OXFORD – The season-opening opponent for Ole Miss is ranked No. 17 in the country and picked to win its conference.
And if that opponent was named something other than Jacksonville State this afternoon’s game would be getting a lot more attention right now.
The Rebels get the 2010 season started with the Gamecocks, who are the favorites in the Division I-AA Ohio Valley Conference.
That isn’t a fact that should cause deep concern for an SEC team, but this could be a different situation.
Due to the Rebels’ own inexperience at numerous positions on offense, might the Gamecocks be prancing into the perfect storm of upset?
“That shouldn’t have anything to do with frame of mind. It’s the first game of the year, and you ought to be ready,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “We have a lot of new people playing on the offensive line and at quarterback as well, but you have to get ready to go. I think we’ll be in the right frame of mind to compete and play hard against a very good team.”
Nutt will also be competing against a very good friend.
Jacksonville State coach Jack Crowe was the head coach at Arkansas in 1990 when he hired Nutt to coach the Razorbacks’ receivers.
Crowe was fired in 1992 – after losing his season opener to a Division I-AA opponent. Nutt finished the season under interim coach Joe Kines and was named the head coach at Murray State for the 1993 season.
“I have an awesome respect for coach Crowe. He has a very intelligent offensive mind,” Nutt said. “He is a very good person, and we talk quite regularly.”
It was in one of those phone calls, shortly after Nutt was hired at Ole Miss, that Crowe told Nutt that Jacksonville State and Ole Miss would play in 2010.
Crowe respects Nutt’s offensive skill as well.
“I remember when we were searching for a play to beat Texas in Little Rock (in 1991), the last time they went there,” Crowe recalled. “They were ranked, and we had not proven to be very good, but we beat them on a play Houston drew up for us on a Tuesday. After we won that game from time to time I’d say, ‘Houston, draw me one of those plays.’ He’d always have one. He’s a great football coach.”
The Rebels were told by the NCAA on Tuesday that it would not grant a waiver of its one-year residency rule to Masoli. At our press time – noon on Thursday – an appeal was pending.
Throughout the week Lockett, the most experienced end on a defensive line judged to be one of the SEC’s best, was in Memphis and Cleveland getting tests for an irregular heartbeat. His status for the remainder of the season is unclear.
Today, quarterback Nathan Stanley will make his first start behind an offensive line with three new starters and little depth.
On the flip side, health on the Gamecocks’ offensive line has been an issue. Two starters thought to be available were subtracted by injury in the summer, and health for the remaining starters has been spotty.
Like Nutt, Crowe will try to find winning plays for a first-year quarterback.
“I’m the guy at Arkansas that lost to The Citadel,” said Crowe, laughing. “What people don’t remember is that The Citadel went 11-0 that year. They knew how to win. Ninety percent of the time this kind of game is lost before kickoff. We try not to do that. We want to play as good as we can and let circumstances dictate our chances.”
Saturday’s game at a glance
– Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford
– Kickoff: 2:30 p.m.
– Television: CSS
– Radio: Ole Miss Network, XM 199; Sirius 220.
– Records: 0-0
– Series: First Meeting.
– Coaches: Jacksonville State – Jack Crowe 79-75 13th season, 65-45 10th season at JSU. Ole Miss – Houston Nutt 129-78 18th season; 18-8 third season at Ole Miss.
– Statistical Leaders: Jacksonville State – RB Calvin Middleton, 126 carries, 629 yards 6 TD; QB Marques Ivory, 39-for-60, 315 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT; WRJames Shaw, 19 catches, 281 yards, 2 TD; DB Kevin Dix, 49 tackles, 7 TFL, 6 sacks. Ole Miss – RB Brandon Bolden 129 carries, 614 yards, 4 TD; Nathan Stanley 11-for-23, 163 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; WR Markeith Summers 17 catches, 394 yards, 4 TD; SS Johnny Brown 81 tackles, 4 TFL, 1 INT.
– Trends: Ole Miss has won 13 of its last 14 season openers including both under Houston Nutt. … The Rebels have won 35 of their last 41 non-conference games in Oxford including eight straight. … Nutt is 14-3 in his 17 season openers.
– Notes: Crowe was the Arkansas coach when he hired Nutt to coach receivers in 1990. … The two maintain a friendship away from football. … Ole Miss is beginning its 116th season of football with a record of 615-468-35. … Former Ole Miss player Darius “Tig” Barksdale and former Bruce star Richard Freelon are among the running backs who could see action for Jax State. … Tupelo native Jeffery Cameron had 23 catches two years ago but sat out last season as a redshirt. … Both teams are breaking in new quarterbacks. … The Gamecocks are 3-13 against Division I teams. … They lost 19-9 at Florida State last season after leading with less than a minute to play.
n Summing it up: “I have an awesome respect for coach Crowe. He has an intelligent offensive mind. He’s been in the SEC, and he’s been in systems in a lot of places. His success is not a surprise to me.” – Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt
– Prediction: Ole Miss 33-12
Read more in GameDay in today’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal