OLE MISS REBELS (5-2, 1-2 SEC) vs. AUBURN TIGERS (4-3, 1-3 SEC)

OLE MISS VS. AUBURN: Game 8 Notes October 16, 2018

Date: Saturday, Oct. 20, 2018
Time: 11 a.m. CT
Location: Oxford, Miss
Venue: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (64,038)
Surface: Natural Grass
Series: Auburn leads 31-11
    In Oxford: Auburn leads 11-3
    Streak: Auburn, W2
Live Stats:
Live Audio:
Twitter Updates: @OleMissFB
Television: ESPN
Adam Amin, Play-by-Play
Rod Gilmore, Analyst
Quint Kessenich, Field Analyst
Satellite Radio: Sirius 103, XM 191

• This is the 43rd meeting all-time between Ole Miss and Auburn dating back to 1928 … The Tigers lead the all-time series 31-11 and 11-3 in Oxford.
• This is the first time since 2012 that neither Ole Miss nor Auburn are ranked when facing each other.
• The Rebels’ total of 291 points through seven games is better than the season total from 2011, ‘07, ‘06, ‘05 and ‘04.
• Ole Miss is first in the SEC in passing (353.1 ypg) and second in scoring (41.6 ppg) and total offense (550.9).
• The Rebels rank second in the SEC and 17th nationally in red zone offense (.931).
• Ole Miss has converted 80 percent of its fourth-down attempts, which ranks third in the SEC and eighth in the NCAA.
• The Rebels have only lost two fumbles all season long, which ranks 12th in the NCAA.
• QB Jordan Ta’amu leads the SEC and ranks amongst the top five in the NCAA in passing yards (2,298) and passing yards per game (328.5) … Ta’amu ranks fifth nationally with 15.74 yards per completion.
• RB Scottie Phillips leads the SEC and ranks sixth nationally in both rushing touchdowns (nine) and total TDs (11) … Phillips’ 723 yards rushing is second in the conference and eighth in the NCAA.
• WRs A.J. Brown (650), D.K. Metcalf (569), DaMarkus Lodge (466) rank second, third and sixth respectively in the SEC in receiving yards.
• Ole Miss TEs Dawson Knox and Octavious Cooley combined to haul in four catches for 150 yards and one TD vs. Arkansas in Ole Miss’ 37-33 win last Saturday.

Matt Luke (Ole Miss, 2000) is in his 11th season at Ole Miss and second season at the helm, taking the reins of his alma mater as the 38th head coach in program history. He was born a Rebel as his family has ties to Ole Miss that span three generations. During his 24 years as a player and coach at the collegiate level, Luke has risen through the ranks while learning from a number of successful veteran coaches. He has worked alongside national champion Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and former Ole Miss head coach Tommy Tuberville, among others. On the field, he has mentored 20 all-league selections as well as All-Americans and first-round draft picks Laremy Tunsil and Laken Tomlinson. Luke, a four-year center for the Rebels (1995-98), spent five seasons as the team’s co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach before being promoted to interim head coach for the 2017 season. During his first stop in Oxford (2002-05), he served four seasons coaching the Ole Miss tight ends and offensive line under Cutcliffe.

Gus Malzahn (Henderson State, 1990) is in his sixth season as the Auburn head coach and is 4-3 in 2018. He owns a 49-25 record as the Tigers’ head man and a 58-28 mark in seven seasons as a college head coach overall. Last year, he directed Auburn to a 10-4 record and a berth in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl. The Tigers reached as high as No. 2 in the College Football Playoff Poll and played in the SEC Championship Game for the second time in five seasons, knocking off No. 1 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama in November, the first time in poll history that a program has defeated two top-ranked teams during the same regular season. In 2013, he led the Tigers to one of the biggest turnarounds in NCAA history, guiding them all the way to the BCS national championship game, which they lost 34-31 to Florida State. Auburn was SEC champion and Malzahn earned numerous SEC and national coach of the year honors. The previous year, Auburn had gone 3-9 overall and winless in SEC games. Prior to taking the Auburn job, Malzahn had a 9-3 record (and Sun Belt Conference title) in one season at Arkansas State. Malzahn was the Broyles Award winner when he was the offensive coordinator for Auburn’s national championship team in 2010. He has also served as offensive coordinator at Tulsa (2008-09) and Arkansas (2007) since joining the college ranks after a decorated high school coaching career in Arkansas.

