Date: Saturday, Sept. 22, 2018
Time: 11 a.m. CT
Location: Oxford, Miss.
Surface: Natural Grass
Series: First meeting
In Oxford: —
Live Stats: OleMissSports.com
Live Audio: OleMissSports.com
Twitter Updates: @OleMissFB
Television: SEC Network
Dave Neal, Play-by-Play
DJ Shockley, Analyst
Dawn Davenport, Sideline
Satellite Radio: Sirius 103, XM 191
WHAT TO WATCH FOR:
• Ole Miss wraps up its three-game home stand this week when it hosts Kent State in a non-conference tilt.
• This is the first all-time meeting between Ole Miss and Kent State … The Rebels are 2-0 against current members of the MAC.
• Ole Miss is 117-40-6 (.736 winning pct.) all-time versus non-conference opponents during the month.
• Ole Miss is 103-33-3 (.752 winning pct.) in September home games (including home contests played in Memphis and Jackson), including a 77-20-2 (.788 winning percentage) mark in September games played in Oxford.
• Ole Miss is 164-87-7 (.649 winning pct.) all-time during the month of September.
• The Ole Miss defense has forced at least two turnovers in back-to-back games for the first time since 2016.
• QB Jordan Ta’amu is second in the SEC in multiple categories, including: passing yards (917), passing yards per game (305.7) and passing yards per completion (17.63) … Ta’amu ranks third in the SEC in passing TDs (8) and fourth in passing efficiency (174.1).
• RB Scottie Phillips leads the SEC with four rushing touchdowns … He ranks third in total rushing yards (355).
• Phillips is averaging 8.26 yards per carry, second in the SEC and sixth in the NCAA.
• Two true freshmen led Ole Miss in tackles vs. Alabama … LB Jacquez Jones had a game-high nine tackles to lead the Ole Miss defense, while fellow freshman Keidron Smith was second on the team with seven tackles.
• DB Zedrick Woods and LB Mohamed Sanogo both rank eighth in the SEC with 6.7 tackles per game.
OLE MISS HEAD COACH MATT LUKE
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.
KENT STATE HEAD COACH SEAN LEWIS
Sean Lewis (Kent State, 1973) is in his first season at the helm for Kent State and has started his career with a 1-2 record in Kent, Ohio. Lewis came to the Golden Flashes after serving as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach under Dino Babers at Syracuse. His background stretches from his four-year playing career at the University of Wisconsin under Barry Alvarez, to winning the 2015 Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship as the co-offensive coordinator at Bowling Green. That ascension led Lewis to becoming the youngest Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) head coach in the nation at the age of 31. That distinction was previously held by the University of Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley at age 34. Lewis spent his previous six seasons alongside head coach Babers at Syracuse (2016-17), Bowling Green (2014-15) and Eastern Illinois (2012-13). A tight end and quarterback at Wisconsin, Lewis was a two-time Academic All-Big Ten selection under Alvarez. Current Wisconsin Badger head coach Paul Chryst served as his offensive coordinator and position coach.
KENT STATE SCOUTING REPORT
Under first-year head coach Sean Lewis, Kent State has started the 2018 campaign 1-2, with both its losses coming against Power Five opponents, Illinois and Penn State. Kent State’s Week 2 54-14 win over Howard was largest margin of victory for the Golden Flashes since 2004. Kent State is averaging 395 yards of offense per game, including 193 yards on the ground and 202 through the air. Their 355 yards rushing against Howard were the most for the Golden Flashes since 2012. Kent State is led by sophomore Woody Barrett. Barrett is averaging 200.7 yards passing and 39.0 yards on the ground, with six total TDs. Running backs Justin Rankin and Jo-el Shaw have been sharing the workload in the Kent State backfield with both backs averaging over 60 yards per game and more than 5.8 yards per carry. In his first FBS game, Shaw rushed for 105 yards and three touchdowns against Howard, including a 15-yard TD on his first carry. Fifth-year linebacker Matt Bahr leads Kent State with 27 total tackles, including two quarterback hurries and a forced fumble. Next to Bahr is first team All-MAC selection Jim Jones. Jones finished the 2017 season with 98 tackles and eight tackles-for-loss.
OLE MISS IN SEPTEMBER
• Ole Miss is 164-88-7 (.647 winning pct.) all-time during the month of September.
• Ole Miss is 117-39-6 (.741 winning pct.) all-time versus non-conference opponents during the month.
• Ole Miss is 104-33-3 (.754 winning pct.) in September home games (including home contests played in Memphis and Jackson), including a 79-20-2 (.800 winning percentage) mark in September games played in Oxford.
