'I'll be there for the (next) game:' Everything Lane Kiffin said after Ole Miss' 43-24 win
ATLANTA — Even from afar, Lane Kiffin found a way to put his mark on Monday's game.
No. 25 Ole Miss beat Louisville 43-24 Monday night, starting a season 1-0 for the first time since 2018. Kiffin wasn't at the game, he had to watch from Oxford after testing positive to COVID-19 days before kickoff. But even without being in attendance, Kiffin was able to explain what he saw.
After the game, Kiffin spoke to reporters on Zoom about the game, what the performance means going forward, his COVID-19 diagnosis and timeline to return.
Below is a complete transcript of everything Kiffin said after Monday's game.
What Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said
Kiffin: So, obviously unusual not being there, so a lot of anxiety and dealing with that because you're not in control. So did everything we could. Zoomed into all the meetings and talked to them, you know, at pregame meal and all the stuff.
So just really proud of our players and coaches to handle a curveball like that, and go play on a national stage really well against a quality team that gave people a lot of problems a year ago. Look at what these guys did to Notre Dame and shut down Notre Dame for most of the game.
So good first win, good first start. Obviously we have to clean up penalties, but that's easier to clean up than, you know, not being able to get open or not being able to get a pass rush.
So some really good things in the game to build on and some things to work on, too and obviously we have to learn how to tackle differently, especially if we go to the Big Ten.
Q: First off, how you feeling?
Kiffin: It really is amazing what energy does, or whatever it is, when you get into something because I completely forgot about it when the ball was kicked. So I forgot that I was sick.
But I'm doing better. Thanks for asking.
Q: And obviously the defense looked massively improved, especially in the first half. What did you see from them that allowed you guys to be so successful?
Kiffin: They played how we are supposed to. Obviously we completely changed schemes from what we did a year ago, and I had not talked about it on purpose and waited for this game. You know, whatever you want to call it, this three-down and two linebackers and everybody else is DBs, it's similar to some stuff that we played last year, Arkansas and Iowa State plays it.
You know, just really thought it gives people problems, so in the off-season went to it and players bought into it and it paid off, made some explosive plays and saw a lot of guys running down the hill hitting people.
Q: Just Dontario, I think he finished with 177 yards on nine catches. I know we've talked a lot about guys like Sanders over the last few weeks. Can you take me through his performance and what getting him going really does for this offense?
Kiffin: You never know when you play in these systems and they go to take away people, and we got a lot of soft coverage outside and really deep, which statistically you wouldn't think that would be case, but they stayed deep and didn't let us get behind them, and that takes away your outside receivers a little more. He's our slot, like Elijah was a year ago. So he ended up getting a lot more catches and a lot more opportunities. So 9, 177, with one coming back, it was a really cool day by him.
Q: Chance transferred in from the Big Ten and he was flying all around the ball. What did you see from him tonight and what kind of edge does he bring to that defense this year?
Kiffin: Did a really good job. He's come in and been a good leader and just been excited to have a veteran come in there and step up and play really well and so that was great to see, and the whole defense, a lot of guys made plays in there. A lot of guys on this tackle list. It was cool to see the players play well and on top of that see the scheme come together and work well.
Q: How did you feel like your players would handle your absence tonight and did they meet or exceed those expectations some?
Kiffin: Well, I think head coaches get too much credit on things. I think in-game management matters. If you're on offense or defense and you get things changed in the game and help call plays, that matters. But the whole being there and your locker room speeches, that don't really matter.
So you can have some great locker room speeches and go out and they have got better players and it don't matter. I think part of it's overrated, but it was interesting to see. I mean, if they can play like that without me on the road, I'm good with that. I'll just stay here. I don't got to travel back. I can already watch Austin Peay film right now.
Q: What was Snoop doing so well?
Kiffin: Well, he ran physical like always. I think that they played better early against the run up front and like a lot of people in our system, they wear down a little bit and they lost the linebacker earlier and I think that kind of -- I think they just kind of wore down and you saw some tackles being broken late.
Q: Do you know what the process is getting back? Do you have to test negative? What is the process?
Kiffin: I'm told that my days will be up and I will at the last minute be there, whether that's Friday or Saturday morning, but I'll be there for the game.
Q: When Matt took a couple of pretty big licks today there, was the one on fourth down where he picked it up and one of the many targeting calls, but then he sat out for one play and on a keeper. How important is his toughness to what you guy the want to make your identity to be?
Kiffin: Well, I think especially college football, when you can pull the ball and be a threat, you don't have to be Lamar Jackson, but if you can pull the ball and be a threat, it changes how you have to play defense.
So you saw that today. They were closing and he pulled a couple and made significant plays on them. Those are not quarterback designed runs. Those are usually hand-offs, unless the defense takes it away. I've said it all along, I think the guy is really special. If he plays like this, going to make a lot of money, be in the Top-10 picks.
Q: Who was the acting head coach on site tonight?
Kiffin: There was not. There is not a rule that you have to do that. I just felt like to take one of the guys out of the role that they are in. Lebby is so significant on offense and he's upstairs, anyway. Durkin, we have this new defense and you make adjustments for it; you take someone like that and they have to watch the other side and manage penalties and all that, I think would have hurt them that side of the ball.
So we went over everything before. We've been together a year, so they know. If there was communication with the refs, Coleman would do it because he's the easiest one because he's on both headsets, both offense and defense. So I think it worked pretty well.
Q: Outside of not having to travel to the games, were there any other advantages that you saw being able to watch it from Oxford?
Kiffin: No. Not at all. And it's actually more stressful. I thought it would be the other way around. But when I'm on the game and there's a headset and I'm in-game, it's not very stressful because you're just in the moment. It's a lot more stressful watching it and not being able to control everything.
Contact Nick Suss at 601-408-2674 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @nicksuss on Twitter.