Oklahoma State's Spencer Sanders (3) looks to throw a pass in the first half during the Bedlam college football game between the University of Oklahoma Sooners (OU) and the Oklahoma State University Cowboys (OSU) at Gaylord Family-Oklahoma Memorial Stadium, in Norman, Okla., Saturday, Nov., 19, 2022.

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Ole Miss adds transfer QB Spencer Sanders from Oklahoma State

Former Oklahoma State starting quarterback Spencer Sanders announced Thursday he is transferring to Ole Miss.

He’s the second quarterback to commit to Lane Kiffin’s program in as many days after the Rebels added former five-star high school recruit Walker Howard, a transfer from LSU, on Wednesday.

Ole Miss also has 2022 starting quarterback Jaxson Dart returning next season.

Sanders was a four-year starter for the Cowboys, who went 31-12 in his starts from 2019-22. He was the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2019 and the Fiesta Bowl Offensive MVP in 2021.

In 10 games in 2022, Sanders threw for 2,642 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions on a career-low 57.6 completion percentage. In his four seasons at Oklahoma State, he amassed 9,553 passing yards and 67 touchdowns with 40 picks.

“I fit in very well there with what they do on offense, their play-action game, the way they take deep shots down the field, Coach Kiffin’s mindset and their balance with a great running back like Quinshon Judkins,” Sanders told ESPN. “It’s just a very well-rounded scheme.”

–Field Level Media

Dec 28, 2022; Houston, Texas, USA; Mississippi Rebels running back Zach Evans (6) runs with the ball during the second quarter against the Texas Tech Red Raiders in the 2022 Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss RB Zach Evans enters NFL draft

Ole Miss running back Zach Evans announced Friday that he is declaring for the NFL draft.

Evans made his decision two days after the Rebels lost 42-25 to Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl.

“I’ve had an unforgettable experience at Ole Miss, and I am forever thankful for the opportunity to play here,” Evans wrote in his announcement. “… After much prayer, I have decided to forego my remaining year of eligibility and declare for the 2023 NFL Draft.”

Evans rushed for 936 yards and nine touchdowns and also had 12 catches for 119 yards and one score in 2022, his lone season for the Rebels. He rushed for 130 or more yards four times this season, including a career-best 207 against Arkansas on Nov. 19.

Evans played the previous two seasons at TCU and had 1,063 rushing yards and nine scores and caught 18 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown in his time with the Horned Frogs.

–Field Level Media

Nov 16, 2019; Columbia, MO, USA; Missouri Tigers head coach Barry Odom reacts to play during the second half against the Florida Gators  at Memorial Stadium/Faurot Field. Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

UNLV hires former Mizzou coach Barry Odom

UNLV announced Tuesday that it has hired Barry Odom as its next football coach.

Odom, who led Missouri from 2016-19, was most recently the associate head coach and defensive coordinator at Arkansas.

“I’m honored and excited to begin developing a relationship with our student-athletes and provide them a great foundation for success in every area of their lives,” Odom, 46, said in a news release. “I believe in the vision and plan that President (Keith E.) Whitfield and (athletic director Erick) Harper have for the UNLV Athletics Department. That alignment piece is critical and together we will achieve great success.

“This city is founded on opportunity and we look forward to this opportunity to lead this program and engage with this amazing community and Rebels everywhere.”

In Odom’s four seasons at the helm of his alma mater, Missouri went 25-25. The Tigers’ best season was an 8-5 mark in 2018, and they made two bowl games, losing both.

UNLV fired Marcus Arroyo in late November after the Rebels finished 5-7 (3-5 Mountain West) in his third season as coach. That was a marked improvement over the Rebels’ 0-6 and 2-10 records in his first two seasons.

Former national championship-winning LSU coach Ed Orgeron was rumored to be a candidate at UNLV, but Orgeron denied any interest or involvement with the Rebels’ search.

–Field Level Media

Nov 24, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi State Bulldogs quarterback Will Rogers (2) moves in the pocket while defended by Ole Miss Rebels defensive end Tavius Robinson (95) during the first quarter at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Mississippi State rallies past No. 20 Ole Miss in second half

Will Rogers threw two touchdown passes and the Mississippi State defense shut down No. 20 Ole Miss’ running game in a 24-22 victory in the Battle for the Golden Egg on Thursday night in Oxford, Miss.

The Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) held the Rebels’ running back tandem of Quinshon Judkins and Zach Evans, who came in averaging a combined 208 rushing yards, to 87 yards and ended a two-game losing streak in the long-time rivalry.