RB Scottie Phillips has quickly burst onto the scene for Ole Miss and has been a key component in an Ole Miss offense that averages 43.3 points per game and over 480 yards in total offense per game. Phillips, a junior college transfer from Jones County CC, is top three in the SEC in rushing yards (355), rushing TDs (4) and yards per carry (8.26). Phillips debuted with a historic 200-yard game against Texas Tech and then rushed for 107 yards and two touchdown against Southern Illinois in Week 2. His 204 rushing yards during the season opener were the second-most during College Football’s opening weekend and are the most by an Ole Miss running back making his debut. Phillips became just the eighth running back to run for over 200 yards in a game.
In 2017, Ole Miss’ average touchdown drive was 99 seconds, the fastest in the nation. The Rebels are currently on pace to best last season’s mark as Ole Miss has averaged just over 95 seconds in its 14 touchdown drives this season. Four of the Rebels scoring drives this season have only taken two plays or less to find the endzone.
Taking on top-ranked Alabama in their first marquee game of their college careers, three true freshmen shined for the Rebels. Three of Ole Miss’ top four tacklers against the Crimson Tide were freshmen. LB Jacquez Jones had a game-high nine tackles to lead the Ole Miss defense, while fellow freshman Keidron Smith was second on the team with seven tackles, including a team-high five solo tackles. After missing last week’s game vs. Southern Illinois, LB Kevontae’ Ruggs recorded four tackles to finish fourth on the team in that category.
BROWN RAISES NEARLY 50K FOR ALS
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.
CHUCKY MULLINS COURAGE AWARD
In the spring, senior DB C.J. Moore became the 28th different Rebel to be awarded the Chucky Mullins Courage Award, which goes to a standout defensive player each year. The award honors the late Chucky Mullins, who had his Ole Miss career come to an end during the 1989 Homecoming game against Vanderbilt when he was paralyzed after making a tackle. After returning to his studies at Ole Miss, Mullins passed away May 6, 1991. Moore wears the No. 38 jersey in Mullins’ honor this season.
GONE IN 60 SECONDS
The Ole Miss offense ranks third in the country with six scoring drives this season that have been under one minute, including four drives of two plays or less. Those six scoring drives under a minute have averaged just over 32 seconds and 69 yards per drive.
Ten Rebels have made their first career starts this season: (Offense) Ben Brown (OL), Scottie Phillips (RB), Braylon Sanders (WR); (Defense) Montrell Custis (DB), Jacquez Jones (LB), Austrian Robinson (DE), Kevontae’ Ruggs (LB), Mohamed Sanogo (LB), Tariqious Tisdale (DE), Markel Winters (DE).
A total of 29 players have made their Ole Miss debut this season: Zikerrion Baker, Miles Battle, Quentin Bivens, Ben Brown, Josh Clarke, Spencer Cole, Matt Corral, Montrell Custis, Vernon Dasher, Tony Gray, A.J. Harris, Jakorey Hawkins, Jonathan Hess, Amani Johnson, Sam Johnson, Jacquez Jones, Tylan Knight, Luke Knox, Elijah Moore, Patrick Nasiatka, Hal Northern, Scottie Phillips, Kevontae’ Ruggs, Austrian Robinson, Ty Rocconi, Keidron Smith, Tariqious Tisdale, Isaac Way, Isaiah Woullard.
OLE MISS OFFENSE OFF TO FAST START
• Ole Miss is a perfect 9-for-9 in redzone opportunities, with five touchdowns and four field goals.
• The Rebels are just one of three teams in the nation to have six or more scorings drives under a minute.
• Through the first three games, the Rebels have recorded 21 or more points in a quarter three times this season.
• RB Scottie Phillips is not only amongst the top SEC running backs statistically, but he’s top 20 in the nation in multiple
• QB Jordan Ta’amu is second in the SEC in passing yards (917), passing yards per game (305.7) and passing yards per completion (17.63) … Ta’amu’s eight passing TDs are third in the conference.
• Ta’amu is now 15th on Ole Miss’ all-time charts in career passing yardage with 2,599.
• WRs A.J Brown and D.K. Metcalf are tied for second in the SEC with three receiving touchdowns.
124TH SEASON OF OLE MISS FOOTBALL
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 667-517-35 (.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.
WATCH LIST REBELS
Ole Miss players garnered a bunch of preseason honors this year, including several players tabbed Preseason All-America and Preseason All-SEC by media outlets. The following Rebels have been recognized on watch lists for some of the biggest awards in college football:
• A.J. Brown: Maxwell Award, Biletnikoff Award, Walter Camp Award
• Dawson Knox: Mackey Award
• Greg Little: Outland Trophy
• Javon Patterson: Wuerffel Trophy
• Sean Rawlings: Rimington Trophy
LUKE’S WEEKLY RADIO SHOW ON TUESDAYS
RebTalk, the official weekly radio show of Ole Miss Athletics, is moving to a new day and location for this season. Beginning Aug. 28, RebTalk 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.
NEW MASCOT ROAMING THE SIDELINES
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. – RN