56,000 reasons Tigers need Rebels

The University of Memphis found out yet again Saturday night why it needs Ole Miss. Some 56,000 reasons, and it looked like more than that given the fact that the figure meant there were more than 4,000 empty seats.

If years ago Ole Miss was credited with helping lift Tiger athletic fortunes and it has been, especially in football, then the blue and gray got a good dose of why Ole Miss needs to be an annual opponent on the gridiron.

And it may have remained that way had Memphis continued to play the Rebels in men's basketball. Certainly that was a large contributing factor. Ole Miss stood its ground.

But let's face it, Ole Miss men's basketball will survive and can even thrive without Memphis on its schedule, although it is a marquee matchup. But in football, the Tigers may not survive without Ole Miss.

Sure, Memphis will likely continue to play football into the future. But exchanging Ole Miss and adding Mississippi State likely won't be an even swap. Memphis-MSU has not historically drawn what Memphis-Ole Miss has.

Without Ole Miss or Tennessee on its football schedule, the Tigers obviously struggle more financially. Mississippi State does come onto the Tigers' schedule soon, and that would help. But playing the Bulldogs doesn't hold the significance in any aspect for Memphis that games with the Rebels and Volunteers have.

Again the fact that Ole Miss-Memphis won't play football after next year can likely be placed at the feet of those who decided the men's basketball series wasn't worth keeping. Those people aren't in Lafayette County, Miss., and those affiliated with the school located in Shelby County, Tenn., will now pay the price.

A big price. A costly one. One that those same people could clearly see again last night with 56,000 reasons at a football game that the two schools should play men's basketball. But they aren't, and for now that is that.

Ole Miss officials have said it looks like the football series needs a break, that maybe with some years off, interest will renew.

The Rebels have had winning success, even recently, against Memphis in football. Four wins in a row over the same program when Ole Miss has won only 15 games total since the Cotton Bowl after the '03 season says something.

It also says that no matter the outcome of the contest, Memphis needs Ole Miss in football. And Tiger folks know it.


• Saturday night's meeting was the 58th between Ole Miss and Memphis. It is the Rebels' sixth-most played series and most frequent with any school not currently or formerly in the SEC.

• Ole Miss leads the all-time series 46-10-2, including 18-2 in Oxford.

• The Rebels extend their win streak over the Tigers to four games. Ole Miss has won 13 of the last 17 meetings dating back to 1988.

• The Rebels scored their most points against Memphis since a 61-7 win in 1980 in Oxford.

* Ole Miss Captains: Ashlee Palmer (Sr., LB); Jason Cook (Sr., FB); #74- Michael Oher (Sr., OL); #13- Jamarca Sanford (Sr., S)

* Five first-time Ole Miss starters: Offense (3): #4- Jevan Snead (So., QB); #25- Cordera Eason (Jr., RB); #72- Daverin Geralds (Jr., C). Defense: (3): #95- Emmanuel Stephens (Jr., DE); #96- Lawon Scott (So., DT)

• Saturday night's game marked the start of the 114th football season for Ole Miss and the first under head coach Houston Nutt. The program is two wins away from 600 all-time at 598-460-35.

• Today's result gives the Rebels 12 wins in their last 13 season openers, including four straight all against Memphis. The lone blemish was the 20-13 loss to Memphis in 2004.

• In season openers against Memphis, the Rebels are 31-3-2. Ole Miss has matched up with Memphis in season openers more than any other foe.

• Ole Miss is now 85-24-5 in season openers.

• Official attendance for today's game is 56,127. Only one crowd was larger last season, 59,791 for the Alabama game.


• Ole Miss' 41 points was most since a 43-40 win over South Carolina in 2003 ... The 27 first-half points was also the most since that game.

• Making his first start as a Rebel, sophomore QB Jevan Snead finished 10-of-22 for 185 yards with two TDs and no interceptions.

• Junior WR Shay Hodge and Snead hooked up for two TDs with a 64-yarder in the first quarter and a 15-yarder in the third ... It marks the first two TD game of Hodge's career ... His lone two catches gave him a team-high 79 yards.

• Junior Dexter McCluster scored on a 32-yard rush to put the Rebels ahead 14-7 ... McCluster's only other rushing touchdown was also against Memphis, a 31-yarder off a fake in his Rebel debut in 2006 ... McCluster finished with 125 all-purpose yards (six rushes for 64 yards and a team-high four catches for 61 yards).

• Freshman RB Enrique Davis scored his first career touchdown with a two-yard run, while fellow frosh Brandon Bolden rushed for his first score from 10 yards out in the fourth quarter ... McCluster was the last true freshman to rush for a touchdown in his Rebel debut in 2006.

• Bolden topped Ole Miss with 76 rushing yards on eight carries ... He also completed a halfback pass to Snead for 37 yards.


• Junior S Kendrick Lewis recorded his first career interception in the second quarter, picking off Memphis QB Will Hudgens in the endzone and returning it 22 yards.

• Senior CB Dustin Mouzon recorded his fourth career interception and third against Memphis with his second-quarter pick ... He had two interceptions in last year's game and tied the third-longest interception return in school history with a 99-yard TD.

• Senior S Jamarca Sanford led the team and equaled his career best of 13 total stops, including a career-high 11 solos.

• Junior LB Lamar Brumfield posted a career-best nine total tackles.


• Junior K Joshua Shene set a career-high in PATs, going 5-for-5 ... His 47-yard FG in the second quarter marked the third longest of his career ... He was 2-for-2 in the game, also connecting from 26 yards.

* Ole Miss athletics media relations compiled the above statistics.

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