By Adam Brown
Ole Miss defeated the Louisville Cardinals 43-24 in the 2021 season opener at the Chick-fil-A Kickoff in Atlanta.
Ole Miss (1-0) came out firing on all cylinders as head coach Lane Kiffin was back in Oxford after testing positive for COVID over the weekend.
“Just really proud of how they played,” Kiffin said.
Kiffin said that he will be out of protocol on Friday or Saturday morning in time to return for the home opener.
The Rebels opened the game on a 94-yard drive that was capped off by a one-yard dash by junior running back Jerrion Ealy. Ole Miss took a 6-0 advantage over the Cardinals.
Ole Miss’s defense matched the offense’s intensity as they made Louisville turn the ball over on downs in their first position of the game. The defense didn’t stop there as they forced back-to-back three and out’s in the next two positions with the ball.
“We changed schemes and had not talked about it,” Kiffin said. “It eliminated explode plays.”
In the first half, a total of four players got ejected from the game for targeting. Two from each side the Rebels had Mark Robinson and Lekia Henry ejected.
Junior quarterback Matt Corral found a host of targets on the night including Dontario Drummond. Drummond finished with nine receptions for 177 yards and a touchdown.
“(Drummond) is our slot, and a really cool day for him,” Kiffin said.
Corral went 22-32 for 381 yards in the air and a touchdown. He carried the ball 12 times for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Ole Miss took a 26-0 lead into the locker room at halftime. The defense did not allow the Cardinals to score in the half.
Last season, opponents averaged 38.0 a game against Ole Miss. Co-defensive Coordinator D.J. Durkin’s defense only allowed Louisville to gain 107 yards in the half.
Ole Miss’s stable of running backs with Ealy (12), Henry Parrish (8) and Snoop Conner (8) carried the ball 26 times as a group. Conner (2) and Ealy both found the end zone for touchdowns.
“(Conner) is setting a great example on our team,” Corral said.
Louisville got the offense going in the second half, behind quarterback Malik Cunningham who passed for 191 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Cunningham was also versatile with his feet in 18 touches for 79 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cardinals scored their first touchdown of the night in the third quarter and added two more in the final 15 minutes.
Ole Miss opens the home slate against Austin Peay on Sept. 11. The kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on ESPN+.