Oct 7, 2023; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Arkansas Razorbacks wide receiver Andrew Armstrong (2) runs after a catch as Mississippi Rebels defensive back Trey Washington (25) makes the tackle during the first half at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

No. 16 Ole Miss rallies for 27-20 win over Arkansas

Ulysses Bentley IV rushed for the go-ahead score in the fourth quarter as No. 16 Ole Miss rallied late for the second straight week and beat Arkansas, 27-20 Saturday night in Oxford, Miss.

After Arkansas (2-4, 0-3 SEC) took a 20-17 lead with 13 straight points in the second half, Bentley answered when he capped a 75-yard drive by dashing seven yards for a 24-20 lead at 7:49.

A 13-point favorite, Ole Miss (5-1, 2-1) got insurance from Cade Davis’ second field goal, from 22 yards, and a pick by John Saunders Jr. inside the final two minutes.

Jaxson Dart went 16-for-25 for 153 yards and a touchdown pass to Dayton Wade as the Rebels won for just the fourth time in the past 14 games against the Razorbacks.

Bentley carried 13 times for 94 yards, and Quinshon Judkins had 65 yards on 18 carries with a TD. Jordan Watkins had seven catches for 86 yards for Ole Miss.

KJ Jefferson was 25 of 39 for 252 yards with a pair of touchdowns to Ty Washington (7 catches, 90 yards), but he tossed two interceptions as the Razorbacks lost for the fourth straight time.

On its first series of the game, Arkansas stunned the Rebels by converting a fourth-down play and eventually going up 7-0 on Jefferson’s three-yard pass to Washington to end a 15-play, 80-yard drive.

However, Dart got the Ole Miss offense in gear and moved them into place for Davis’ 27-yard field goal with 2:47 remaining in the opening quarter.

Ole Miss linebacker Ashanti Cistrunk’s 28-yard interception return set up a 3-yard drive on the next series, as Judkins took a direct snap and tallied from a yard out on fourth down.

Dart rounded out the low-scoring first half by flipping a forward pitch in the backfield to Wade, who worked his way six yards for a 17-7 advantage.

The Rebels’ fourth sack stopped a strong Arkansas drive to open the second half, but Cam Little boomed a 56-yard field goal. He added a 25-yarder to make it 17-13.

For the second time, Jefferson found Washington and hit the tight end to put his squad up for the first time — 20-17 — on a 17-yard score at 13:11 of the fourth.

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2023; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels quaterback Jaxson Dart (2) leaps over LSU Tigers defensive back Andre' Sam (14) during the second half at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Coming off thriller, No. 16 Ole Miss hosts Arkansas

Ole Miss rose four spots to No. 16 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll Sunday, but more than rankings are ascending for the Rebels.

Coach Lane Kiffin and his squad will try to add to last weekend’s incredible Southeastern Conference victory when Ole Miss (4-1, 1-1) hosts West Division foe Arkansas (2-3, 0-2) in Oxford, Miss.

This week’s game, however, will have a tough time topping last week’s offensive outpouring in a 55-49 instant-classic home victory over then-No. 13 LSU.

In that thriller, the Rebels rallied from a 49-40 deficit in the final 8:34, notching two touchdowns and denying a desperation 25-yard pass into the end zone by the Tigers on the last play.

Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart turned in his best outing of the season, completing 26 of 39 passes for 389 yards and a career-high four touchdowns to go with 50 rushing yards and a score.

By accounting for 439 yards and five TDs, Dart earned Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors in the SEC.

Ole Miss running back Quinshon Judkins topped the century mark for the first time in 2023 with 177 yards on 33 carries and scored one TD apiece via rushing and receiving.

However, in a night of Rebels mass production — 706 yards of it — the defense made consecutive stops for the win.

That resulted in the record crowd of 66,703 climbing from the stands, storming the field and eventually causing the school to receive a $100,000 SEC fine Sunday for violating the competition area policy.

Kiffin said after stopping LSU’s Jayden Daniels to clinch the big win that the attention will turn to Razorbacks 6-foot-3, 247-pound signal-caller KJ Jefferson.

“I think he gets bigger every year,” the fourth-year Rebels coach said Monday. “I mean, this guy is so hard to bring down and so challenging to play against. He always brings his great game against us also. We’ve got to tackle really well.”

The Razorbacks lost a 52-51 explosive matchup two years ago in Oxford that also came down to the final snap.

