Cal Football: First Look at Ole Miss Rebels
Cal, battling injuries but ranked No. 23 after a 23-17 win over North Texas on Saturday, puts its 3-0 record on the line next Saturday at Ole Miss.
Here is the early report on what you need to know about the Rebels:
KICKOFF: 11 a.m. Central time (9 a.m. Pacific time) on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, MS.
WEATHER FORECAST: Should be a typical warm, sticky day in Mississippi. The forecast calls for a high of 89 degrees, 50 percent humidity and a 10 percent chance of rain.
OLE MISS 2019 RECORD: 2-1
LAST GAME: Favored by 31 points against visiting FCS foe Southeastern Louisiana, the Rebels labored a bit before winning 40-29. Freshman Jerrion Ealy was the headliner, scoring on a 94-yard kickoff return and a 30-yard run while totaling 94 rushing yards and an Ole Miss freshman record 273 all-purpose yards. Quarterback Matt Corral passed for 239 yards and two touchdowns.
THE SERIES: Cal leads 1-0 after a 27-16 victory at Berkeley in 2017. Ross Bowers passed for 236 yards and a touchdown and Cam Goode returned an interception 32 yards for a TD as the Bears outscored the Rebels 20-0 in the second half. Surprisingly, that’s the only time Ole Miss has played against a team currently in the Pac-12.
OLE MISS COACH: Third-year head coach Matt Luke (13-14) was born into the Ole Miss culture. His father Tommy Luke played defensive back for the Rebels in the 1960s and older brother Tom Luke played quarterback for Ole Miss from 1989-91. Matt Luke was a walk-on center at the school from 1995-98 and became an assistant coach at his alma mater. He was co-offensive coordinator from 2012-16, served as interim head coach in 2017 after Hugh Freeze was forced out, then was named permanent coach following the ’17 campaign.
OLE MISS STORYLINES: The NCAA’s two-year postseason ban on the Rebels ended last season so they can compete for a possible bowl bid this fall. Ole Miss faced a range of sanctions for lack of institutional control and recruiting violations under former coach Hugh Freeze. The program still has a ways to go to compete near the top in the Southeastern Conference. Ole Miss was picked to finish sixth out of seven teams in the SEC West.
OLE MISS’S BEST PLAYER: Sophomore running back Scottie Phillips has rushed for 308 yards (102.7 per game) so far this season with four touchdowns. The 5-foot-8, 211-pounder had 103 yards last week against Southeastern Louisiana after going for 143 in a win over Arkansas the week before. Phillips is on the preseason watch lists for the Doak Walker and Maxwell awards after rushing for 928 yards and scoring 14 total TDs as a freshman. He had quite an Ole Miss debut, busting loose for 204 yards and two touchdowns last season against Texas Tech.
ATTENDANCE CONCERNS: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium underwent an expansion three years ago, pushing the seating capacity to 64,038, making it the largest stadium in the state of Mississippi. But the program’s recent runs-ins with the NCAA and its mediocre record on the field has hurt attendance. The Rebels’ average home attendance of 55,685 last season was their lowest since 2008 and represented a 15-percent drop since the record-high figure of 64,909 in 2016. Ole Miss drew an average of 46,577 for its first two games this season.
THE GROVE: The 10-acre area in the middle of campus shrouded by huge oak trees and known for decades as The Grove was called “The Holy Grail of Tailgating” by the Sporting News. Often the crowd that gathers for pregame festivities is said to be equal to the size of the in-stadium crowd. The New York Times once described it this way: “It is every kind of party you can describe, at once: cocktail party, dinner party, tailgate picnic party, fraternity and sorority rush, family reunion, political handgrab, gala and networking party-hearty.” Former Ole Miss coach Billy Brewer in 1983 began walking his team through The Grove and into the stadium before games, and in 1998 a “Walk of Champions” arch will built, donated by members of the 1962 undefeated national championship team.
FAMOUS OLE MISS ALUMS: Quarterbacks Archie Manning and Eli Manning, actors Kate Jackson and Gerald McRaney and authors William Faulkner and John Grisham.
BETTING LINE: The game opens as a pick-em, according to VegasInsider.com’s opening line.