By John Davis, Oxford Citizen
For Iowa Western football coach Scott Strohmeir, a chance to practice at Ole Miss’ Manning Center Thursday morning was more than just a place to get in some work.
Strohmeier and his No. 2 Reivers stayed in Oxford Wednesday night and then held a practice at Ole Miss before heading down the road for Alabama. Iowa Western is preparing to play No. 1 East Mississippi Community College in the Biloxi Bowl Sunday afternoon.
The Lions, ranked No. 1 in the NJCAA rankings, won last season’s Biloxi Bowl en route to winning the NJCAA national championship. Iowa Western won the 2012 national title, so Sunday’s matchup is being billed as the battle of national champions for the national championship.
Being in Mississippi is a first for Strohmeier, who grew up in Minnesota. He said the trip was about his players, who get to experience great SEC facilities and see a new part of the country all at the same time.
“That’s what we try to do and why we go on long trips. It gives them some motivation,” Strohmeier said. “Their dreams are to play in big-time college football and for them to see the facilities. It gives them something to strive for. It’s a neat experience for myself and the staff to walk around the facility. I took a picture of Manning Way when I came in. I’m a big (Peyton) Manning fan myself, so I had to take a picture.”
Strohmeier added he had a lot of respect for Archie and Eli Manning.
“After you’re a Peyton fan, you have to watch Eli as well,” Strohmeier said. “This is all really impressive here. We’ve been to a lot of places, but it was maybe a little bit better than my expectations when I got to walk through the facility.”
The Reivers, who average almost 47 points per game, will be facing a very fast defense in the Lions. EMCC defensive tackle DJ Jones is a force inside, and one of the highest ranked tackles in the nation. Ole Miss is heavily pursing Jones, along with Alabama and Florida State.
Another player the Reivers will have to find a way to slow down is EMCC quarterback Chad Kelly. The 6-foot-3 Kelly, who came to the Lions after playing at Clemson, has thrown for 3,472 yards and 42 touchdowns while completing 65.8 percent of his passes this year.
Kelly is being recruited by Indiana, Virginia Tech and Ole Miss. He met with Ole Miss quarterbacks coach Dan Werner this week and he is expected to make an official visit to Oxford following the title game on Monday.