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Rebels look to get on track against Gators

By By Will Bardwell / staff writer
Oct. 3, 2003
OXFORD What a difference a year makes.
Fifty-two Saturdays ago, the Ole Miss Rebels upset the Florida Gators 17-14 in front of the largest crowd in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium history. The Rebels defense intercepted then-quarterback Rex Grossman four times and held the Gators scoreless in the second half.
The win over then-No. 6 Florida was heralded as the biggest upset in Ole Miss history and a turning point in the program's direction.
Ironically, this was not far from the truth.
It was the last win Ole Miss would have in SEC play for nearly two months, until a 24-12 win over Mississippi State on Thanksgiving night. The Rebels lost five of their next six games. After wins over MSU and Nebraska in the Independence Bowl, an Ole Miss team that began 5-1 finished 7-6.
Now 2-2 and facing the possibility of starting 2-3 for the first time since 1994, the Rebels travel to Gainesville to play the No. 24 Gators on Saturday.
The Gators, 3-2 this season, have not forgotten about the upset in Oxford last year.
A year ago, both defenses controlled the game. The Rebels' four interceptions was a season-high for the defense, and the Florida defense held quarterback Eli Manning to 154 passing yards a career low as a starter.
Still, the Gators know they cannot allow Manning to pick their secondary apart.
Likewise, the Rebels will have to pressure Chris Leak, the Gators' true freshman quarterback that led Florida to a 24-21 come-from-behind win over Kentucky on Saturday.
The good news for the Rebels defense is that they probably will not give up as many yards against the Gators as they did on Saturday versus Texas Tech. The Red Raiders scorched Ole Miss for 713 yards, 661 of them through the air and both all-time highs against an Ole Miss defense.
Now yielding an average of 414 yards per game, the Rebels' passing defense is ranked 117th dead last in Division I-A.
Meanwhile, Cutcliffe maintains he is not looking for new personnel on defense, but rather he wants his personnel to focus on their assignments.