Rebel defense steps into spotlight
By By Ryan Satcher / staff writer
Oct. 7, 2002
OXFORD The Ole Miss Rebel defense finally arrived on Saturday afternoon against the Florida Gators.
After having trouble with Vanderbilt two weeks earlier, it seemed the Rebels would have to depend on great offense to beat the Gators. It was the defense, however, that stepped up and made the big plays in the Rebel victory.
Few people believed that the Ole Miss defense would be able to stop the highly talented Florida offense and Heisman candidate quarterback Rex Grossman, but the Rebels put pressure on Grossman and forced him into mistakes.
The Rebels forced Grossman into four interceptions on the game. It was the first time Ole Miss has intercepted four passes in game since 1998. Grossman finished the game 19-for-44 and threw for only 205 yards against two new starting cornerbacks. Travis Blanchard and redshirt freshman Travis Johnson made their first starts of the year and stepped up for Ole Miss.
Johnson came through with an interception in the first half while Blanchard came up with a huge interception to seal the victory in the fourth quarter.
The defense came through with big plays every time the Rebels needed them which relieved the Ole Miss offense.
The Ole Miss offense stumbled a bit in the game with the Gators, but the Rebel defense came through with big points. After Ole Miss turned the ball over on downs at the one-yard line, Josh Cooper pressure Grossman in the end zone and forced him into an intentional grounding and a safety. It was the first Ole Miss safety since 2000.
An interception return for a touchdown by Matt Grier gave the team a defensive touchdown and an earlier interception by Grier set up the only Rebel offensive touchdown of the game.