Unranked Rebels must notch wins over quality foes

Published 5:00 am Thursday, September 18, 2003

“The Webels won’t be wanked this week.”

My friend from Wesson, a devoted follower of the Ole MissRebels, made that observation two weeks ago after Memphis came frombehind to upset his beloved team. He got some encouragement afterwatching Ole Miss overwhelm Louisiana-Monroe.

There was just a mild groan coming from the west corner of thenewsroom. A long-suffering ULM alumnus was frequently updated asthe Rebels-Indians contest became a massacre in Oxford. Still, theRebels wouldn’t be ranked if the final score was 159-0. They mustfirst beat a quality opponent.

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When sensational quarterback Eli Manning announced his plans toreturn to Ole Miss for a fifth year, Rebeldom rejoiced. Certainly,this had to be the season for the Rebels to make a return tonational prominence.

After barely beating Vanderbilt’s (no athletic department)Commodores, devotees chalked it up to opening-game mistakes.Surely, the Rebels would be ready to rout the Tigers inMemphis.

Oops. Screams of anger and disappointment echoed through LibertyBowl Memorial Stadium as the Rebels fell victim to their ownmistakes. Golly, gee, where is Billy Brewer when you need him?

Brewer’s buddy, Joe Lee Dunn, was on the sidelines directing theMemphis defense. Last weekend Mississippi State head coach JackieSherrill was wondering why he unloaded Dunn as his defensivecoordinator.

Sounds and looks like a merry go-round doesn’t it?

If Alcorn State can’t get its act together, the Braves mighthave to replace Johnny Thomas at the helm. Hey, how about bringingin deposed Jackson State boss Robert Hughes?

Certainly, there is turmoil on Lynch Street and it’s not at thecorner liquor store. The high-octane JSU Tigers have stumbled undernew head coach James Bell who has been promoting the long-rangebenefits of a strong rushing attack and an equally-toughdefense.

Trouble is, the Tigers have a mental block when it comes toconservative offense and unyielding defense. In the past, it wasn’tunusual for them to score 30 points and lose.

After three games, Bell’s Tigers have been outscored 77-28. Theyhad a season-high 14 points in last Saturday’s 44-14 loss toTennessee State.

On the bright side, Delta State is off to a 2-0 start undersecond-year head coach Rick Rhoades. The Statesmen smashed ValleyState 45-0 last week and whipped Cumberland, Tenn. 49-7 in theirseason opener.

Give Southern Miss some credit, too. After a disappointingperformance at California (34-2) the Golden Eagles have reboundedto beat Alabama-Birmingham and Memphis. Next up, a week fromtonight, is mighty Nebraska in Hattiesburg.

It will be a great public relations opportunity for USM eventhough the Eagles will be heavy underdogs. Upsets are indeedpossible as Ole Miss proved in last December’s Independence Bowlshocker of the Cornhuskers.

Professor Hoopla B.S., was in need of some medical treatmentafter last weekend’s surprises. He predicted the winners of 23games and got 18 correct. Here’s a preview of this weekend’swinners, starting with a Thursday night, community collegespecial.

Gulf Coast at Co-Lin: It looms as an epic defensivestruggle in Stone Stadium tonight. Co-Lin 9-7.

Wingfield at Brookhaven: Friday night is a fun time forthe Panthers on King Field. Brookhaven 32-12.

Prentiss Christian School at Brookhaven Academy: TheCougars are overdue to join the victory column. Brookhaven Academy26-14.

Loyd Star at Lake Providence, La.: Unbeaten Hornets puttheir perfect record on the line. Loyd Star 21-14.

Mize at Bogue Chitto: It’s an early season showdown ofRegion 4-1A powers. Mize 25-18.

Mt. Olive at Enterprise: In another big Region 4-1Acontest, the Pirates escape with a victory. Mt. Olive28-21.

Natchez Cathedral at West Lincoln: Bears are limpingafter losing to Enterprise last week. Cathedral 21-8.,

Wesson at Franklin County: Both teams are coming offdisappointing setbacks. Bulldogs should have the advantage.Franklin County 17-7.

McComb at Lawrence County: Tigers rebound from a loss toWayne County and hand Cougars their first setback. McComb28-14.

In other area games, Wilkinson County should clip NorthPike 18-14, Port Gibson should ambush Hazlehurst 26-16, Parklaneshould edge Centreville 20-14, Copiah Academy should have a happyhomecoming by beating East Rankin 29-8, South Pike should conquerVicksburg 32-22, and Collins should crush Crystal Springs49-6.

After feasting on mushrooms and olives at Cici’s saladbar, Hoopla reveals Saturday’s winners.

Southwest at Hinds: Coach Dom Green’s Bears climb to 3-0with a win over the Eagles. Southwest 21-17.

Mississippi State at Houston: Confident Bulldogs showsome bite in the big city. State 28-14.

Jackson State at Texas Southern: Tigers and Bulldogscould have chartered the same jumbo jet and saved the tax payerssome money. Texas Southern 39-19.

In other Magnolia State action, Alabama A&M shoulddump Valley State 38-18, Mississippi College should ambush HowardPayne 17-14, Delta State should shave Valdosta State 21-17,Cumberland should surprise Belhaven 32-16, and Millsaps should edgeEmory & Henry 13-10. Alcorn State, Ole Miss and USM have opendates to enjoy the beautiful weekend.