Monty Montgomery expects even better for himself and Ole Miss' defense

Sep. 6—OXFORD — Despite what the stats said, linebacker Monty Montgomery expected better in the Rebels' season opener against Mercer.

Playing in his first game with Ole Miss (1-0), the former Louisville linebacker started and finished with two tackles and a quarterback hurry. Aside from a 75-yard touchdown run from Mercer's quarterback on the first offensive play from scrimmage, the Rebels smothered Mercer, holding the Bears to 235 total yards — including just 18 additional rushing yards the remainder of the game. Aside from the opening run, Mercer managed just three plays of 15 yards or more.

Montgomery played 22 total snaps in the season opener, according to Pro Football Focus, with 10 coming against the run and 10 where he played in coverage. He rushed the passer twice and had a pass rush grade of 76.9, which ranked 27th nationally among all linebackers. As a team, Ole Miss had an 85.1 defensive grade, which was 10th nationally.

Montgomery, however, saw a few missed opportunities against Mercer. He particularly mentioned a quarterback hurry where he wasn't able to get a sack, and he also noted a missed tackle which he said was "not acceptable."

"I feel like we could have done way better, honestly, as a defense, because that first play didn't go as planned. And we let up honestly too (many) yards — 93 (rushing) yards — we could have honestly had them down to 17. And my performance, personally, I didn't like it. Could have done more. I left plays on the table."

Things figure to get harder for the Rebels this weekend at Tulane. Green Wave quarterback Michael Pratt was PFF's highest ranked quarterback in Week 1 with an overall grade of 94.6. He completed 14 of 15 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns, which earned a PFF passing grade of 98. Tulane — who had 436 total yards in a 37-17 win over South Alabama — had an overall offensive grade of 81.2, tied for 20th in the nation, despite losing three fumbles.

The Green Wave went 12-2 last season and won the Cotton Bowl over USC. They averaged 36 points per game and finished ranked in the AP Poll (ninth) for the first time since 1998. Pratt, who started against Ole Miss in 2021 in a 40-point defeat to the Rebels, threw for 3,009 yards, 27 touchdowns and five interceptions last season with another 478 yards and 10 touchdowns rushing.

"He's a dual threat, and we have to contain the passer. And I feel like we're going to do a great job this week containing him," Montgomery said. "A lot of sacks, you should expect that."

Saturday at Yulman Stadium is also a big one for Montgomery personally. He was originally recruited to and signed with Tulane in 2017. He did not play in any games with the Green Wave and redshirted his lone season before transferring to Hutchinson Community College. After his standout career at Hutchinson, Montgomery transferred to Louisville, where he made 161 tackles.

"It's going to be exciting to watch, man. I don't like those guys," Montgomery said with a smile. "But I respect them, though."