No. 10 LSU, Ole Miss meet with so much at stake

OXFORD – Ole Miss coaches would very much like to see a Dexter McCluster replay today, but it’s another Rebels player with prominent placement on the radar of LSU coach Les Miles.
He hopes he doesn’t see a replay from Jevan Snead.
Missing his No. 1 deep threat from a year ago, Snead has had his struggles in 2009. It was in this game a year ago, that he began to increase his national profile.
Snead completed 16-of-25 pass attempts for 274 yards, connecting with Wallace for touchdowns covering 34 and 25 yards, to lead the Rebels to a 31-13 victory, their first win over LSU in six years.
The inside track to the Capital One Bowl is at stake today when Ole Miss (7-3, 3-3 SEC) and No. 10 LSU (8-2, 4-2) meet at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at 2:30 p.m., before a CBS national television audience.
“Last year was one of those atmospheres that you dream of playing in,” Snead said. “It’s a great college rivalry.”
Snead passed for 2,762 yards and 26 touchdowns last season. Wallace had 784 of those yards, seven of those touchdowns, averaging 20.1 yards per catch. The Rebels haven’t been able to complete the deep ball as consistently this season.
In addition, an evolving offensive line and Snead’s own inconsistency have been factors has Snead has thrown 14 interceptions, already surpassing last season’s total.
Snead has thrown for 1,983 yards and 17 touchdowns. He’s thrown only one interception in the last two weeks but has thrown multiple picks in a game five times.
Present struggles haven’t hurt Miles’ impression of Snead. The past is a strong memory.
“When you average 200 yards a game or more throwing the football, and you’re a quarterback that can make all the throws and in my opinion, one who is making the reads better as it gets later in the year as the starter the entire year … I just see his play being better and more efficient, and he’s more capable in the back end,” Miles said.
Snead was an efficient 13-for-20 against Tennessee last week. His lone interception went to a defensive end when he under threw a screen pass, and he had a sure touchdown pass dropped in the end zone.
McCluster rushed for 282 yards behind a an offensive line that got bigger and more athletic on the right side as freshman Bobby Massie started at tackle, and senior John Jerry moved inside to guard.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt praised Massie’s play in his first SEC start, as the finished with seven knock-downs and a pancake block. Nutt says he’ll need more of the same against an LSU defense that is giving up just 13.7 points a game, third in the SEC and 10th in the nation.
“They don’t give up very many big plays, plays over 15 or 20 yards. They’re so quick, and they run to the football,” Nutt said. You think things are open, and then the hole closes up.”

Contact: 678-1600, parrish.alford@djournal.com.

Today’s game at a glance
– Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford
– Kickoff: 2:30 p.m.
– Television: CBS
– Radio: Ole Miss network; XM channel 141; Sirius channel 121
– Records: Ole Miss 7-3, 3-3 SEC; LSU 8-2, 4-2 SEC
– Rankings: LSU is ranked No. 10 in the AP Top 25; Ole Miss is unranked.
– Series: LSU leads 55-38-4.
– Coaches – LSU: Les Miles 78-34 (Ninth season); Ole Miss Houston Nutt 127-77 (17th year)
– Statistical leaders – LSU: QB Jordan Jefferson 133-210-4INT, 1,535 yards, 12 TDs passing; RB Keiland Williams 59-328 4 TDs rushing; WR Brandon LaFell 43-560 9 TDs receiving; LB Kelvin Sheppard 87 tackles. 8 TFL. Ole Miss: QB Jevan Snead 147-278 14 INT, 1,983 yards, 17 TDs passing; RB Dexter McCluster 107-755 6 TDs rushing; WR Shay Hodge 50-810 6 TDs receiving; FS Kendrick Lewis 67 tackles, 8 PBU.
Trends: LSU had won six straight in the series before Ole Miss won 31-13 in Baton Rouge last season. … Ole Miss hasn’t beaten LSU in Oxford since a 37-31 OT win in 1998. … LSU enters this rivalry game as a ranked team for the eighth straight season.
– Notes: Ole Miss will honor its 1959 team prior to the game. That team lost 7-3 at LSU on Billy Cannon’s punt return then won just weeks later 21-0 against the Tigers in te Sugar Bowl. … This is the second installment of the “Magnolia Bowl” in this series with a trophy going to the winner.
– Summing it up: “It seems like just yesterday that I got here. I’ve had a great time in Oxford. It was rough at the beginning, but at the end it’s been a blast. I regret nothing I’ve done since I’ve been here. I’m glad I made this choice, and I would do it all over again if I could.” – Ole Miss RB Dexter McCluster as he approaches his final home game
Prediction: Ole Miss 24, LSU 21

Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal