ATLANTA (AP) — Matt Corral threw for 381 yards and accounted for two touchdowns, Snoop Conner ran for a pair of scores and Mississippi romped to a 43-24 victory over Louisville on Monday night even without head coach Lane Kiffin.
Despite being fully vaccinated along with everyone in his program, Kiffin tested positive for COVID-19 and was not be able to accompany the team to its season-opening game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
Ole Miss did just fine with its quarantined coach watching from Oxford, piling up 569 total yards.
Corral completed 22 of 32 passes, including a 6-yard touchdown to Dontario Drummond. The Ole Miss quarterback also ran 6 yards for a score, while Drummond finished with 177 yards on nine receptions.
Conner had TD runs of 1 and 11 yards, barreling right over a Louisville defender on the second score. Jerrion Ealy also powered over from the 1 and Caden Costa kicked three field goals.
Kiffin said everyone on his staff would have a role to play in his absence though much of the attention was on offensive coordinator Jeff Lebby, who calls the plays for a group that averaged nearly 40 points a game in Kiffin’s first season.
The Southeastern Conference school showed no signs of letting off the gas in 2021. Ole Miss led 26-0 at halftime before a sparse crowd announced at 30,709; the upper deck in the 71,000-seat stadium wasn’t even used.
Louisville quarterback Malik Cunningham ran for two TDs and passed for another, but all came in the second half with the outcome no longer in doubt.
Cunningham was held 17 yards passing in the first half to cap a brutal opening weekend for the Atlantic Coast Conference.
The league went 0-4 in non-conference games against Power Five opponents, including Miami’s 44-13 loss to top-ranked Alabama in the first Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game of the holiday weekend on Saturday.
In addition, No. 10 North Carolina was upset in a conference game by unranked Virginia Tech, while Georgia Tech and Duke suffered embarrassing losses to Northern Illinois and Charlotte, respectively.
Four players — two from each team — were ejected from the game in the first half for targeting.
Ole Miss lost linebackers Mark Robinson and Lakia Henry, while linebacker Monty Montgomery and defensive lineman Tabarius Peterson were tossed for the Cardinals.
Peterson was called for a helmet-to-helmet hit while blocking on a kickoff return.
Showing some lack of discipline without its head coach, Ole Miss was warned and then given a 5-yard penalty for sideline interference when players kept running on the field after big plays.
Of course, Kiffin’s team had plenty to celebrate.
Louisville: After plodding to a 12-12 record in coach Scott Satterfield’s first two seasons, the Cardinals gave little indication that major improvement is coming. The offense managed just 107 yards in the first half and the defense rarely slowed Ole Miss.
Ole Miss: The offense lived up to expectations, but the most encouraging development was the play of the defense. After giving up an average of 38.3 points per game in 2020, Ole Miss forced a pair of turnovers and held an opponent scoreless in the opening half for the first time since 2016.