OXFORD – Consider Dontario Drummond among those surprised by Dontario Drummond’s huge game against Louisville.
The Ole Miss senior wide receiver caught nine passes for 177 yards and a touchdown in the Rebels’ 43-24 victory over the Cardinals in Monday’s season opener. The next closest receiver was junior Jonathan Mingo, who had 55 receiving yards.
Drummond and the rest of the Rebels felt confident in the overall depth at receiver coming into the 2021 season despite losing star Elijah Moore.
Drummond gave fans a glimpse at the group’s potential.
“I kind of surprised myself,” Drummond said. “I didn’t know I was going to get that many targets. But every chance I got, I made a play.”
The 569 yards of offense Ole Miss gained Monday night were nice. But in the grand scheme of things, it was really just an average performance in the eyes of senior center Orlando Umana.
Umana, a Utah transfer making his first start with the Rebels, gave his thoughts on the offense’s overall performance.
Redshirt junior quarterback Matt Corral threw for 381 yards, and Ole Miss totaled 188 yards on the ground.
“I feel like we’re a seven out of 10 right now,” Umana said. “We just need to clean up penalties, assignment stuff and just finish more, like don’t get relaxed at the end. Just keep (playing hard).”
What is a perfect score, then?
“Shoot, being perfect. As close to perfect as you can be. No penalties and more points,” Umana said.
Four players were ejected from Monday night’s matchup between the Rebels and Cardinals, with two apiece on each side disqualified for targeting.
Targeting has been a hot topic around college football in the early goings of the 2021 season.
Kiffin offered his thoughts Wednesday, including whether he’s telling his players to tackle differently or not.
“I mean, we’re not stupid. We’re not going to get penalties. Unusually, first time I was able to see it better watching TV than I was at the game or watching the coach’s tape,” Kiffin said. “We've obviously emphasized it, talked a lot about it this morning to them in the team meeting. Rules are what they are. So you can disagree with them all you want, but they're the rules. So we have got to change.
“The game isn’t in slow-motion. So when people want to say, ‘Oh, it’s easy to enforce the rule.’ Well guess what? The game is not played in slow-motion or rewind. So when that happens in a split-second, and the guy lowers his helmet, so the target moved, it's a little difficult.
“When someone wants to say, ‘The rule has been in place forever, it should be really easy to coach,’ Well, you know, even in slow motion, we don't get instant replay to change our mistakes. So the player can't go back when he screws up and misses his assignment and does the wrong thing, you don’t get instant replay to change.”
Saturday will mark the first Ole Miss home game since 2019 that will involve the full tailgating experience at the Grove and no crowd capacity limits at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
While Austin Peay isn’t necessarily a marquee opponent compared to others appearing on the Ole Miss schedule, Kiffin is hoping for a strong turnout.
“(I) really hope our crowd comes out. (I) hope people don't sit and say, ‘Well, we'll just wait for SEC games.’ Having a crowd is impactful to your players, to their performance. It's impactful to recruits when recruits come into the stadium,” Kiffin said. “We're excited for the first walk that we've had through The Grove. (My) first time actually stepping foot in The Grove. So, personally excited for that.
“But we need people to come out. Everybody wants a top-25 program. Well, let's put an atmosphere like a top-25 program. So players feel that, and recruits view that as well.”