Ole Miss (8-4, 4-4) led 16-14 at halftime. After a scoreless third quarter, Massimo Biscardi kicked a 34-yard field goal to give Mississippi State a 17-16 lead with 13:46 left in the game.

On a third-and-7 play, Rogers threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Rara Thomas to extend the lead to 24-16 with 7:58 left.

After a Rebels fumble, the Bulldogs had a chance to score again, but Rogers lost a fumble at the Ole Miss 1-yard line.

The Rebels drove 99 yards and Jaxson Dart threw a 23-yard touchdown pass to Dayton Wade with 1:25 left, but a potential tying two-point conversion pass failed. Mississippi State recovered the ensuing onside kick to hold on.

On the first possession of the game, Ole Miss needed just three plays to drive to a first down at the Mississippi State 15. However, the Rebels stalled and Jonathan Cruz kicked a 32-yard field goal.

The Bulldogs responded quickly, driving 61 yards on the ensuing possession, which ended with Jo’quavious Marks running 1 yard for a touchdown and a 7-3 lead.

Ole Miss drove to a first down at the Mississippi State 18 on its third possession and stalled again. Cruz’s 33-yard field goal trimmed the lead to 7-6 at the end of the first quarter.

Cruz added a 49-yard field goal to give the Rebels a 9-7 lead early in the second quarter.

The Rebels drove to the Mississippi State 1, and on fourth-and-goal Dart threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to JJ Pegues for a 16-7 lead.

Rogers tossed a 19-yard touchdown pass to Lideatrick Griffin with eight seconds left, cutting Ole Miss’ lead to 16-14 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Oct 22, 2022; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA;  Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin looks on during the second half against the LSU Tigers at Tiger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

SEC foes Ole Miss, Alabama vie for win to keep hopes alive

The Southeastern Conference’s “Road to Atlanta” was supposed to reach a major intersection this week on the campus of Ole Miss, but one powerhouse school’s hopes of making the SEC Championship Game have diminished while the host school will a little need help, too.

On Saturday afternoon in Oxford, Miss., the No. 11 Ole Miss Rebels will welcome the No. 9 Alabama Crimson Tide, with neither team having any margin for error if it wants to entertain the possibility of going to the conference title game in Atlanta.

Ole Miss (8-1, 4-1 SEC) lost 45-20 at LSU on Oct. 22, putting the squad in a must-win situation if it wanted to make this season even more special than last year’s 10-win regular season and Sugar Bowl appearance.

Now, the Rebels find themselves needing two situations to take place in order to make it to the SECCG on Dec. 3 — win out, and hope the No. 7 LSU Tigers, holding the head-to-head tiebreaker, fall at least once in one of their final two conference games at Arkansas or at Texas A&M.

So first, they have to take care of Alabama (7-2, 4-2), which fell 32-31 in dramatic fashion last Saturday night on the road at LSU’s “Death Valley.”

Rebels coach Lane Kiffin even reached out to a popular SEC college football host and urged him not to egg on Nick Saban even more. Falling on Saturday would mark the first time Alabama has lost back-to-back games since 2013.

“I texted (Paul) Finebaum on the way over here when I saw his quotes when he normally does and he says the Nick Saban dynasty is over and all that,” said Kiffin, a former Alabama assistant. “Every time he says this — which I tell him — all he does is, I call it, like, GOAT fuel. The opposite of rat poison. You’re just like, giving the GOAT fuel, which for him, that works. He goes and proves them wrong every time.

“So really appreciate you, Paul, saying that right after the game. I’m sure that was on his desk Sunday morning.”

Alabama’s two SEC defeats — to Tennessee and LSU — are uncharacteristic for such a juggernaut of a program, which has struggled four times so far.

While some could argue that the Crimson Tide could have beaten the Volunteers with a shorter late field goal or won in overtime with better clock management, the naysayers will point to a last-second field goal at Texas and a goal-line stand at home against Texas A&M that could have added two more losses to the Tuscaloosa team’s ledger.

“I know people have kind of written us off to some degree,” Saban said. “We’ve had four games that have come down basically to the last play of the game. We won two of them and lost two of them by a total of four points.

“We’re going to play a good team this week, and I’m sure they’re going to want to put up on their mantel, ‘We beat Alabama, too.’ It’s just a matter of whether we’re going to allow that to happen or do everything we can to avoid it.”

Alabama has won six straight in the series after losing to former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze in 2014 and 2015. However, that 2014 triumph was vacated for Freeze using ineligible players.

