Oct 12, 2019; Columbia, MO, USA; A general view of a Mississippi Rebels helmet during the game against the Missouri Tigers at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss fires O-line coach Randy Clements

Ole Miss fired offensive line coach and running game coordinator Randy Clements on Tuesday, three days after the Rebels held their spring game.

Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin made the announcement after numerous outlets reported the story in the morning.

“After meeting with Coach Clements, it was determined that it’s in the best interest of both sides to part ways,” Kiffin said in a statement. “We’re grateful to Coach for the job he did for our team over the past year, and we wish him and his family the very best moving forward.”

Clements, who has spent 30 years as a coach, joined Kiffin in Oxford after the former was named head coach in December 2019. Prior to that, Clements spent one season at Florida State.

According to ESPN, the decision to fire Clements was based on football and not any off-field issues.

Ole Miss led the SEC in rushing yards last season at 210.6 yards per game and its 19 sacks allowed were tied for fourth-fewest in the conference.

–Field Level Media

Oct 17, 2020; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Ole Miss Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin prior to the game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss pausing activities through Wednesday

Ole Miss will not resume football activities until Dec. 9 at the earliest due to a “few new positive COVID-19 cases being identified each day,” the school announced Friday.

The Rebels have been on pause since Wednesday.

“This seven-day suspension is in the best interest of student-athlete and staff safety and came after consulting with the MSDH (Mississippi State Department of Health),” read the school statement. “Testing will continue during this period, and the appropriate health measures will be taken for those student-athletes and staff members affected by the virus.”

First-year head coach Lane Kiffin’s squad is 4-4 following Saturday’s 31-24 Egg Bowl win against Mississippi State.

Ole Miss originally was scheduled to play LSU this weekend, but the Tigers instead are facing No. 1 Alabama in a makeup game for a Nov. 14 contest that was postponed.

The Rebels still are expected to make up that game and a game against Texas A&M, though neither contest has been rescheduled yet.

“Department leadership will remain in talks with the Southeastern Conference on the effects of this suspension on the scheduling of upcoming games,” the school said in Friday’s statement.

–Field Level Media

Oct 31, 2020; Nashville, Tennessee, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin wears a mask with the word vote printed on the front during the first half against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss pauses activities due to COVID-19

Ole Miss canceled football activities Wednesday due to COVID-19 concerns.

“Out of abundance of caution, Ole Miss Football has canceled Wednesday’s team activities to conduct contact tracing surrounding a small number of positive COVID-19 tests among players and staff,” read a statement from the program. “Practice is scheduled to resume Thursday, pending the outcome of additional tests. The student-athletes and staff affected are taking appropriate safety measures in accordance with university protocol.”

First-year head coach Lane Kiffin’s Rebels are 4-4 following Saturday’s 31-24 Egg Bowl win against Mississippi State.

Ole Miss was scheduled to play LSU this weekend, but the Tigers are instead facing No. 1 Alabama in a make-up game for a Nov. 14 contest that was postponed.

The Rebels are still expected to make up that game and a game against Texas A&M, though neither have been rescheduled yet.

–Field Level Media

Oct 24, 2020; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin and Mississippi Rebels quarterback Matt Corral (2) during the second half against the Auburn Tigers  at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss looks to rebound against winless Vanderbilt

Mississippi and Vanderbilt each will attempt to snap a three-game losing streak when they meet Saturday afternoon in Nashville, Tenn.

Ole Miss (1-4, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) leads the overall series 50-40-2, but the teams have traded victories beginning in 2015, and each has won eight of the past 16 meetings.

However, there was nothing close about their previous meeting. The Rebels rushed for 413 yards and 9.4 yards per carry in walloping the Commodores 31-6 in Oxford, Miss., a season ago.

The Ole Miss offense is under different management this year in coach Lane Kiffin, and the Rebels are averaging 34.8 points and 521 yards per game. They racked up 462 yards in a 35-28 loss to Auburn last week.

“Very disappointing game,” Kiffin said this week, referring to the defeat. “Really slow start, offensively especially. Screwed up a ton of things ourselves, and some freak things happened, too.”

Kiffin was particularly unhappy with starting quarterback Matt Corral, who completed 16 of 27 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. He also had 10 carries for 88 yards and two touchdowns.

“It was a bad film,” Kiffin said of Corral’s performance. “Sometimes you just get bad luck, balls are tipped and things like that. This was just — he played really poorly.

“They did a great job reading his eyes, and he was trying to do no-look passes where he’s holding one guy off. The problem is, he can’t see the other guy while he’s doing that.”

