Rebels know now is time to win
By By Tony Krausz / assistant sports editor
July 31, 2003
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. Now is the time.
That was the message that Ole Miss head football coach David Cutcliffe delivered Wednesday at the SEC Football Media Days.
After three consecutive years of seven-win seasons, the program is looking to get over the final hump and start challenging for conference and national titles.
Leading the charge for the Rebels is Eli Manning.
The heavily decorated Rebel quarterback is entering his final season, and once again, he will be looking to live up to the hype.
Ole Miss will try to relieve some pressure on Manning by providing the fifth-year senior a running game this season.
The Rebels averaged 94.3 running yards per game last year.
running back play," Cutcliffe said. "We're fast and we can throw it. I've been in this league a long time, and if you're not as physical as everybody else you play you will have a hard time winning."
The running game isn't just on the coach's mind on the offensive side of the ball.
After giving up 2.080 yards to opponents on the ground last season, the Rebels will be fighting the perception that it can't stop ground attacks.
Ole Miss' defense will start the 2003 campaign with not just the goal of stopping the run in mind, but the unit will finally be playing inside the same system for a second straight year.
Another thing that will not change for the Rebels this season is the low-key Heisman Trophy push for Manning. Once again, there will not be a billboard set up in New York like Oregon boosters did for Joey Harrington two years ago.
Archie Manning, a two-time Heisman finalist, nixed the school's planned Heisman campaign before last season but relented this year so long as it's not too elaborate.
Manning, whose brother Peyton lost the Heisman Trophy race in his final year at Tennessee, said the end of the year award is not his focus going into his final season at Ole Miss.
The pressure for the upcoming season will be for the experienced senior class to finally get over the hump.
The Rebels road map through the 2003 season looks a little easier than last year when the team finished with four of its last six games away from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
While Ole Miss will begin its season with back-to-back road trips beginning with a SEC match up at Vanderbilt to start the year and than a Sept. 6 date with Memphis, the Rebels will close the season playing five of their last seven at home.