By Adam Brown
The No. 20 Ole Miss returns to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the first time of the 2021 season on Saturday as they play host to the Austin Peay Governors. The kickoff is set for 6:30 p.m. on ESPN+.
“Good to play at home,” head coach Lane Kiffin said. “Hope people come out … having a crowd is impactful to the players and their performance.”
Ole Miss (1-0) is coming off a 43-24 win over the Louisville Cardinals in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff on Monday night. Kiffin missed the first game after testing positive for COVID-19 over the weekend.
Junior quarterback Matt Corral led the Rebels going 22-32 for 381 yards in the air and a touchdown. He carried the ball 12 times for 55 yards and a touchdown.
Corral found wide receiver Dontario Drummond nine times for 177 yards and a touchdown in the game.
The defense was on fire and held the Cardinals to no points in the first half and only allowed them to gain 107 yards in the half.
Saturday will be the first Walk of Champions for Kiffin since being hired at Ole Miss due to COVID-19 closing down tailgating last season.
“Excited for the first walk that we have had through the Grove,” Kiffin said. “My first time stepping foot in the Grove.”
Austin Peay rolls into town with a 1-0 record after defeating a 30-20 win over Chattanooga in the season opener. The Governors held Chattanooga to just 228 yards total offense, while the offense clicked.
“(Austin Peay) has played well since their coaching change (Scotty Walden) they played hard and we are going to have our hands full.
Quarterback Draylen Ellis threw for 325 yards on 23-of-33 passing with four scores. The Preseason Quarterback of the Year in the OVC is looking to put together a big sophomore campaign after throwing for over 1,200 yards and 14 touchdowns last season. His favorite target, Baniko Harley, who tallied 137 yards on six catches in the win over Chattanooga, is one of four returning wideouts. Eugene Minter, CJ Evans and Jay Parker all return after accounting for 677 yards and seven touchdowns last spring. Ahmaad Tanner leads the Governors’ ground game. He’s rushed for over 1,700 yards in his career and is coming off a 100-yard performance last weekend.
Jack McDonald, Austin Peay’s leading tackler over the last two seasons, anchors the defense. The redshirt senior has racked up 188 tackles in the last two years, the third-most among all FCS defenders in that period. Defensive backs Johnathon Edwards and Kordell Jackson lead the secondary that will be tasked with slowing down the Rebels’ air attack. Against Chattanooga, Edwards picked off two passes in the victory and was named OVC Defensive Player of the Week, while Jackson led the defense with eight tackles, a pass break-up and 2.5 tackles for loss.
When the game kicks off it will be the first-ever meeting between the Rebels and the Governors on the gridiron.