Auburn is 4-3 overall and 1-3 in conference play entering this week’s game with Ole Miss. Since starting the season 4-1, including a season-opening win over No. 6 Washington, Auburn has dropped two straight SEC contests, including a 30-24 loss to Tennessee at home last Saturday. The Tiger offense ranks 11th in the SEC with 376 yards of total offense, with 217 yards through the air and 158 rushing yards per game. After earning SEC Newcomer of the Year honors last season, QB Jarrett Stidham has thrown for 1,386 yards with six passing TDs and four interceptions, after just throwing six all of last season. Redshirt freshman JaTarvious Whitlow leads the Tigers on the ground, averaging 65 rushing yards per game. Auburn is holding its opponents under 335 yards and 17 points per game. The Tigers rank 11th nationally in tackles for loss (8.4 per game) and are fifth in the SEC in sacks (2.6 per game).  Jeremiah Dinson and Daniel Thomas both have two interceptions apiece for Auburn.

• Rebel freshman Keidron Smith and Auburn’s Traivon Leonard were teammates at Oxbridge Academy in West Palm Beach, Florida.
• Ole Miss’ Jakorey Hawkins and Kevontae’ Ruggs played at Lee High School in Montgomery, Alabama, with Auburn’s Daniel Thomas.
• Ole Miss associate head coach/defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff was the co-defensive coordinator/secondary coach at Auburn in 2016.
• Ole Miss defensive line coach Freddie Roach and Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele served on the Alabama staff during the 2008 season; Roach was the assistant strength and conditioning coach, while Steele was the Crimson Tide’s defensive coordinator.

Seeing a need in his community, OL Javon Patterson, along with other members of Ole Miss’ Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (SAAC), has started Patterson’s Footlocker, a collective effort to gather new socks for homeless shelters in Mississippi, on Oct. 15, 16 and 20. Donations can be dropped off at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium’s visitor bus parking area on Oct. 15 from 5 until 6:30 p.m. and again on Oct. 16 from 11:30 a.m. till 1:30 p.m. Fans can also bring items to Ole Miss’ Oct. 20 game vs. Auburn, gates yet to be determined. Besides new socks, gently used shoes will also be accepted. Since arriving in Oxford, Patterson has led with a spirit of compassion, volunteering for multiple community service activities such as Hope to Dream, Rebelthon and reading to local elementary students.

The Ole Miss roster features 11 players who hail from Alabama: DL Jalen Cunningham (Odenville), DB A.J. Harris (Madison), DB Jakorey Hawkins (Montgomery), LB Jonathan Hess (Vestavia Hills), DL KD Hill (Eufaula), LB Jacquez Jones (Tuscaloosa), OL Sam Plash (Montgomery), DB Ty Rocconi (Mobile), LB Kevontae’ Ruggs (Montgomery), OL Jordan Sims (Homewood), DE Brenden Williams (Birmingham).

RB Scottie Phillips is quickly becoming a force to be reckoned with in the Ole Miss backfield. The junior college transfer is top three in the SEC and top 20 nationally in nearly every rushing category. Phillips ranks first in the SEC in rushing touchdowns (nine) and total touchdowns (11). His 723 rushing yards ranks second in the conference and eighth nationally. Phillips has recorded at least one rushing TD in six of the Rebels’ seven contests this season.

Despite the fact that he’s just made 12 career starts in a Rebel uniform, QB Jordan Ta’amu is quickly etching his name in the Ole Miss record books. Against Arkansas on Saturday, Ta’amu completed 26-of-35 passes for 387 yards and two TDs through the air and 141 yards and one TD on the ground. The 141 rushing yards were the most fourth-most rushing yards by an Ole Miss quarterback and the most since 1979 (John Fourcade, 169). Ta’amu’s 528 total yards is the second-most in school history, only behind Archie Manning 540 total yards against Alabama in 1969. He now has five of the top 10 total offense single-game performances in program history, including four this season, the most ever by an Ole Miss player. Ta’amu currently ranks 10th all-time in career passing yards at Ole Miss with 3,980 yards.

The Ole Miss offense ranks sixth in the country with nine scoring drives this season that have been under one minute, including seven drives of two plays or less. Those nine scoring drives under a minute have averaged just under 32 seconds and 67 yards per drive.

Alabama – 18
Utah State – 12
Memphis – 11
Houston – 11
Clemson – 10
Ole Miss – 9
UMass – 9
UCF – 9
Illinois – 8
New Mexico – 8
Penn State – 8
Appalachian State – 7
Arkansas State – 6
Syracuse – 6

Headed into the season, a majority of Ole Miss’ experience on the defensive side of the ball was in the secondary. Season-ending injuries to three Rebel defensive backs (Montrell Custis, Jaylon Jones, C.J. Moore) have forced Ole Miss to make several changes to its defense. Armani Linton and Tylan Knight, who have both seen time at running back in 2018, both switched to defense prior to the Rebels’ game vs. ULM. Linton, who played DB for his first two years at Ole Miss, got his first career start at strong safety last Saturday vs. Arkansas and has made seven total tackles in the last two games since the switch.

