halftime – and cruised to the victory.
Even away from the action in Atlanta, Kiffin – one of the sport’s more outspoken and lively head coaches – couldn’t refrain from being a part of the victory’s festivities.
“If they’re going to play like that without me, I’ll just stay here,” Kiffin said via a post-game Zoom call on the Ole Miss campus. “I’m already here. I don’t have to travel back. I’m already watching Austin Peay film right now.”
That isn’t good news for the Governors (1-0), who went down to Chattanooga on Thursday and beat the Mocs 30-20.
Monday’s success was just a continuation of the standard Corral set last season in Kiffin’s first year.
Behind the guidance of offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, the junior quarterback averaged 333.7 passing yards per game and tossed 29 touchdowns. He added 506 rushing yards and scored four touchdowns in 2020.
Last year’s offense was one of the most improved in the country, averaging 10.3 yards per passing attempt – fourth in the FBS. It averaged 7.0 (90th) in 2019 under coach Matt Luke.
Against Louisville, Corral moved the offense at will.
The Ventura, Calif., native completed 22-of-32 passes for 381 yards – one a 6-yard scoring strike to Dontario Drummond — and didn’t throw an interception, which was a sore spot for him in 2020 when he was picked off 14 times.
“Every time we get the ball, our goal is to score,” said Corral.
Ranked 20th to open the season in the FCS standings, Austin Peay moved up to 17th this week with the road win in Chattanooga – the school’s first time beating the Mocs in seven tries.
With the Mocs fielding a veteran squad that has high expectations, Austin Peay dominated the contest – totaling 452 yards of offense and limiting Chattanooga to just 228.
Ohio Valley Conference Co-Freshman of the Year quarterback Draylen Ellis turned in a big game, going 23-of-33 for 325 yards with four touchdowns for the Governors.
Graduate defensive back Johnathon Edwards earned OVC Defensive Player of the Week honors with two interceptions in the win but said his team would have to be better against Ole Miss.
“I have to put the last game behind me and watch extra tape,” said Edwards, a Mississippi native. “We know we have a big-time game and have to focus. Our preparation has to be a lot better.”
–Field Level Media