Ole Miss-Mizzou and other various topics

Ole Miss and Missouri meet for the 5th time in football Saturday at 11:30 a.m. CT on Fox Sports Net and Turner South. The Rebels and the Tigers could almost be considered neighborhood rivals - if you stretch it a bit. The Missouri state line is only a three-hour drive from Oxford.

Ole Miss and Missouri playing is a natural. Well sort of anyway. There are some similarities.

For starters, Missouri is the closest Big 12 campus to Oxford. It's bound to beat the drive from here to Lubbock. Made that one in '02. No more, thanks.

Nothing against TTU or the city it's in. There are just some closer foes UM could play than the Red Raiders out in western Texas.

Ole Miss has the better overall winning and bowl tradition through the years, but Missouri has the best of it when these two meet. The Tigers lead the series 3-1 with all games played during the decade of the 1970s.

Billy Kinard coached the Rebels to a 17-0 loss in Columbia in 1973. It was his next to last game as Rebel head coach, even though it was only the second game of that season.

When Memphis State beat the Rebs 17-13 the following week, Kinard was toast two seasons and three games after he replaced Coach Vaught (or followed his own brother if you consider that Bruiser filled in for Vaught after the veteran head coach's heart problems during the 1970 season led to his retirement).

The next season Ole Miss opened with Missouri in Jackson, and in Ken Cooper's debut as Rebel head coach shutout the Tigers 10-0. It was one of the few highlights of a 3-8 season in 1974 and set the tone for four years of Cooper's good defense, good punting and kicking, but not so good offense tenure.

Missouri has always been the second game on the Rebels' schedule anytime the two meet. In 1974 a hurricane approaching New Orleans washed out the season opener and moved Ole Miss-Tulane to after the Ole Miss-State game. So Mizzou became the opener.

In 1978 and again in 1979, the Tigers blasted Steve Sloan teams in game two of those seasons by scores of 45-14 in Columbia and 33-7 in Jackson. The two haven't met since.

Until Saturday when Columbia becomes the scene of the Rebels' second game of 2006. Next season Missouri plays in Oxford for the first time ever - in game two of the 2007 campaign.

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It's more than a month until basketball practice officially starts, but there's a buzz about hoops already. That's because of the work Andy Kennedy and staff have done so far.

They signed five players from April through the summer to come in and help. Four of them can play this season – freshmen Eniel Polynice, Andy Ogide, and Rodney Jones, along with juco transfer junior Kenny Williams. Only David Huertas, who played at Florida last season, has to sit a year. He will have three years to play after that.

Already committed for the November signing period is high school wing player Zach Graham, a top 100 national recruit.

If high schoolers forward Jordan DeMercy and point guard Keegan Bell decide to commit to Ole Miss in the next few weeks after making another visit or two, then that would have to be considered one of the alltime best half-a-year runs in Ole Miss basketball history as far as signees and commitments.

DeMercy looks to be deciding between Florida State, where he will visit also, and Ole Miss with Vanderbilt in there as well, while Bell is visiting LSU this weekend and also has Vandy in the mix. Bell was once committed to Georgia before deciding it was in his best interests to look again.

With the four new players mentioned above who can play now and with returning veterans like Dwayne Curtis and Todd Abernethy and the fact that we'll see point guard Justin Cerasoli on the floor finally, I like the Rebels' chances of making some noise this season.

Cerasoli is still recovering from a hand injury/surgery earlier in the summer but is progressing nicely. He should be 100 percent before the season begins.

More men's – and women's – hoops in the weeks ahead. Season tickets for both should be on sale by the end of the month. That's how close we are to hoops season.

Both the Rebels and Lady Rebs should be fun to watch this season. With five new players on the women's side, you may need a roster to learn about both teams.

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Some will disagree, but I like what's being done with the Rebel Power Hour for home football games this season.

There are signs throughout the campus concerning the Rebel Power Hour. I was walking underneath the south end zone exactly one hour before kickoff Sunday when I heard this bugle call; sounded like the start of a horse race.

So I assumed, but haven't asked yet, that it was to signal the start of the Rebel Power Hour. The following is a paragraph about it from the Ole Miss athletics website.

*** The "Rebel Power Hour (RPH), Count Down to Kick-Off" begins one-hour prior to kick-off. This slogan is a rally cry to prepare our fans for the game. The RPH will start with our band leaving the Grove and ends with the kick off. Coach O needs our fans in the stands early to help the team prepare for each home game. New pregame activities will add to the festive atmosphere of the game. So remember, when The Pride of the South Marching Band heads to the stadium, the Rebel Power Hour has begun. ***

Of course there could be some critiquing of RPH and there has been. Some think it should start earlier so fans will then head to the stadium. Others have different ideas for cheers or songs.

But I think most would agree that it's nice to see efforts like these that help make things happen on gameday at Ole Miss. Just the like the pep rally last Saturday in the Grove, which was a rousing success attended by what had to be at least 3,500 fans, I applaud the efforts of those who planned and carried out RPH for game one of 2006.

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Ole Miss women's soccer, the defending SEC West champs and an NCAA participant in 2005, is off to a rocky 1-3 start. But I have a feeling they'll get their act together and turn things around when Southern Mississippi and Memphis come to Oxford this weekend.

The Rebels and Golden Eagles play at 7 p.m. Friday, while the Rebels and Tigers go at it Sunday at 1 p.m. Stay tuned for the turnaround for this winning program.

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Fall baseball practice officially begins a week from Monday – on Sept. 18. With as many new faces as I saw out there at the workouts the other day, it will take me a while to learn them all. There are some 45 players going through fall baseball, the most in several years.

One area of interest will be seeing which pitchers among the many talented ones on the staff emerge. Of course those who emerged from fall ball last year weren't necessarily the ones who ended up being the weekend starters as the spring season progressed.

What newcomers will be in the mix at open spots like two outfield positions, third base, and maybe even first base and catcher? Is power hitter Kyle Mills ready to blast them out of the park after sitting out a year with injury/surgery/and rehab?

How will the players adapt to the new staff, even though two of the four assistants return? The returnees are Kyle Bunn and Carl Lafferty. The newcomers are former Rebel player Matt Mossberg and recruiting coordinator/hitting coach Rob Reinstetle, formerly at South Alabama and College of Charleston.

And of course Mike Bianco enters his seventh season at Ole Miss with an extended contract and new coaches offices under construction. And a stadium that will basically double in size the next two years to comfortably seat some 9,000 fans instead of having so many sit on the hills or stand during games.

These are good times for the Diamond Rebs, the defending SEC Tournament Champions. Should be an interesting few weeks of fall baseball.

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