In that one, Jefferson (326 passing yards, three TDs) and running back Raheim “Rocket” Sanders (139 yards on 17 carries) had impressive outings as then-No. 13 Arkansas scored a touchdown on the final play of regulation to bring the deficit to one point.

However, a failed two-point pass intended for Treylon Burks while Jefferson was being pressured awarded the Rebels.

Last Saturday in his team’s 34-22 loss to Texas A&M, Jefferson’s offense managed just 174 yards, including his 48-yard TD pass to Andrew Armstrong in the closing minutes.

In Arkansas’ third straight setback, the Aggies’ pass rush harassed Jefferson and sacked him seven times for 41 yards.

“Everybody being on the same page: O-line, tight ends, running back, including myself to be able to transfer protection or know where the pressure is coming from,” Jefferson said of his squad’s needs. “Make sure everyone is on the same page. That’s what it boils down to, just communication up front.”

The Razorbacks defeated Ole Miss 42-27 last season at home as Sanders had career highs in rushing yards (232) and TDs (three).

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2023; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; LSU Tigers quarterback Jayden Daniels (5) runs with the ball as Mississippi Rebels linebacker Monty Montgomery (8) makes the tackle during the first half at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 Ole Miss wins 55-49 shootout over No. 13 LSU

Jaxson Dart threw four touchdown passes, including the game-winner with 39 seconds remaining, and No. 20 Ole Miss held off No. 13 LSU 55-49 in a wild back-and-forth SEC game Saturday night in Oxford, Miss.

The teams combined for 1,343 yards of offense.

Dart passed for 389 yards and ran for a touchdown for the Rebels (4-1, 1-1 SEC). He connected with Tre Harris, who finished with 153 receiving yards, for the winning score. Quinshon Judkins rushed for 177 yards and a touchdown and also caught a touchdown pass.

Jayden Daniels passed for 414 yards and four touchdowns, including three to Brian Thomas Jr., for the Tigers (3-2, 2-1). Thomas finished with eight catches for 124 yards and Malik Nabers Jr. racked up 102 yards receiving.

Daniels rushed 1 yard for a touchdown on the first possession of the second half to give the Tigers their first lead, 35-31.

Caden Davis’ 48-yard field goal got the Rebels within one point before Logan Diggs’ 12-yard touchdown run gave LSU a 42-34 lead at the end of the third quarter.

On the third play of the fourth quarter, Judkins ran 11 yards for a touchdown, but a failed 2-point conversion attempt left the Tigers with a two-point lead.

Daniels and Thomas teamed for a 34-yard touchdown to increase the lead to 49-40 with 8:34 remaining.

Dart’s 1-yard touchdown run pulled Ole Miss within 49-47 with 5:06 left, setting up the game-winning drive.

Daniels drove the Tigers to the Rebels’ 15 in the final seconds, but two false starts and two incompletions in the end zone preserved the win.

Dart’s 4-yard touchdown pass to Judkins and Ulysses Bentley IV’s 43-yard touchdown gave the Rebels a quick 14-0 lead.

Daniels’ 20-yard touchdown pass to Thomas cut the lead to 14-7.

After Dart’s 63-yard touchdown pass to Watkins, Daniels’ 55-yard run on the third play of the second quarter led to Diggs’ 1-yard touchdown run, trimming the lead to 21-14.

Dart threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Dayton Wade and Daniels responded with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Thomas to trim the lead to 28-21.

Davis’ 28-yard field goal increased the lead to 31-21 before Daniels’ touchdown pass to Kyren Lacy got the Tigers within 31-28 at halftime.

Ole Miss rushed for 317 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry as a team. LSU rushed for 223 yards at a clip of 6.0 per carry.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;   Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin looks on against the Tulane Green Wave during the first half at Yulman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

No. 13 LSU, No. 20 Ole Miss face off in search of statement win

No. 13 LSU is looking for improvement from its defense.

No. 20 Ole Miss is looking for improvement from its offense.

The Tigers (3-1, 2-0) and the Rebels (3-1, 0-1) will try to find the improvement they seek in an SEC game Saturday night in Oxford, Miss.

LSU has bounced back from a season-opening loss to Florida State with three straight victories, including back-to-back conference wins in the last two weekends. But in their most recent contest, the Tigers barely escaped with a 34-31 home victory over Arkansas last Saturday when Damian Ramos kicked a 20-yard field goal with five seconds remaining.

The Tigers couldn’t shake the Razorbacks, who scored 17 points on three second-half possessions before KJ Jefferson was intercepted on a desperation heave on the final play of the game.