Ole Miss is well known for its explosive and dangerous members of its receiving corps, dubbed nWo (Nasty Wideouts), but Rebel tight ends Dawson Knox and Octavious Cooley had quite the performances of their own Saturday night vs. Arkansas. Knox and Cooley combined to for 150 yards and one touchdown in the Rebels’ 37-33 comeback victory in Little Rock. Prior to Saturday, the duo had combined for just five catches and 101 yards through the first half of the season prior to breaking out vs. the Razorbacks.

When he was in seventh grade, Ole Miss punter Mac Brown had a modest goal of raising $500 for a childhood friend ’s dad who had been diagnosed with ALS. Along with a group of neighborhood friends, Brown started a lemonade stand, Awesome Lemonade Stand, in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, to help his friend’s family. Seven years later, that $500 goal has ballooned to nearly $50,000 raised by Brown and his friends for ALS research. The Awesome Lemonade Stand is held on a late day in June and this year’s fundraiser raised more than $15,000 alone.

The Rebels rank second 17th in the country with a red zone scoring percentage of 93.1. The Rebels have converted 27-of-29 chances from inside the 20, including 19 TDs. Fourteen of the 19 Ole Miss red zone touchdowns have come on the ground.

It’s the 124th season of football at Ole Miss and the second under head coach Matt Luke. The Rebels boast an all-time record of 671-519-35 (.562 winning percentage). Ole Miss did not field teams in 1897 due to an epidemic of yellow fever, and also in 1943 when football was abolished at all Mississippi state-supported institutions by the Board of Trustees.

Twelve Rebels have made their first career starts this season: (Offense) Ben Brown (OL), Scottie Phillips (RB), Braylon Sanders (WR); (Defense) Josh Clarke (DB), Montrell Custis (DB), Jacquez Jones (LB), Armani Linton (DB), Austrian Robinson (DE), Kevontae’ Ruggs (LB),  Mohamed Sanogo (LB), Tariqious Tisdale (DE), Markel Winters (DE).

A total of 42 players have made their Ole Miss debut this season: Zikerrion Baker (LB), Miles Battle (WR), Drake Beck (WR), Quentin Bivens (DT), Ben Brown (OL), Nic Cantu (OL), Jacob Carter (WR), Josh Clarke (LB), Spencer Cole (P), James Coley (DL), Matt Corral (QB), Peyton Cox (OL), Vernon Dasher (DB), Nikolas Dean (TE),  Alex Faniel (TE), Tony Gray (OL), A.J. Harris (DB), Jakorey Hawkins (DB), Nick Haynes (TE), Jonathan Hess (LB), Amani Johnson (LB), Eli Johnson (OL), Sam Johnson (OL), Jacquez Jones (LB), Tylan Knight (ATH), Luke Knox (LB), Elijah Moore (WR), Patrick Nasiatka (K), Hal Northern (DL), Scottie Phillips (RB), Samuel Plash (OL), Grant Restmeyer (QB), Josh Ricketts (WR), Ty Rocconi (DB), Kevontae’ Ruggs (LB), Keidron Smith (DB), Lawson Stockett (DE), KC Swaim (OL), Tariqious Tisdale (DL), Isaac Way (K), KeShun Wells (RB), Isaiah Woullard (RB).

Ole Miss’ new on-field mascot, Tony, was unveiled Aug. 11 at the annual Meet the Rebels event and will roam the sideline during the 2018 season. Ole Miss’ Landshark mascot is named in honor of the first Rebel to throw “Fins Up,” Tony Fein.

Fein, an Army veteran who served a one-year tour in the Iraq War before arriving in Oxford, was a two-year letterman after transferring from Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College. He was the 2008 recipient of the Pat Tillman Award by the Military Order of the Purple Heart. Fein passed away in October 2009, but his legacy at Ole Miss continues through the Landshark.

At Ole Miss, Landshark is a term that was first adopted by the Rebel football team’s defensive unit. As part of that identity, defensive players celebrate big plays by putting a hand to their forehead in the shape of a shark fin. A battle cry of “Fins Up” also contributes to the players’ persona. With the popularity of both the players and the hand gesture, Ole Miss fans and student-athletes from other sports embraced the spirit of the Landshark, and in October 2017, the university announced the Landshark as the official mascot of the Ole Miss Rebels.

RebTalk, the official weekly radio show of Ole Miss Athletics, will be broadcast each Tuesday this fall at Bouré in downtown Oxford from 7-8 p.m. The show, which is hosted by the “Voice of the Rebels” David Kellum and includes special guests, will air live on the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network. Ole Miss Football head coach Matt Luke and select players will join the broadcast each Tuesday throughout the 2018 season. There is no show scheduled for Oct. 23, the Rebels’ bye week. – RN