=== Rebels host Lions in obvious mismatch ===
Oxford, MS (Sports Network) - In what appears to be a significant mismatch,
the fifth-ranked Ole Miss Rebels will play host to the Southeastern Louisiana
Lions of the FCS on Saturday night. This game marks the first-ever meeting
between the two teams on the gridiron.
SE Louisiana has reason to feel good about its performance so far this season,
as it crushed both Texas A&M-Commerce and Union College in back-to-back weeks
to move to 2-0. Clearly, however, the level of competition will increase
significantly this weekend as the Rebels represent the highest-ranked FBS
opponent the Lions have faced in school history. They are off to their best
start since 2004, but no one is giving them a chance of winning a third
straight contest to begin the 2009 campaign. It doesn't help that they are
6-28 away from home since 2003.
As for Ole Miss, it is tied for fifth place with Penn State in the latest AP
Poll, the highest ranking the program has achieved since 1970.
"We don't think that much about it, really," said coach Houston Nutt in regard
to the high ranking. "It's nice, but like we tell our guys, it doesn't mean
much right now. It's a long season. We're getting ready to go into 11 straight
weeks of football. The most important thing we can do right now is concentrate
on Southeastern Louisiana."
The Rebels are riding a seven-game win streak that dates back to last season.
Nutt's squad was the only team in the nation to defeat eventual national
champion Florida in 2008-09, and it is largely because of that win that
expectations are so high this season. Ole Miss figures to be well rested, as
it has been idle since opening the season with a 45-14 win over Memphis.
Through its first two games, Southeastern Louisiana has outscored foes,
110-27, and has averaged over 500 yards total offense. Quarterback Brian Babin
has completed nearly 72 percent of his passes in the first two outings despite
playing less than six full quarters in the blowouts. The signal caller has
thrown for 665 yards with eight touchdowns. Simmie Yarborough has caught 16
passes with four touchdowns in his first two games for the Lions, while
Merrick Lanaux and Jasper Ducksworth have nine catches apiece. Redshirt
freshman Zeke Jones recorded his first career 100-yard game with a 106-yard
performance and two touchdowns against Union.
Defensively, the Lions are allowing an average of 222.5 total ypg thus far, so
it's not just the offense that has performed admirably. Junior linebacker Ryan
Godare has tallied a team-high 17 tackles for the squad with Mark Newbill and
Lindsey Leavoy (two sacks, two forced fumbles) next at 10 stops each. All-
America safety Tommy Connors made his debut last week against Union, recording
three tackles with a fumble recovery and a pass breakup. Last season, the
Lions surrendered 34 points to Mississippi State, and the Bulldogs didn't
possess nearly the amount of offensive firepower that the Rebels will exhibit
Entering this season, Ole Miss quarterback Jevan Snead was billed as a
dark horse candidate for the Heisman Trophy and listed as a top pro prospect.
He didn't play perfectly against Memphis in the opener by any means, but Snead
did enough to get his team into the win column. He completed 12-of-22 passes
for 175 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions, numbers that are far
worse than what Snead is capable of posting. Fortunately, the Ole Miss ground
attack was successful in the opener, as four different players had a rushing
touchdown. Dexter McCluster was one of those individuals, and he also had a
receiving score. The versatile performer finished with 115 total yards on 15
offensive touches, and although he came down with the swine flu after the
Memphis game, McCluster is expected to play against Southeastern Louisiana. In
all, 31 members of the program got at least a touch of the flu, but everyone
seems to be back to normal.
Ole Miss allowed only 14 points to Memphis in the season opener, and one of
the two touchdowns was the culmination of a 25-yard drive. The Rebels
surrendered 284 total yards and were extremely impressive against the pass.
The Tigers were only able to connect on 17-of-36 throws for 134 yards with a
pair of interceptions and no scores. Although Memphis did keep possession of
the ball for more than 32 minutes, the club was just 4-of-16 on third down
conversion attempts against the Rebels and 0-of-2 on fourth downs. Johnny
Brown made 15 tackles in the tilt for Ole Miss, and he intercepted a pass as
well. Jeremy McGee also deserves mention for his two-sack performance.
"They don't have the athletes we do, but we see it every Saturday," said coach
Nutt when asked to comment on Southeastern Louisiana. "This ball bounces so
funny and you have to be ready every single game. They spread you out and
throw it all over the field. The quarterback is very athletic. They create
problems and you have to be ready to go."
09/16 11:38:41 ET