The Rebels’ biggest problem, however, is a defense that allows 44.6 points and 556 yards per game. The test gets much easier this week: Vanderbilt (0-3, 0-3) has scored just 26 points this season and averages 257 yards per game. Neither Vanderbilt’s leading rusher nor leading receiver has a total of 150 yards.

The Commodores are happy just to be preparing for a game.

Vanderbilt has not played since getting routed 41-7 by South Carolina on Oct. 10. A COVID-19 outbreak resulted in the postponement of the Missouri game, which had been set for Oct. 17 and has been rescheduled for Dec. 12.

The Commodores now face seven consecutive games without a bye week.

Coach Derek Mason used the time off to get some reps for inexperienced players, as a number of starters missed practice time due to quarantine or injuries. He is hoping to se a stronger squad as a result.

“Our football team is slowly but surely starting to look the part,” Mason said Tuesday.

Vanderbilt pins its hopes on a defense that forced three turnovers against Texas A&M in the season opener on Sept. 26, a 17-12 road loss. However, the Commodores haven’t been competitive since, falling 41-7 to LSU the next week.

Vanderbilt’s best chance may be getting defensive end Dayo Odeyingbo (2.5 sacks, six hurries) and edge rusher Andre Mintze (one sack, two hurries) to Corral, who has been intercepted nine times this season.

Ole Miss has lost on each of its past two visits to Nashville.

–Field Level Media

Oct 17, 2020; Fayetteville, Arkansas, USA; Ole Miss Rebels  head coach Lane Kiffin reacts to a call during the fourth quarter against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. Arkansa won 33-21. Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

SEC admits replay error, fines Kiffin

The Southeastern Conference admitted a refereeing error that proved costly to Mississippi in a loss to Auburn on Saturday, while at the same time fining Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin $25,000 for calling out the error on Twitter.

Kiffin had retweeted a comment from an Ole Miss alumnus that read, “Y’all are a disgrace @SEC your officiating is absolutely atrocious. @SECOfficiating If y’all want to just keep gifting Auburn wins, just say it.”

On the play in question, the Rebels were kicking off after taking a 28-27 lead with 5:43 remaining. Auburn return man Shaun Shivers may have had the ball graze off his finger before it went into the end zone, where Ole Miss recovered the ball. However, the refs ruled that Shivers never touched the ball, giving the Tigers the ball on a touchback, and the replay crew never reviewed the play.

Auburn later scored a touchdown with 1:11 left to win 35-28.

The conference announced in a statement Monday, “SEC has determined the replay official should have stopped the game for further review of the (kickoff). In the football officiating replay process every play is reviewed but, when appropriate, the game is stopped for further review.

“Because the play was not appropriately stopped for further review, the necessary slow-motion view of the play was not viewed by the replay official to determine if the ruling on the field should have been reversed.”

The statement went on to detail Kiffin’s fine, pointing out that he violated SEC Bylaw 10.5: “Criticism of officials or the officiating program by institutional personnel is absolutely prohibited. Comments on officiating are to be directed only to the Conference office. All reports or comments pertaining to officiating or game management responsibilities, or concerning student-athletes, coaches or officials, shall be directed only to the Conference office. Public comments related to officiating by officials, coaches or institutional personnel are prohibited.”

Kiffin didn’t back down, though, saying Monday, “Everybody in the country could see (the ball) hit him.

“I asked the side judge, ‘Why aren’t they replaying it? Do I need to challenge it?’ He said, ‘They’ve already looked at it. There’s nothing there.’ I’m not allowed to say anything about the conversation, but I really wish that our fans and players could hear what I was told.”

Kiffin went one step further Monday evening, retweeting a post from a reporter with The Athletic: “Lane Kiffin: Replay blew it. SEC: Replay blew it. Also SEC: Here’s a $25,000 fine, Lane, for correctly pointing out we blew it.”

Kiffin subsequently tweeted, “Where can I find 25,000 pennies??” before changing it to 250,000 pennies and then 2.5 million pennies. He finally added, “Was just checking to see if @SEC would review my math to get it right this time??? After future review it’s 2.5 million pennies. Thanks for stopping to get it right”

–Field Level Media

Oct 17, 2020; Columbia, South Carolina, USA; Auburn Tigers quarterback Bo Nix (10) hands off to Auburn Tigers running back Tank Bigsby (4) for a touchdown run against the South Carolina Gamecocks during the second quarter at Williams-Brice Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Auburn, Ole Miss look to limit turnovers in SEC clash

Ball security likely was a hot topic at practice this week for both Auburn and Mississippi heading into Saturday’s Southeastern Conference matchup in Oxford, Miss.