–Field Level Media

Notre Dame safety Xavier Watts (26), safety Brandon Joseph (16) and safety Houston Griffith (3) celebrate during the Notre Dame vs. Stanford NCAA football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 at Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend.

Notre Dame Vs Stanford Football

First-ever meeting between Notre Dame, UNLV set for South Bend

Depending on the perspective, this is either the best time or the worst time for UNLV to travel to South Bend, Ind., to get its first chance to play Notre Dame.

On the plus side for the Rebels, the Fighting Irish (3-3) have lost two of their three home games this season, including last week’s 16-14 stunner to Stanford.

(To put those two home losses into context — and just how much of an outrage it has inspired — former head coach Brian Kelly won 30 of his last 31 games at Notre Dame Stadium dating back to September 2017.)

“It’s been a long 48 hours trying to figure out what the heck happened on Saturday, and why we didn’t execute the way we have been previously and what we have to do to fix it,” first-year Notre Dame head coach Marcus Freeman said Monday.

“You’re evaluating everything. Why haven’t we played as well at home? Why haven’t we played as well, really, versus maybe opponents that haven’t been ranked as high? And it starts from the top-down and looking at everything we do. The way we prepare. The way we motivate. What we do on game days. What we do at home versus what we do away. There is not just one answer because if there was, we would fix it.”

On the minus side for UNLV (4-3, 2-2 Mountain West), the Irish have lost two of their three home games this season, and that has inspired them to dig in and try to grow throughout this week’s practices.

“It’s a lot easier to do that, maybe, when you’re down,” Freeman said. “Because nobody wants to lose.”

UNLV should have the same mindset because it heads to Indiana after suffering a 42-7 loss to Air Force and a 40-7 loss to San Jose State.

The Rebels didn’t have starting quarterback Doug Brumfield (68.4 completion percentage, 1,231 yards, eight touchdowns) last week against Air Force due to a concussion, then top running back Aidan Robbins (591 yards, eight touchdowns) went out early in the second quarter with a knee injury.

UNLV head coach Marcus Arroyo announced Monday that Brumfield is day-to-day with his concussion. He did not offer an update on Robbins.

“We need to get healthy as a team, that’s obvious,” Arroyo said. “We’ve got a lot of new guys in starting, contributing roles that we need to get developed as quickly as we can.”

–Field Level Media

LSU Tigers running back Josh Williams (27) throws a stiff arm to Florida Gators cornerback Jaydon Hill (23) in the second half at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, October 15, 2022. LSU defeated the Gators 45-35. [Doug Engle/Gainesville Sun]

Ncaa Football Florida Gators Vs Lsu Tigers

LSU looks to hand No. 7 Ole Miss first loss

It was just two weeks ago that LSU hosted a top-10 team in a Southeastern Conference game.

Things didn’t go well for the Tigers, as then-No. 8 Tennessee rolled to a 40-13 victory.

But LSU (5-2, 3-1 SEC) has a chance to redeem itself on Saturday when No. 7 Ole Miss (7-0, 3-0) makes the trip to Baton Rouge, La.

“Nobody really wants to be learning lessons after a loss,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said. “But they learned a lot about intentionality and purpose in terms of their preparation.

“I think two weeks later, it’s — I don’t want to say a different team, but it’s a team that has confidence. It’s a team that knows that if they don’t play clean, if they don’t have an attention to detail, they’ll have similar results that they did against Tennessee.”

The Tigers bounced back from the loss to the Volunteers to win on the road against Florida last week, 45-35, in what Kelly called the team’s “best performance offensively.”

Jayden Daniels threw for three touchdowns and ran for three more.

“Now we got to be consistent,” Kelly said. “Can’t do it one week and then turn it off the next week and expect to win.”

The Tigers had a 528-395 advantage in yards but allowed enough explosive plays to keep the Gators in the game.

LSU gave up a 51-yard touchdown pass on the second play of the contest and a 39-yard touchdown run later in the first quarter. An 81-yard TD scramble by Florida quarterback Anthony Richardson on the first play of the fourth quarter helped cut a 42-21 deficit to 14 points, and the Gators brought it to within seven before the Tigers kicked a late field goal.

“We just have to be better at tackling,” Kelly said.

If LSU doesn’t tackle better, it’s going to have a difficult time slowing down Ole Miss’ high-powered offense. The Rebels lead the SEC in rushing offense (271.4 yards per game) and are fourth in total offense (502.9).

