It was a very special day in Oxford, as Ole Miss legend Eli Manning had his number retired in the midst of an Ole Miss victory over LSU.
The No. 12 Rebels beat LSU 31-17 in front of a sold-out Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. It was the sixth largest crowd attendance in stadium history with 64,523 fans filling up the seats.
“It seemed like there was a presence on third down, so it was awesome to see,” Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin said about the large crowd. “The game was kind of a little bit dead at some points, but I thought the fans were really good today.”
Kiffin went on to laugh and say, “And we actually punted on a fourth down too, so I think I heard some boos actually. Now they don’t like that.”
Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral wasn’t playing 100% after he got banged up in their last game against Tennessee. All week, there was speculation if Corral was going to be ready to go on game day.
Corral wasn’t exactly pleased when LSU got off to a quick start, being up 7-0.
“We knew what we had to do and we were hurting ourselves,” Corral said when asked about what changed things around for them. “We’ve got to have less pre-snap penalties, less holdings and I’ve got to catch the ball when the ball’s snapped. We’ve got to get better.”
Corral finished the game passing for just 185 yards and a touchdown, but that was good enough to get the win because Ole Miss’ offensive attack came from their ground game.
The Rebels finished the game with a total of 266 rushing yards and three touchdowns. The rushing attack was led by both running backs Snoop Conner and Jerrion Ealy.
Conner ran for 117 yards on 14 carries and Ealy ran for 97 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries, including a big 36 yard run to blow the game open for Ole Miss.
“We definitely needed points in that situation,” Ealy said when asked about his long touchdown run. “Third-and-19, why not? The ball was in my hands and I hadn’t really got in the endzone that much this year, so I made sure to get in.”
The offense wasn’t the only thing that’s been going great for the Rebels. The defense has been playing at an incredible level over the last few weeks.
Last game, Ole Miss held Tennessee who was the third-ranked scoring team in the SEC to just 26 points. This week, they held an LSU team who scored 49 against Florida in their last game to only 17 points.
“It’s fun to be the head coach when your defense is playing good,” Kiffin said about how the defense has been over the last couple of games. “You don’t have that feeling like you’ve got to score all the time like we’ve had at times here.”
Linebackers Mark Robinson and Chance Campbell both had big days defensively. Robinson finished with 12 total tackles and Campbell had 10 tackles and a sack.
Defensive back Tysheem Johnson came up with a huge interception on a fourth down as Ole Miss was backed up in their own endzone.
“We’ve just been switching up our movement schemes and trying to open up different gaps for us to hit,” said linebacker Cedric Johnson about putting pressure on the quarterback. “It just really worked and we’ve been practicing really hard.”
During halftime, Eli Manning’s jersey No. 10 was retired. Manning gave a heartfelt speech to the Ole Miss fans.
“Seeing my number 10 hang up there next to my dad (Archie Manning) will be one of the greatest moments of my life,” Manning said as his number was being hung up at halftime.
Along with his number being engraved in the walls of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Manning led the Walk of Champions for Ole Miss pre-game.
“It was awesome to have him on the walk and I wore his jersey on the walk,” Kiffin said about how special it was to have Manning be part of the Ole Miss program. “It was a really cool day for him. We just love the Mannings.”
Ole Miss will look to get another victory as they head into Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn, Alabama, to face the other Tigers of the SEC West. That game will be played this Saturday at 6 p.m. CST on ESPN.