Auburn dropped out of the Top 25 for the first time since 2018 after a 30-22 loss at South Carolina last weekend. Sophomore quarterback Bo Nix threw three interceptions and was involved in a sideline altercation with leading receiver Seth Williams in the second half.

Ole Miss’ Matt Corral doubled Nix’s total by throwing six interceptions, and also lost a fumble in a 33-21 defeat at Arkansas. The Razorbacks scored 24 points off turnovers.

Ole Miss (1-3, 1-3 SEC) committed three first-half turnovers to fall behind 20-0. In addition, the Rebels were stopped twice on fourth down at Arkansas’ 1-yard line.

“Had we not screwed all that up early, we’re up by three or four scores,” Rebels coach Lane Kiffin said. “You can’t turn the ball over like that and expect to win.”

“No excuses for a performance like that at all,” Corral said. “With a performance like that, you’re supposed to lose the game. That’s what happened.”

Auburn (2-2, 2-2) jumped out to a 9-0 lead, but Nix was sacked three times in addition to the three interceptions. He passed for 272 yards and marched Auburn to the Gamecocks’ 13 late before being called for intentional grounding while trying to avoid a sack in his school’s first loss to South Carolina since 1933.

“We’re just going to have to be big boys and we’re going to have to man up and put it behind us and go into (this) week and find a way to win,” Tigers coach Gus Malzahn said.

Williams, who entered last weekend averaging 18 yards per catch, was limited to four catches despite being targeted 14 times. Offensive coordinator Chad Morris had to break up a heated exchange between Nix and Williams in the third quarter.

“People want to win. It’s a competition,” Tigers receiver Eli Stove said. “Seth’s trying to tell Bo something about what the DB is doing, and Bo is trying to tell him what he saw.”

If the Tigers and Rebels want to play a possession game Saturday, they can both turn to talented young running backs.

Ole Miss sophomore Jerrion Ealy carried a career-high 23 times for 113 yards last week, his second straight 100-yard rushing game and the third of his career.

Auburn freshman Tank Bigsby had 111 yards on 16 carries last week. The previous week, he had 146 yards in a 30-28 victory at home against Arkansas.

The Razorbacks aren’t the only common opponent for the Tigers and Rebels.

Ole Miss’ lone win came on the road in a 42-41 victory at Kentucky in Week 2. Auburn opened its season with a 29-13 victory at home against the Wildcats.

The Rebels were without two starters last weekend — defensive lineman Tariqious Tisdale and defensive back Jakorey Hawkins. Kiffin said the number of active COVID-19 cases and players in isolation because of contact tracing has grown since.

“It’s becoming very challenging. This is not easy,” Kiffin said. “Especially when for whatever reason it continues to hit us on defense.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 26, 2020; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin before the game against the Florida Gators  at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Kiffin: Ole Miss dealing with COVID-19 outbreak

Coach Lane Kiffin said Wednesday that Ole Miss is dealing with a COVID-19 outbreak but expects the Rebels to play Saturday’s game at Arkansas.

“We’re just trying to manage it the best we can,” Kiffin said, per AL.com.

The first-year Rebels coach did not provide a specific number of players involved. Kiffin said these were the team’s first positive cases since the final week of fall camp in mid-September.

“I hope not,” Kiffin said when asked if the game against the Razorbacks was in jeopardy. “If we were to play today, we could play. So hopefully it stays that way.”

Mississippi (1-2, 1-2 SEC) and Arkansas (1-2, 1-2) are scheduled to kick off Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET in Fayetteville, Ark.

Saturday’s SEC clash between No. 10 Florida and LSU in Gainesville, Fla., was postponed on Wednesday due to the Gators’ spike in positive COVID-19 tests.

–Field Level Media

Dec 30, 2019; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen prior to a game against the Virginia Cavaliers during the 2019 Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Kiffin era opens as Ole Miss hosts No. 5 Florida

The COVID-19 pandemic didn’t change the fact that No. 5 Florida looks ready to challenge for a berth in the College Football Playoff.

Ole Miss, meanwhile, remains a mystery under first-year coach Lane Kiffin.

The teams are set to open their seasons against each other on Saturday in an SEC matchup in Oxford, Miss.

“We haven’t played in forever so I’m excited for us to play,” said third-year Gators coach Dan Mullen, whose team is coming off an 11-2 season. “You keep asking, ‘Hey, how are we going to be this year?’ I don’t know, we’re going to find out on Saturday. We’ve kind of had a weird training camp … so it’ll be good to see what we look like against another team and a quality SEC team.”

Florida’s quest to at least end Georgia’s three-year reign as SEC East champion is fueled by quarterback Kyle Trask, a 6-foot-5, 240-pound senior who was selected last week as preseason first-team all-conference by the league coaches.