Ole Miss had 448 rushing yards and three scores on the ground in a 48-34 victory against visiting Auburn last Saturday.

“Obviously, you’ve got to be realistic at any level, but especially the SEC,” Rebels coach Lane Kiffin said. “That’s not going to happen (every week).

“We’ve got to be consistent and run the ball really well. The numbers aren’t going to be like that every week. People coach. They gear up to stop certain plays once you run them. It’s not like we were just running normal inside zone and making all those yards.”

Ole Miss, like LSU, allowed a series of big plays that kept its opponent in the game. The Rebels saw a 21-0 lead shrink to four points before they regained control.

Auburn’s Tank Bigsby ran 50 yards for a touchdown and had another 50-yard run that led to a field goal.

Additionally, Auburn had pass completions of 32, 46 and 28 yards that led to touchdowns.

“We jumped out of some gaps and missed some tackles,” Kiffin said. “That’s usually what goes on in the run game for explosive runs.”

The Rebels are the only team in the SEC West that hasn’t lost a conference game, but LSU (tied with Alabama at 3-1) can match their record with a victory Saturday.

–Field Level Media

Sep 10, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA;Ole Miss Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) drops back to pass against the Central Arkansas Bears during the second quarter at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 Ole Miss trounces Central Arkansas, 59-3

Ole Miss scored four touchdowns in an explosive first quarter, tight end Michael Trigg caught three scores and the No. 22 Rebels routed visiting Central Arkansas 59-3 Saturday night in Oxford, Miss.

The Rebels (2-0) won their 11th straight home game by going 3-for-3 in the red zone and scoring on special teams in the first 15 minutes.

Trigg, a transfer from Southern Cal, grabbed two scores from Luke Altmyer and one from Jaxson Dart — his first TDs since arriving at Ole Miss.

Named the starter as part of an alternating process over the first two games with USC transfer Dart, Altmyer stepped in and went 6-for-13 for 90 yards with two TD passes, a rushing score and one interception. However, he left in the last minute of the first half after the pick.

In relief, Dart was 10-for-16 for 182 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Quinshon Judkins rushed for a game-high 104 yards on 10 carries, and Zach Evans added 53 yards and a score.

The Rebels also tallied on a botched punt snap and set up another TD with a blocked punt.

An FCS program, Central Arkansas (0-2) saw quarterback Will McElvain finish 13-of-28 passing for 126 yards and an interception.

Playing in steady rain didn’t deter Ole Miss in a four-touchdown first quarter. Altmyer took his offense to paydirt — 70 yards on six plays – on their first possession. He ended it by flipping a seven-yard pass to Trigg.

A bad punt snap produced a mistake on UCA’s first series. Ladarius Tennison scooped up the wet ball and ran untouched 24 yards for a 14-0 lead.

With a defender trying to bring him down, Altmyer managed a second TD throw to Trigg for a 21-0 lead with 5:02 left in the first quarter. Altmyer called his own number on a short scoring run for a 28-0 lead.

Jonathan Cruz kicked a 41-yard field for a 31-0 edge at the half.

Evans, Trigg and Malik Heath found the end zone in the third quarter.

Hayden Ray’s 31-yard field goal put the Bears on the board, and Ulysses Bentley IV’s run rounded out the scoring.

–Field Level Media

Sep 3, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin reacts during the first half against the Troy Trojans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

No. 22 Ole Miss gives Luke Altmyer a turn vs. Central Arkansas

After a season-opening win, Ole Miss will have another chance to pile up points this weekend.

They will also do so with a different starting quarterback.

Against Central Arkansas on Saturday night in Oxford, Miss., the No. 22 Rebels (1-0) will call on Luke Altmyer as part of a preseason plan of alternating starting signal-callers in the first two games.

That decision came about because there was no definitive separation between Altmyer and prized Southern California transfer Jaxson Dart — both trying to live up to the lofty standards set by 2021 quarterback Matt Corral.

In four seasons and 37 games played at Ole Miss, Corral totaled 8,287 passing yards with 57 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,338 yards and 18 scores.

Most importantly, before departing for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, Corral guided Ole Miss to its first-ever 10-win regular reason.

The current quarterback issues present a problem coach Lane Kiffin didn’t experience over his two years with Corral, who started all 23 games in 2020 and 2021.

“We’d always like to have it figured out,” Kiffin said. “This is not ideal. Luke Altmyer will go first in this game. So that gives both guys an opportunity to go first. We’ll see how he plays.”

