Big three’s wins make week easier

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 31, 2003

Southern Miss, Ole Miss and State won football games Saturday, and on Monday (even Sunday) everywhere I went I heard about those Southerners, Rebels and Bulldogs.

It was for a fact fun to see all three Division I Mississippi universities doing well on the gridiron. Major college teams, that is.

It wasn’t easy, but Ole Miss managed to hang tough for a 20-17 victory over the Florida Gators. In Gainesville, over 90,000 partisan Gator fans nearly hollered the Gators to victory.

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Perhaps &045; but who knows? &045; the Golden Eagles’ 22-20 victory over Cincinnati was the most exciting, although the Rebels’ 20-17 Gator trapping down in Gainesville was for sure one for the TV and stadium fans.

It was a milestone for Eli Manning, who moved into the top 10 in the SEC’s career passing yardage list. The rangy Eli, who does for a fact favor his dad Archie, hit on passes for 262 yards that moved him into high ranking on the all-time SEC passing list.

You probably already know the stats, but Eli in his career has completed 669 passes for 8,110 yards to date. He now trails Kentucky’s Tim Couch by some 325 yards for ninth place. That’s Manning-like, if you think about it.

Even a Manning fell back of Eli &045; his older brother, Peyton, who in four years never defeated the Gators in the dreaded Swamp. Eli said after the game he would &8220;probably bring it up to Peyton (in fun) somewhere down the road.&8221; Archie’s sons are close like that. They don’t brag too much.

Von Hutchins, a Natchez native absolutely starring at cornerback for the Rebels, supposedly didn’t play up to his capabilities but made up for some lackluster play by making a diving interception to stop a fourth-quarter Gator drive. Good timing, that’s all. Go Von.

Good timing because the Rebels’ defense was really under the (newspapers’) gun following the team’s 20-17 win. No, not really, this is just my way of reminding that coach David Cutcliffe’s team sucked it up and got it done on defense as well as offense.

Post-game stuff after the 49-45 Texas Tech setback a week earlier was almost so bad as to be unprintable. But evidently the Rebels got together before the Florida battle and filled the gaps.

But if you’ve been reading this column very long, you know I like to give every team credit when it’s due. In this case, Ole Miss wasn’t supposed to have it to derail Florida. But it happened, and I like to comment on things like that.

Which reminds me: Dustin Almond deserved all the accolades he received after USM beat Cincinnati Saturday. Almond hooked up with Marvin Young via a 49-yard pass completion.

It set up Darren McCaleb’s first field goal of the game and kept the Golden Eagles on track for the win.

Almond was hailed as the hero after the USM triumph, and of course he was a hero along with all the other USM players. But after all is said and done, it was a team effort that spelled victory. Usually is.

Glenvall Estes is a longtime columnist for The Natchez Democrat.