High Tech

Ole Miss has a football game with Louisiana Tech Saturday night. Kinda hard to remember that, isn't it? We find ourselves focused on the future and not the present.

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Reminds me of recruiting. Signing Day, one of the most anticipated of the sports year, has nothing to do with now and everything to do with later.

Such is college sport.

Those who do show up Saturday won't be talking about the game. They'll be talking about the future, the next coach, the next AD. It's all anybody's talked about all week.

Let's take a brief look at Tech anyway. They're pretty good, as we've seen. Mississippi State couldn't shake them in Starkville until overtime, a 26-20 MSU win. Last week Tech beat common Ole Miss foe Fresno State handily 41-21.

It won't be easy for Ole Miss (2-7) Saturday night. But it really does matter. Even those hoping the Rebels would lose out so "change" would be made have gotta hope there isn't another embarrassment on the horizon.

Surely now even those most adamant about a change in the head coach or the AD can get on board and hope for a win, even if they do so from the comforts of their own homes. All signs point to quite a number of empty seats for this one.

This weekend's Bulldogs, the third of four Ole Miss faces this season, are 5-4 and even their losses have been impressive. They lost their season opener 19-17 to one-loss Southern Mississippi. Houston is everybody's undefeated darling this season. The Cougars squeaked by Tech just 35-34. Only Hawaii rolled 44-26.

Sonny Dykes, son of Spike, is in his second year after assistantships under Mike Leach at Texas Tech and Mike Stoops at Arizona. He took over at Louisiana Tech after Derek Dooley left for Tennessee.

A spread-offense specialist, Dykes' offensive attack set at least five single-season records at Arizona while also racking up a pile of single-game marks in the UA record book.

Prior to his tenure at Arizona, Dykes was co-offensive coordinator working with then-head coach Mike Leach and inside receivers coach Dana Holgorsen, now head coach at West Virginia. Texas Tech's wide-open passing attack in 2005-06 after having been Texas Tech's wide receivers coach since 2000. The Red Raiders were among the national top six in total offense and passing during the span.

Texas Tech was No. 3 in passing and No. 6 in total offense in 2006 under his co-direction, throwing for 370 yards and accumulating nearly 450 overall. He directed an offense that scored 32 points per game in 2006 with two receivers ranked top three in the nation and a third in the top 20 in receptions per game.

Tony Franklin is the Bulldogs' offensive coordinator this season. He was once on staff with Tommy Tuberville at Auburn and long before that was on Hal Mumme's staff at Kentucky, along with Leach.

That being said, it was his defenders that pleased Dykes most in their win at Fresno last weekend.

"The play of our defense really stood out. They are a good offensive team. We did a good job up front. Once we got the big lead, I think we were up 41-7, we gave up some long drives but didn't allow it to be easy. They had to nickel and dime us. We gave up a 99-yard scoring drive but it took up nearly seven minutes. We were playing pretty soft and they threw a bunch of screens. We rallied and tackled well."

Dykes said playing a team this Saturday with a head coach already fired is something he hasn't faced before.

Louisiana Tech LB Adrien Cole
File Photo

"I have never have coached against one or been in that situation before. You hate it when someone loses their job and that is the bad part of the business. He (Houston Nutt) has obviously been a very successful head coach and has won at a lot of different places through his career. You hate to see it happen during the season."

Dykes said it's uncertain how it will affect the contest.

"People will speculate about what kind of impact that it will have. I don't know. Every team that faces the situation acts differently. You know all we can control is what happens to us. We don't care about their situation and we just have to take care of business on our end and get our guys ready to play. This game is going to excite our players because anytime you go on the road to face an SEC team it is exciting. We want to see how we stack up against a Southeastern Conference team and our guys will be ready to play."

His players say they just look forward to playing another SEC team on the road.

"I see a team that looks to bounce back after the recent release of their head coach," said linebacker Adrien Cole. "I think the players are going to come hard this week and try to make a statement. And that we have Coach (Houston) Nutt's back even though he won't be here after the season and do what coach Nutt has instilled in us and that we are not this two-and-whatever team. We are actually a good team coming out here preparing, and I don't expect anything less than a hard fought battle."

A Greater Ole Miss:

A week ago, Oxford businessman Terry Warren, best known as the owner of Rebel Rags, began a push to unite Ole Miss fans. He's got folks signing his business's outside wall in support of the Rebels.

"We're trying to unite the fanbase and get together as one," Warren said. "I originally thought about having people sign something in the store. But I really couldn't come up with a wall that I could spare."

Signing walls has always been a part of culture, either in support of a cause or just to leave your mark. Like the wall on the street at Graceland in Memphis, or the walls inside Taylor Grocery south of Oxford.

"Since we couldn't find an inside wall, we called the city and got permission from them to do it outside," Warren said. "We just started talking to customers that came in and they'd go out and sign it."

Warren, who owns the building, estimates that in a week some 400 signatures have gone up on the wall.

"I signed it first, and Stan Sandroni (of the Ole Miss radio network) signed it next. A lady that said she graduated in 1957 from Ole Miss was there to sign it next. And it's just continued since then."

He plans to extend it down the side and back of the store if it's needed. He invites Ole Miss fans to drop by and sign the wall, which he has a name for.

"Rebels United for a Greater Ole Miss," he said. "That's what we're calling it. Sign the wall to show your support for our university.

"It's non-political. It's not about promoting anyone, not about hiring or firing anyone. Not about Col. Rebel or the Bear. Divided we have no chance."

So Warren wants to unite.

"It may work, and it may not," Warren said. "It really is whatever the fans want it to be. It's theirs. Down the road we hope when we're playing for a national championship, we want to say healing and coming together from a really bad time for Ole Miss started right here.

"We're ready to win. We want the University of Mississippi to be No. 1 in everything. Every tradition starts somewhere."

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