“We have to do ordinary things extraordinarily well,” LSU coach Brian Kelly said of his defense. “We’re having a tendency of trying to chase too many plays on defense. We’re trying to make plays that are really not our plays to make and we just need to do our job. I think once we settle down, this can be a really good defense.”

The defense has a pretty good-sized margin for error thanks to the Tigers’ passing game — and more specifically quarterback Jayden Daniels, the SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week each of the last two weeks.

Daniels shared the honor two weeks ago with teammate Malik Nabers, who caught 13 of his passes for 239 yards and two touchdowns against Mississippi State. Nabers had two more touchdowns and 130 yards against Arkansas and Brian Thomas Jr. added two touchdowns and 133 yards.

“Nabers is getting a lot of attention (from defenses),” Kelly said. “You’ve got to be able to find other one-on-one matchups and Brian is capable of winning those matchups.”

Daniels had 320 yards with four touchdowns and one interception against the Razorbacks, a week after throwing for 361 yards and a pair of scores — along with running for two more TDs — against the Bulldogs.

Ole Miss’ offense was doing just fine as well, averaging more than 50 points per game through three nonconference games. But the Rebels struggled in a 24-10 loss at Alabama in their SEC opener last Saturday.

“We’ve got to get better,” Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin said of the offense, which had just 56 rushing yards among its 301 total yards against the Crimson Tide. “Got to coach better, involve different schemes, different things. Sometimes the running game is interesting. You’ll have these games, and then all of a sudden they’ll pop and you’ll have a bunch of explosive runs.

“We’ve just got to all go to work and figure out a way. It’s not like we’re a program that hasn’t ever ran the ball or hasn’t known how to run the ball. It would be really good to get back to that.”

The Rebels were 7-0 and ranked No. 7 in the country last season when LSU beat them 45-20 in Baton Rouge, La. Ole Miss went on to finish 8-5 while the Tigers won the SEC West.

Two years ago, Ole Miss rebounded from a 42-21 loss to Alabama to go to the Sugar Bowl.

“We’ve been in this situation,” Kiffin said. “Happened to be in the same situation two years ago. Went 3-0, went into Alabama and actually played a lot worse, ended up coming back from that game and going 10-2. Got a lot of football in front of us, and a huge one this week against, I would argue, maybe the hottest offense in the country.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 23, 2023; Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide quarterback Jalen Milroe (4) looks to pass against the Mississippi Rebels during the first quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Jalen Milroe returns with a bang to lift No. 13 Alabama over No. 15 Ole Miss

Jalen Milroe returned from a one-game benching to pass for 225 yards and a touchdown and No. 13 Alabama defeated No. 15 Ole Miss 24-10 in the SEC opener for both teams Saturday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Milroe, who completed 17 of 21 passes, was efficient except for one interception, and the Crimson Tide (3-1) shut down a Rebels offense that had averaged 52.7 points in three nonconference wins.

Jaxson Dart passed for 244 yards and rushed for a touchdown for the Rebels (3-1), who lost for the eighth consecutive time to their West division rival after rushing for just 56 yards.

On the second play of the second half, Milroe connected with Jermaine Burton for a 54-yard pass completion. The Tide reached the 5 and Will Reichard kicked a 23-yard field goal to give them a 9-7 lead.

The Rebels reached their own 49 before Dart’s deep pass was intercepted by Terrion Arnold, who returned 37 yards to the Alabama 41.

Six plays later Milroe threw a 33-yard touchdown pass to Amari Niblack, and Ty Simpson’s two-point conversion run gave the Tide a 17-7 lead.

Caden Davis kicked a 35-yard field goal with 34 seconds left to pull Ole Miss within 17-10 at the end of the third quarter.

Jase McClellan’s 8-yard touchdown run gave Alabama a 24-10 lead early in the fourth quarter. He finished with 105 yards on 17 rushes.

On Alabama’s first possession, Milroe had runs of 20 and 18 yards and pass completions of 8 and 6 yards, leading to Reichard’s 48-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

On the ensuing possession, Dart had 59 passing yards before running 10 yards for a touchdown that gave Ole Miss a 7-3 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The Tide got the ball at the Rebels 1 after blocking a punt, but a fumbled shotgun snap and two sacks led Milroe to lose 13, 4 and 4 yards. Reichard’s 40-yard field goal trimmed Ole Miss’ lead to 7-6 at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Sep 16, 2023; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) reacts with running back Jam Griffin (8) after a touchdown during the first half against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

Jaxson Dart leads No. 17 Ole Miss past Georgia Tech

Jaxson Dart rushed for 136 yards and two touchdowns and also threw a touchdown pass as No. 17 Ole Miss defeated Georgia Tech 48-23 in a nonconference game Saturday night in Oxford, Miss.

Dart passed for 251 yards and the Rebels (3-0) gained 299 yards on the ground after gaining just 232 in their first two games combined.

Haynes King completed 28 of 41 passes for 310 yards for the Yellow Jackets (1-2).

On Ole Miss’ first possession of the second half, Ulysses Bentley IV rushed 21 yards for a touchdown that extended the lead to 17-3.

Tech then threw an incomplete pass out of punt formation, giving the Rebels a first down at the Yellow Jackets’ 28. Five plays later Dart ran 6 yards for a touchdown and a 24-3 lead.

King ran 1 yard for a touchdown that pulled Tech within 24-10 with 2:07 remaining in third quarter, then threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to Eric Singleton Jr. to make it a seven-point deficit with 10:31 remaining in the game.

But Ole Miss ended any thoughts of a comeback with scores on its next three possessions: Caden Davis kicked a 45-yard field goal, Dart connected with Jordan Watkins for a 68-yard score and Quinshon Judkins added a 1-yard touchdown run. Watkins finished with 119 yards on four catches.

After King’s 14-yard touchdown pass to Avery Boyd with 1:34 left, Matt Jones ran 36 yards for an Ole Miss score with 49 seconds left to cap the scoring.

Ole Miss scored on the first possession of the game with Davis connecting on a 47-yard field goal.

The Yellow Jackets drove into position to try a tying 43-yard field goal on the ensuing possession, but Zxavian Harris blocked Aidan Birr’s kick and the Rebels took over at the Tech 34.

Eight plays later Dart ran 1 yard for a touchdown that extended the lead to 10-0.

The teams turned it over downs on the following two drives — the Yellow Jackets turned the ball over on downs at the Ole Miss 2 and the Rebels did the same on the Georgia Tech 5.

Birr’s 22-yard field goal trimmed the lead to 10-3, which is where the game stood at halftime.

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;   Mississippi Rebels wide receiver Tre Harris (9) catches a pass for a touchdown against the Tulane Green Wave during the first half at Yulman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

Report: Ole Miss WR Tre Harris out, RB Quinshon Judkins doubtful

No. 17 Ole Miss will be without injured wide receiver Tre Harris while leading rusher Quinshon Judkins is doubtful for the home game Saturday night against Georgia Tech, ESPN reported.

Harris, the Rebels’ leading receiver, sustained an apparent knee injury in the victory over Tulane last week and was seen wearing a knee brace on the sideline. Ole Miss did not comment on his availability.

A transfer from Louisiana Tech, Harris scored touchdowns on his first three receptions to tie a school record and totaled four to break the single-game mark in his debut in a 73-7 rout of Mercer on Sept. 2.

The senior has eight receptions for 188 yards and five touchdowns in two games.

Judkins has an upper body injury that limited him in practice this week and he might not play, coach Lane Kiffin told ESPN.

Judkins, a sophomore, has 31 carries for 108 yards and three touchdowns, along with five receptions for 43 yards in two games.

He was voted All-Southeastern Conference first team in 2022, when he led the league in rushing yards (1,567), yards per game (120.5), rushing touchdowns (16) and total touchdowns (17).

Ole Miss already has played this season without tight end Caden Prieskorn, a transfer from Memphis, and receiver Zakhari Franklin, a transfer from UTSA, because of injuries.

–Field Level Media

Ole Miss Head Coach Lane Kiffin speaks at the 2023 SEC Football Kickoff Media Days at the Nashville Grand Hyatt on Broadway, Thursday, July 20, 2023.

DeSanto Rollins sues Ole Miss, Lane Kiffin over handling of mental health issues

Ole Miss defensive tackle DeSanto Rollins is suing football coach Lane Kiffin and the university for failure to provide equal protection, racial and sexual discrimination and other allegations, according to multiple media reports.

In a lawsuit filed Thursday in a U.S. District Court, Rollins said Kiffin kicked him off the team in March for missing practices and meetings while he was facing mental health issues. Those issues, Rollins contends, came as a result of numerous injuries in his career and an alleged demotion to the scout team as an offensive lineman.

