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Ole Miss defense steps up to the plate

By By Joey Vaughan / special to The Star
Oct. 6, 2002
OXFORD The Ole Miss defense came through with its best performance in ages in the Rebels' 17-14 win over No. 6 Florida Saturday, thanks in no small part to the return of senior captain Eddie Strong.
Strong, a linebacker and the unquestioned leader of the defense, had played only a few snaps in the Texas Tech game after suffering an ankle sprain in preseason drills. He finally came back 100 percent against the Gators, finishing with six tackles, including the Rebels only sack, for a 13-yard loss. On the afternoon, Strong was credited with 2.5 tackles for loss.
Strong's sack was huge, coming on a fourth and 13 from the Ole Miss 31 late in the fourth quarter. But it wasn't the only time he tore into Rex Grossman, who was smacked around all afternoon, which contributed to some of his four interceptions.
Strong sees his team's win over Florida as a wake-up call to the rest of the country, and even the conference. The Rebels have been flying under the radar after a loss to Texas Tech and a not-so-impressive win over Vanderbilt.
Manning notes: Rebel quarterback Eli Manning threw for 154 yards against the Gators, a new career low. It was the first game Manning has started in which he didn't throw a touchdown pass, breaking a school-record streak of 16 games. Oddly enough, Ole Miss has won all three games this year in which Manning has thrown for less than 200 yards.