Ole Miss in new territory
By By Will Bardwell/staff writer
October 26, 2003
Just four weeks ago, Arkansas stood tall on the national scene. The Razorbacks were 4-0 and 1-0 in league play, and their resume included road wins over Texas and Florida. At one point, Arkansas was ranked ninth in the country.
At the same time, Ole Miss was 2-2 after a stinging loss to Texas Tech. A 49-45 defeat that was handed to the Rebels in the game's final minutes, it seemed to herald a long season ahead for Ole Miss.
Saturday's win over Arkansas gave Ole Miss a perfect 4-0 record in the month of October, while the Hogs sank to 0-3 this month.
Ranked as high as 20th in national polls this week, the 4-3 Razorbacks will likely fall from both the ESPN/USA Today and Associated Press rankings. Now 6-2, the Rebels hope to appear in the polls for the first time this season.
Eli Manning connected with fullback Rick Razzano for a one-yard touchdown pass on the Rebels' first possession to give Ole Miss an early 7-0 lead. The scoring drive marked the sixth time in as many games that the Rebels have scored on their first possession. Dating back to the Louisiana-Monroe game on Sept. 13, Ole Miss' initial drives have resulted in four touchdowns and two field goals.
Up and in
A 20-yard field goal late in the first half gave Johnathan Nichols a new Ole Miss record, but it was not new to him.
The Rebel kicker's three-pointer gave him 88 points on the season, breaking his old record of 85 points which he set last year.
The junior from Greenwood finished with four field goals and an extra point, bringing his season total to 97 points.
Nowhere to run
Two of the Southeastern Conference's most productive rushing attacks were stifled in the first half on Saturday.
Arkansas entered as the league's top rushing team at 225 yards per game, but collected only 38 yards on 21 carries in the first 30 minutes.
Ole Miss fared slightly better but was still unimpressive with 53 yards on 17 carries in the first half. Though the Rebels out-rushed the Razorbacks, one telling statistic illustrated Ole Miss' ineffectiveness on the ground quarterback Eli Manning was the Rebels' leading rusher at the half, gaining 26 yards on six runs.
By the end of the game, Manning was no longer the team's leading rusher, but he did out-gain Arkansas quarterback Matt Jones, 21 yards to 18 yards.
Just win baby
Since losing 49-45 to Texas Tech on Sept. 27, the Rebels have reeled off four straight wins to improve their record to 6-2. Ole Miss is 4-0 in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since 1970 Archie Manning's senior year. Against South Carolina on Saturday, the Rebels will have a chance to build a 5-0 record for the first time since 1963 the last season that Ole Miss won the SEC championship.
Down and out
The Razorbacks' rushing game suffered from the absences of their top two running backs. Cedric Cobbs missed Saturday's game with a hamstring injury, and De'Arrius Howard was held out due to a hurt ankle.
Without the two, the SEC's top rushing team and one of the nation's top 10 rushing teams was held to just 85 yards on the ground. Coming into the Ole Miss game, the Hogs were averaging 225 rushing yards per game.
A little help
Eli Manning's 145 passing yards on Saturday was a career low for the Ole Miss senior quarterback. Manning's previous low in his three years as a starter was 154 yards against Florida in 2002.
Ironically, the Rebels are 4-1 during Manning's career when he throws for under 200 yards.