Rollins is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages, a temporary restraining order and an injunction re-instating him.

Rollins, who is Black, alleges that Kiffin took action against him “on account of race for requesting and taking a mental health break, but not taking adverse action against white student athletes (for similar reasons),” per the lawsuit.

Rollins also alleges sexual discrimination, stating the university has not taken “adverse action against female student-athletes (on the volleyball and softball teams) for requesting and taking a mental health break.”

The university said Thursday night that it had not received the lawsuit.

“DeSanto was never removed from the football team and remains on scholarship,” Ole Miss wrote in a statement Thursday to ESPN. “In addition, he continues to have the opportunity to receive all of the resources and advantages that are afforded a student-athlete at the university.”

Kiffin declined to comment and deferred to the university’s statement.

In the lawsuit, Rollins said his injuries included a concussion in the spring of 2022 and an Achilles tendon that July that led to “severe depression, anxiety, frustration, embarrassment, humiliation, a loss of sleep and loss of appetite.”

Rollins was not provided with materials about mental health or a referral after the injury, according to the lawsuit. He returned to practice, only to aggravate a previous ligament injury in his left knee.

He said he was pressured by defensive line coach Randall Joyner to enter the transfer portal in a Nov. 28, 2022 meeting and he declined.

After Rollins’ grandmother died on Jan. 6, he “continued to suffer severe depression,” per the lawsuit.

He said he was moved from defensive tackle to scout team offensive line, with Kiffin telling him in February that “if he didn’t like it, then he should quit,” according to the lawsuit.

Rollins told the coach he was taking a mental health break. He met on Feb. 28 with Josie Nicholson, the school’s assistant athletic director for sport psychology, who encouraged him to take time off.

Rollins said Joyner told him March 1 that Kiffin wanted to meet with him. At a March 7 meeting with Nicholson, Rollins said he wasn’t ready at the time.

He met with Kiffin on March 21, recording the meeting, according to the lawsuit. Their conversation became confrontational, with Kiffin allegedly saying, “Get out of here. Go, you’re off the team. You’re done. See ya. Go.

“We can kick you off the team for not showing up. When the head coach asks to meet with you and you don’t show up for weeks, we can remove you from the team.”

In the lawsuit, Rollins cited a “mental impairment” for being kicked off the team due to a mental health disability, which the lawsuit says is covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Rollins, 21, is an honor student on pace to graduate with a degree in general business in December. A redshirt junior, the native of Baton Rouge, La., played in two games in 2022 and one in 2021 at defensive line.

Kiffin spoke during the SEC Football Media Days in July in Nashville about Ole Miss establishing mandatory mental health training for all coaches and players.

“This mental health area is not in that old-school coaching book at all,” Kiffin said. “It was, ‘Hey, shut up and go practice and play,’ especially in the sport of football. Just over the years in going through so many mental health issues with our players and coaches and not having tools or a good system in place — besides just sending them across campus to a mental health specialist.

“I was excited to do (training) with that and excited for the education with that,” he added. “The ability to see things and help our players is really neat. They just go through so much.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 9, 2023; New Orleans, Louisiana, USA;  Mississippi Rebels running back Quinshon Judkins (4) rushes against Tulane Green Wave defensive back DJ Douglas (12) during the second half at Yulman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports

No. 17 Ole Miss promises ground and pound vs. Georgia Tech

Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is dissatisfied with his team’s running game.

The No. 17 Rebels are 2-0 but rushed for a total of just 232 yards in beating Mercer at home and then-No. 24 Tulane on the road.

Kiffin said he’s “highly concerned” about getting the running game going in Ole Miss’ game against nonconference foe Georgia Tech on Saturday night in Oxford, Miss.

“It’s very unusual for us,” Kiffin said. “It takes everybody to have a really good running game. We definitely look to improve there. That’s a major issue and one that I don’t think anybody would’ve guessed.”

The Rebels didn’t lean on the running game a whole lot while they were passing for 524 yards in the opener, but they tried to be more balanced against Tulane, and the Green Wave held them to 89 yards on 35 rushes.

“(Tulane) did a great job,” Kiffin said. “They played really hard, extremely hard, and we did not adjust very well and match their intensity, in my opinion, up front.”

Kiffin said it’s only natural for opponents to be more focused on Ole Miss’ running game after Quinshon Judkins rushed for 1,567 yards and 16 touchdowns – both school records — as a freshman a year ago.

