OXFORD – Twenty years after Ole Miss defensive back Chucky Mullins sustained a paralyzing neck injury, another Ole Miss player played an important role in preventing that type of tragedy.
Freshman tailback Rodney Scott remained on his back beneath a pile of players, as Auburn safety Zac Etheridge laid motionless on top of him.
“I didn’t know if he was dead or knocked unconscious,” Scott said.
Etheridge was hurt on a short rushing gain by Scott in the first quarter and was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. Auburn went on to win 33-20. Before the end of the game, it was announced that Etheridge had movement in his arms and legs.
(Etheridge was released from the hospital on Monday.)
As players were pulled off the pile, it was not immediately clear whether Scott or Etheridge was injured.
“It was unbelievable. I went out there concerned for their player, but also, Rodney was lying there, and I thought he was hurt,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “What I couldn’t believe was Rodney had the presence of mind as a freshman underneath the pile … especially when we coach them to get up and get back in the huddle. It’s a miracle that he didn’t push the guy out of the way like we do in a scrimmage or a drill.”
Scott said he did try to move but quit trying when he realized that Etheridge wasn’t moving.
“With that dead weight on you, you really can’t do anything. He was just stuck there. Before the trainers got out there, I could tell he wasn’t moving, and I was staying still. They got out there, and they were telling me, ‘Be real still.’ ”
Auburn coach Gene Chizik called Scott’s awareness of the situation “one of the most phenomenal things I’ve witnessed in doing this.”
Nutt called it a miracle.
Etheridge will not play again this season, and his long-term status is unclear. Doctors are hopeful for a complete recovery.
“I thought about that play all day,” Scott said. “If I had moved, he could have been paralyzed. There’s a lot of stuff that’s been going through my mind about it.”
Sticking with Sowell
Auburn defensive end Antonio Coleman came from the blind side to pressure Snead, bringing back memories of struggles earlier this season for sophomore tackle Bradley Sowell.
With four games to go a position change at left tackle appears unlikely.
Nutt thought he got good play from his offensive line in the first half, though the Rebels managed only seven points with almost 20 minutes of possession time.
“In the second half we got in that game of third-and-16, and that’s not our game. They got us on that left side. Coleman is a real force. Everybody in the league will have one guy that knows how to rush. Bradley has improved as much as anyone, and we’re proud of what he’s done,” Nutt said.
The staff had hoped that heralded freshman Bobby Massie would push Sowell for the starting job. That hasn’t happened, and a push by Massie in the last four weeks isn’t likely.
“He’s getting better. We just don’t know if he’s quite ready for that tackle spot when guys are coming after him,” Nutt said. “I hope he gets a lot of playing time this weekend.”
Massie has appeared in all eight games. He’s worked at both guard and tackle and is listed No. 2 on the right side behind senior John Jerry.
Johnson is back
The offensive line could get a lift this week the return of guard Rishaw Johnson, who had been suspended for the previous three games for undisclosed team rules violations and other personal problems.
Johnson considered transferring but after a meeting with Nutt last week decided to remain a part of the program.
Backup fullback Dan Hoffman remains suspended.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal