Familiar Foe

Ole Miss and Vanderbilt meet again Saturday, the teams renewing a rivalry dating back to 1894.

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The script is familiar. Ole Miss has opened Southeastern Conference play against Vanderbilt seven times in the last nine seasons. The Rebels own a 47-36-2 record all-time against the Commodores, and have won 13 of the last 18 meetings since 1992.

"I think this is a huge game for our confidence," quarterback Zack Stoudt, who will start his second consecutive game Saturday, said. "It was good to get the win against SIU, but coming into Georgia 2-1 I think is very important. We really need that confidence."

"It's really important," defensive end Kentrell Lockett said. "To get that first W in SEC play, to get that first win to possibly set you up for good things to happen when it comes to SEC championships and to get confidence going into the SEC to play the next SEC contender, getting Ws builds confidence for the rest of the season. Just build on it, and try to harp on that and let that momentum carry into the next SEC game."

But the numbers, weighed heavily in Ole Miss' favor, are misleading. Because Vanderbilt has beaten Ole Miss four times in its last six tries. Actually, conference openers haven't been kind to the Rebels, at least not lately. They've lost 16 of their last 18.

Zack Stoudt
Chuck Rounsaville

Vanderbilt beat Ole Miss in Oxford 28-14 last season; a game, like Saturday's, that was also played in September. Vanderbilt has won the last four games against Ole Miss played in September, outscoring the Rebels by an average of 10.5 points per game.

Vanderbilt always plays Ole Miss tough. But why?

"I don't know, man. I'm going to be honest; I really don't know," senior safety Damien Jackson said. "Vandy, it's like it's their Super Bowl when they play against Ole Miss or something. I really don't know. We're going to have to come out and play."

The Commodores have long been a cellar-dwellar of the SEC, a consistent loser. Against Ole Miss, though, they always seem to play well. The games are tight, many decided by no more than a touchdown or a field goal. Ole Miss lost by six points in 2008, one point in 2005 and three points in 1997, just to name a few.

"It just always seems to happen that way," Lockett said. "Maybe they look at us on the schedule and are like ‘That's a W' or whatever it may be. But it's always a good game. They always fight us, it's always a battle. Maybe it's a battle over the Harvard of the South, how everyone else says. Maybe that's it, but I really don't know. They always come out and wanna play ball and want to get after Ole Miss for some reason."

Even the wins have been tightly contested. Well, most of them, anyway. Other than 2009, when Ole Miss upended its rival in Nashville 23-7, no Ole Miss win since 2000 has been decided by more than 11 points.

"I asked a person that (Sunday). That's just how it is," sophomore safety Charles Sawyer said of the numerous tight games between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt. "Certain teams are just like that with certain schools. But this year, that should be different. We should work harder, ‘cause we know what's coming up. We know how the game turns when we play Vandy."

What's coming up is a Vanderbilt team 2-0 on the season, and is fresh off a comeback win over Connecticut. The Commodores held the Huskies to under 200 yards of total offense in the win. The last time that happened, Vanderbilt holding an opponent to under 200 yards of total offense?

Charles Sawyer
Chuck Rounsaville

You guessed it, against Ole Miss, in 2006.

"It's weird. Vanderbilt always plays Ole Miss tight," Sawyer said. "It's kind of weird. Sometimes you look back in history, but then you can't, ‘cause you're a different team. It gives you a direction but at the end of the day, you've got to do what you came to do. You have to play with who you got and be confident with the team you're with."

Marcus Temple, a senior cornerback, knows the history of the series. He remembers previous games, how Ole Miss committed three turnovers last season to aid in another loss to Vanderbilt, and six turnovers in 2008, including three interceptions by safety Ryan Hamilton.

Temple said the team can't beat itself Saturday if it hopes to win.

"They're a great team, a team that doesn't make many mistakes," he said. "In previous years, we made a lot of mistakes against them that we really can't afford to make. We've been talking about it starting (Sunday). We've really got to focus on our jobs. We can't really give up big plays. We've really got to be focused on our fundamentals and control our gaps. Whatever our responsibilities are on a certain play, that's what we have to do."

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