The mostly ineffective running game contributed to the Rebels converting just 1 of 13 third downs against Tulane, though they were 3-for-3 on fourth down.

Kiffin said it’s possible “our players took them for granted” when they discovered during pregame warmups that Green Wave quarterback Michael Pratt wouldn’t play because of a knee injury.

But Ole Miss finished the game on a 30-3 run.

If the players did take Tulane lightly, Kiffin hopes they learned a lesson as they prepare to play a Yellow Jackets team that they beat 42-0 on the road last season.

Tech (1-1) bounced back from a 39-34 home loss to Louisville in the season opener to rout visiting FCS opponent South Carolina State 48-13 last Saturday.

Yellow Jackets first-year head coach Brent Key worked alongside Kiffin on the Alabama staff in 2016 and Kiffin said this week that he once tried to hire Key.

“You can look at (the stats) and say they’re not running the ball,” Key said of the Rebels. “Yeah, right. Here’s what I know about Lane Kiffin: he’s going to run the football. You can rest assured he’s going to do everything he can to get that guy (Judkins) going this week. We’ve got to be balanced in what we do on defense.”

As for the Jackets’ offense, Haynes King threw for 290 yards and four touchdowns and Jamal Haynes rushed for 113 yards last Saturday.

Key praised King, who played three seasons at Texas A&M before arriving at Tech as a graduate transfer this season, for his “command of the offense and command of the field.”

He said King and his teammates will be prepared for a road challenge in SEC country.

“(It’s not just) knowing just what he has to do, (but) knowing the other talent on the offense and the 11 on defense,” Key said. “He has big-game experience, big-game road experience. He’s not going to be rattled by any means. We’ve got a lot of experience on the offensive side. They understand how to operate in that environment.”

–Field Level Media

Sep 2, 2023; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels quarterback Jaxson Dart (2) passes the ball during the first half against the Mercer Bears at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

No. 20 Ole Miss faces early challenge at No. 24 Tulane

The SEC hasn’t decided whether to expand its league schedule from eight games to nine beyond next season.

But as far as Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin is concerned, the Rebels have the equivalent of a nine-game SEC schedule this season.

The No. 20 Rebels (1-0) will face No. 24 Tulane (1-0) in a non-conference game Saturday afternoon in New Orleans.

“This is really a test of a nine-game SEC schedule,” Kiffin said, “because this is an SEC football team with that type of talent.

“They were able to beat the Heisman Trophy winner a few games ago. Going on the road is always challenging, especially with a new team. We’ll have our hands full.”

Ole Miss began the season with a 73-7 romp against outmanned Mercer last Saturday. Incumbent starter Jaxson Dart, who battled Oklahoma State transfer Spencer Sanders and LSU transfer Walker Howard in preseason camp, passed for 334 yards and four touchdowns before leaving in the middle of the third quarter.

That led Kiffin to officially name Dart the starter going into the game against the Green Wave.

“He had a really good camp and spring, and so he’s the starting quarterback,” Kiffin said of Dart.

Kiffin extended the quarterback competition into the first game, which he called “an evaluation game.”

“This is not an evaluation game,” Kiffin said of Tulane. “Going on the road for the first time with this team into one of the hottest teams in the country and probably the hottest quarterback in the country. I would actually like another evaluation game, but that is certainly not what this is.”

The Rebels beat the visiting Green Wave 61-21 two years ago, and Tulane went on to finish 2-10.

But last season the Green Wave finished 12-2, won the American Athletic Conference title and beat Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams and Southern California 46-45 in the Cotton Bowl in January.

Tulane started this season with a 37-17 home victory last Saturday against South Alabama, which was 10-3 a year ago.

Michael Pratt, who completed all but one of his 15 passes for 294 yards and four touchdowns, was named the AAC Offensive Player of the Week. He also tied Patrick Ramsey’s school record for career touchdown passes (72).

“I’m not really worried about all the external stuff,” Pratt said. “When you prepare the way you’re supposed to prepare and you execute and do your job, those types of things come. But all I’m really worried about is helping my team win.”

The Green Wave won its final four games last season and carried the momentum from the Cotton Bowl victory and last season’s overall success into the season opener. They were ranked in the AP preseason poll for the first time this season.

“Last year is over and done with,” defensive back Lance Johnson said. “We want to write new history with this new team, and that was a big emphasis. We don’t really look at rankings. We’re not really focused on that. We just focus on every day, every rep, and if we do that, everything is going to be fine.”

–Field Level Media