Trask stepped in early last season for Feleipe Franks and completed 66.9 percent of his 354 passes for 2,941 yards, 25 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His passing efficiency rating of 156.1 was the best at Florida since Tim Tebow led the nation in 2009 at 164.2.

“I don’t really put that added pressure on myself,” Trask said. “I don’t read a whole lot on social media and get into things like that. I just worry about what is going on in this building and just doing the best that I can to make sure we have the best chance of winning.”

Kiffin is returning to the SEC after serving as Tennessee’s head coach in 2009 and as an Alabama assistant, including offensive coordinator, from 2014-16. He was 27-13 as the head coach at Florida Atlantic in the past three seasons, including a pair of 11-3 campaigns.

Kiffin might have the element of surprise in the opener, schematically, as he takes over for Matt Luke (15-21 in three seasons) and juggles two quarterbacks.

Matt Corral started four games last season and is the superior passer, while speedy freshman John Rhys Plumlee started eight games, gaining favor in then-coordinator Rich Rodriguez’s zone-read attack and rushing for 1,023 yards and 12 touchdowns. Ole Miss is expected to be more pass-heavy under Kiffin — the Rebels ran the ball 63 percent of the time last season.

“One of them is going to start, and there’s a good chance both of them will play,” Kiffin said of his quarterbacks.

Sophomore running back Jerrion Ealy (722 yards, 6.9 per carry) is another threat and is a dangerous kick returner.

Kiffin said he has been looking for more consistency at quarterback through preseason practice.

“It has been interceptions and usually it has been the quarterback,” he said. “Sometimes maybe a tipped pass or something like that, but these are either inaccurate throws or poor decision-making. So, we’ve got to get back to playing like we were initially, because the first scrimmage they were both really good.”

Ole Miss quarterbacks will be facing a fast Florida defense that allowed only 15.5 points per game last season. Marco Wilson and Kaiir Elam are top-notch cornerbacks.

Trask’s top target is potential All-American tight end Kyle Pitts (54 catches, 649 yards, five TDs last season). Florida’s biggest question on offense is the line. Projected starting center Ethan White is out because of a knee injury.

Attendance at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium will be capped at 25 percent, about 16,000, due to COVID-19 protocols to begin the 2020 season.

–Field Level Media

Jan 24, 2020; East Rutherford, New Jersey, USA;  New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning poses for photos with his wife Abby and their children at Quest Diagnostics Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss postpones Manning jersey retirement

Ole Miss postponed the jersey retirement of Eli Manning until next season.

The school was scheduled to retire their former quarterback’s No. 10 in ceremonies on Saturday. The postponement was announced on Monday, with Ole Miss citing “the circumstances surrounding this football season.”

Manning, now 39, played for the Rebels from 2000-03 and won the Maxwell Award in his final season, given annually to the best all-around player in college football. He was the No. 1 pick in the 2004 NFL Draft and led the New York Giants to two Super Bowl championships before retiring at the end of the 2019 season.

At Ole Miss, he set or tied 47 single-game, season and career school records. He still holds school career records of 10,119 passing yards and 81 touchdowns.

Manning finished third in the 2003 Heisman Trophy voting, passing for 3,600 yards, 29 touchdowns and 10 interceptions that season for the 10-3 Rebels.

He will join his father, Archie Manning (No. 18), and defensive back Chucky Mullins (38) as the only Rebels players to have their numbers retired.

Mullins was left paralyzed by an injury suffered in a game against Vanderbilt on Oct. 28, 1989. He died less than two years later.

–Field Level Media

Mississippi Sports Bettors Crush It in Football, Causing Drop in Taxable Revenue

Mississippi sportsbooks saw a slight rise in handle in October, up to $32.8 million against $31.8 million in September. The Gulf Coast-area sportsbooks continued to account for more than half of handle across the state, writing $21.8 million in wagers. And football remains king, accounting for $22.5 million of the total handle.

Like both New Jersey and Delaware, Mississippi’s hold, or win percentage, dropped significantly from September to October. During the first full month of football, the Magnolia State had a whopping 17.3 percent win percentage, but that plummeted to 3.59 percent in October. New Jersey’s October hold fell to 4.4 percent and Delaware’s fell to 3.5 percent.

For comparison, in Mississippi, the hold was 10 percent in August and Nevada traditionally has a 5 to 7 percent hold, so while 3.5 percent looks low, it’s not as alarming in context or as if the sportsbooks overall landed in the red.

 
 

Read more Mississippi Sports Bettors Crush It in Football, Causing Drop in Taxable Revenue on SportsHandle.