FRIDAY FLASHBACK: Ole Miss vs. Arkansas State 2002
Nov. 4, 2016
FRIDAY FLASHBACK rewinds to some of the memorable Ole Miss games from this week's all-time series. This week we take a look at an SEC - Sun Belt match-up against Arkansas State from 2002.
Rebels Dominate Indians
By Kyle Veazey, The Daily Mississippian
OXFORD, Miss. - In some roundabout way, Ole Miss proved Saturday that its No. 25 ranking in the Associated Press poll was deserved.
No, they didn’t go out and dethrone another top 10 team. This time it was lowly Arkansas State, but the Rebels delivered a trouncing that was characteristic of one of the nation’s top teams.
Ole Miss (5-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) handed the Indians a 52-17 defeat in front of a sundrenched homecoming crowd of 55,204 at Vaught-Hemmingway Stadium. Apart from the Arkansas spectacular last season, it was the first time the Rebels scored 50 points since the second game of the 1995 season.
All the worries about a letdown following the Rebels’ huge win over then No. 6 Florida last week were proved moot.
“I was certainly hoping that we would respond (well),” said Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe, whose Rebels are 5-1 for the second consecutive season. “I don’t know if we played as well early as I would have liked. We got better as the game went on, particularly in the third quarter. I thought we responded better at halftime.”
The Rebels led just 24-10 at intermission, but quickly put the game out of reach in the third quarter. Eli Manning directed a quarter-opening eight-play, 72-yard drive that ended with a Vashon Pearson touchdown run a little over four minutes into the half. A handful of Rebel defensive stops along with a Tremaine Turner touchdown scamper at the 5:32 mark of the third quarter stretched the Ole Miss lead to an insurmountable 38-10 at the end of the third.
“The turning point was in the second half,” Ole Miss senior linebacker and captain Eddie Strong said. “We came out after halftime and forced them into a quick three-and-out, and from that point, we shut them down the rest of the game.”
Ole Miss reached the 52-point mark with a Vashon Pearson 1-yard dash early in the fourth. ASU scored a late touchdown for the final score.
“Ole Miss has a great defense,” said Indian running back Danny Smith, who ran for 96 yards and two touchdowns. “They played tough and we played hard. We just shot ourselves in the foot at times with penalties and other mistakes.”
Ole Miss piled 508 yards on the Indians, a huge improvement from the 191 against Florida last week. Eli Manning completed 14 of 19 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns.
In just Manning’s 17th game as the Rebel starter, he tied Romaro Miller’s school record for career touchdown passes (43).
“I hate to admit it, but I really didn’t know he did,” said Cutcliffe, who also coached Miller. “I don’t keep up with those things.”
What Cutcliffe does keep up with, however, is his team’s record. Following Arkansas 38-16 win at Auburn Saturday morning, Ole Miss moved into a tie for first place in the SEC Western Division with LSU (both 2-0).
“Now it’s pretty obvious that the rest of the season is in conference play,” Cutcliffe said. “We are going to have to play outstanding down the stretch. We have a lot of improving to do.”
Game one of that killer six-game stretch is Saturday at Alabama. The Crimson Tide (4-2, 1-1 SEC) was idle Saturday, and is most likely still smarting from a 27-25 loss to Georgia in Tuscaloosa Oct. 5.
The degree of difficulty for the Rebels down the stretch isn’t lost on Strong.
“5-1 could easily become 5-7 if we don’t keep our focus and play our game,” Strong said.
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