No program needed to find Manning

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 6, 2000

A game program wasn’t needed to tell that he was a Manning. There he was out there in the 2000 Ole Miss spring game, tall and lanky like his dad Archie 30 years before on the same field, showing many of the same Manning moves as dad, but with an identity of his own — Eli Manning.

And, at gut-check time, there he was also delivering, even if it was only the wrapup spring intrasquad contest. With mom Olivia, Homecoming Queen at Ole Miss one year during Archie’s time, in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with her husband Archie, all Eli did was pull the game out late for his team.

In fact, it was so late it looked bad for the Manning team that was trailing senior varsity starter Romaro Miller, who was having a productive day himself. But Eli calmly steeped up and engineered a game-winning drive that even head coach David Cutcliffe bragged on afterwards. And Miller took note. He’s for Eli, too.

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At any rate, the Manning team trailed 13-10 and time was running out. Two-minute time and Eli was ready with his teammates; 70 yards of paydirt didn’t bother them, evidently. Even ole dad could not have engineered it better.

Ten passes, seven of which were complete, and just one running play later, the Blue team had caught and defeated the Red team 17-13. Eli credited his receivers for the 7-of-10 passing success, and that’s OK becuase it had to be true. But his direction and passing under fire was certainly instrumental as well.

With time almost gone in the popular Grove Bowl contest, the &uot;baby&uot; Manning was almost out-of-sight with his magic. With just seconds remaining, he hit L. J. Taylor with a 5-yard pass in the end zone. Shades of Archie, many had to have remarked.

The winning quarterback (Eli Who?) was 12-for-17 passing on the day for 157 yards, including a bomb he completed to Taylor for 48 yards to set up a field goal of 48 yards.

Archie said after the game that Eli’s redshirt season was needed for him to develop. Also that his coming-up season as backup to Miller will be beneficial. &uot;We just need for Romaro to stay healthy and have a good year and everything will be fine,&uot; Archie was quoted after the spring game.

For all that, it remained for third-string quarterback David Morris to steal some of the thunder in the game. Miller and Manning aside, Morris — the &uot;Three M&uot; boys? — the smooth &uot;other&uot; young quarterback completed two touchdown passes in relief of one then the other. Grant Heard caught one for 41 yards, Robert Williams the other for 24. Impending depth?

MISSISSIPPI STATE’S Bulldogs are meantime taken with their own spring football drills, and things are supposed to be looking up for the well-fortified Bulldogs.

Fact is, the biggest question in the camp that head coach Jackie Sherrill runs with an iron hand seems to be who the Bulldog punter will be this fall. Sherrill and his assistants, though, will tell you in a hurry that other problems exist.

State kickers and punters are coached by Sherrill himself, and he has been very successful. Take 1996 punter Andy Russ for instance. His 46.53 kicking average that year was a school mark. But the very next season Jeff Miller, twice the All-SEC punter, hit for 45.53 yards per kick. Since ’94, all State punts have averaged over 40 yards.

So the beat goes on in Starkville, where the Bulldogs team that barely clipped the Rebels in ’99 builds on a solid returning cast. The moral of this story is &uot;DON’T sell the Bulldogs short!&uot;