Eli Manning shows no signs of rust
By By Carver Rayburn / Staff writer
March 30, 2003
OXFORD Eli Manning only needed about two and a half quarters to show the rest of the team he is still the man at Ole Miss, as the Manning-led Blue squad crushed the Red team 49-7.
Manning connected on 14-of-20 pass attempts for 233 yards and four touchdown passes to four different receivers before an estimated 15,000 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday night.
Backup sophomore quarterback Michael Spurlock took over for Manning on the Blue team in the third quarter and looked impressive, as well. Spurlock completed 4-of-5 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns.
The annual spring game got under way with both teams looking a little rusty.
The platform of the scrimmage was first teamers against the rest of the football squad.
Manning and the Blue team were stopped by the Red team defense and forced to punt in their first possession.
After a 49-yard Cody Ridgeway punt, the Red team started into what turned out to be a common practice and stalled and punted the ball back to the Red team.
Meridian native Wesley Bryan punted the ball six times for the red team, with a long of 40 yards and an average of 35.3
Another Meridian native that was in the spotlight was at the reception end of Manning's dart passes across the middle.
Sophomore wide receiver Mario Hill led the Blue team in receptions with four for 62 yards, including a 22-yard strike in the first half.
Ole Miss head coach David Cutcliffe was impressed with the way the former Wildcats wide receiver played. "Mario missed most of the year last season and got behind because of injuries," Cutcliffe said. "He is one of our most improved players. He has made a lot of progress. I call it taking advantage of the situation. We have had a lot of receivers miss practice time due to track or injury, and Mario never missed a beat. He hyper-extended his elbow and was hurt but never missed a practice, and I have definitely taken notice of that."
The most impressive of Manning's four touchdown passes came in the third quarter.
After four straight rushes by senior running back Tremaine Turner for a total of 20 yards, Manning found senior wide receiver Chris
Collins on a fly route for a 45-yard touchdown strike that put the red team up 28-0.
Manning relinquished his duties as quarterback after the touchdown drive.
Turner finished with 13 carries for 43 yards, but he was outdone by sophomore Vashon Pearson, who finished with 83.
Manning said he was pleased with the way he played and the Rebels' offense performed.
The Rebels' defense did its job and only allowed a late touchdown to red team quarterback Ethan Flatt on a naked bootleg that allowed Flatt to walk into the end zone.
The red team produced 129 yards of total offense compared to 489 from the blue team.