A native of Kaysville, Utah, Dart got the start Saturday in the Rebels’ 28-10 home win over Troy, but the numbers were modest. He went 18-for-27 for 154 yards (5.7 yards per attempt) with one touchdown and one interception.

In fact, the running game and defense decided the game against their Sun Belt foe.

In their first starts in the Ole Miss backfield, TCU transfer Zach Evans (20 carries for 130 yards) and true freshman Quinshon Judkins (14 for 87, one TD) led the Rebels’ ground attack that churned out 266 yards and three scores on 44 carries.

The victory was the Rebels’ 10th straight at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, their longest streak since winning 33 consecutive games from 1952 to 1964.

In its season opener at home last Thursday, Central Arkansas (0-1) — an FCS program in the ASUN Conference — fell behind 20-0 to Missouri State after three quarters and lost 27-14.

After UCA quarterback Will McElvain’s 12-yard run put the home side on the board, the Bears allowed Missouri State’s Montrae Braswell to go 98 yards on a kickoff return touchdown.

“I thought our defense played a whale of a game,” Bears head coach Nathan Brown said. “They held their offense to 20 points and held them to field goals. Just played really, really good all night. So I’m really encouraged in that aspect.”

The Bears ran the ball well in the loss, logging 168 yards on 41 carries (4.1 per rush).

Running back Darius Hale, the ASUN Freshman of the Year in 2021, compiled 99 yards on 18 carries (5.5 per rush). The sophomore rushed for 1,015 yards on 198 carries in 2021.

But run defense was an area of strength for Ole Miss, which shut down Troy for 60 yards on 33 attempts (1.8 per rush).

“We’ll get better from this,” Brown said. “The fun part about that is, you get to go play Ole Miss now. That’s a little bit of a daunting task, but again, one we’ll be excited about.”

–Field Level Media

Troy University quarterback Gunnar Watson (18) grasps the ball after the snap.

Troy Vs Eastern Kentucky

No. 21 Ole Miss unsettled as opener with Troy arrives

Ole Miss still hasn’t named a starting quarterback.

But Troy has.

The No. 21 Rebels are still searching for the successor to Matt Corral as they prepare to host the Trojans in the season opener for both teams Saturday afternoon.

Corral helped lead Ole Miss to its first 10-win regular season in school history last season before moving on to the Carolina Panthers as a third-round draft choice.

The battle to start this season has been between USC transfer Jaxson Dart and Luke Altmyer, who was a backup as a freshman last season and replaced an injured Corral in the Rebels’ Sugar Bowl loss to Baylor in January.

Ole Miss finished preseason camp with a “mock game” but, when the Rebels entered game week, head coach Lane Kiffin still didn’t have a decision.

“We haven’t even discussed a timeline as coaches because no one has emerged at all,” Kiffin said.

Kiffin said that once he makes a decision he expects to stick with that player and not play both against the FCS Trojans, but added that was “not etched in stone.”

Ole Miss was one of the most active teams in the country in utilizing the transfer portal during the offseason.

The presence of so many transfers has made it challenging for Kiffin to anticipate what to expect from his third Rebels team.

“This one’s a wild card because we’ve just got so many new players,” Kiffin said. “It’s constant coaching every day because everything is new to them. Usually your new players are coming from high school and 90 percent of them aren’t going to play, but we’ve got guys starting where everything is a first for them.”

Troy first-year coach Jon Sumrall had a complex quarterback competition of his own, but on Monday he named redshirt junior Gunnar Watson to start against Ole Miss.

Watson, a part-time starter for the Tronas each of the last two seasons, competed with transfer Peter Costelli and true freshman Tucker Kilcrease before former Western Kentucky starter Jarret Doege was an 11th-hour addition through the transfer portal.

“There’s something about having been through the battle and been through the fire,” Sumrall said. “We’re going to roll out with Gunnar to start the game. Doesn’t mean other guys won’t play, but Gunnar’s earned the opportunity to lead this team into Game 1 as a starter.”

Kiffin said it’s “challenging” preparing to open a season against a team with a new coaching staff. Sumrall was a defensive assistant at Kentucky for the last three seasons.

Sumrall was an assistant at Troy for three consecutive winnings seasons under Neal Brown from 2015-17. He takes over a program that had a losing record each of the last three seasons, leading to Chip Lindsey’s firing.

“We have our work cut out for us but we’re excited for the opportunity,” Sumrall said of facing the Rebels. “We get to go play in a great environment against a really high quality opponent, a ranked opponent, and a team that has won a lot of games the last couple of years.”

–Field Level Media