Game primer: football squares off against UCA
Published 3:01 pm Friday, September 9, 2022
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
• This will be just the second all-time meeting between Ole Miss and Central Arkansas … The Rebels defeated the Bears 49-27 in 2012, but the win was vacated due to NCAA ruling.
• Ole Miss is 158-92-7 (.628 winning pct.) all-time during the month of September after vacated wins.
• Dating back to Nov. 14, 2020, the Rebels have won 10 straight home games, the longest winning streak in Oxford since winning 33 straight contests from 1952 to 1964.
• The Rebels return 45 letterwinners from a 2021 team that registered the first 10-win regular season in school history.
• A total of 27 different Rebels made their Ole Miss debuts Saturday vs. Troy.
• Nine Rebels made their first start during Ole Miss’ season opener vs. the Trojans.
• The Rebels rank No. 9 in FBS in sacks per game (4.0) and No. 12 in tackles for loss per game (10.0).
• LB Khari Coleman tallied 5.0 tackles for loss Saturday vs. Troy … It was just the third time since 1999 that a Rebel has tallied five or more tackles for loss in a single game.
• Coleman leads the SEC and ranks No. 5 nationally with 2.0 sacks per game.
• Zach Evans, Quinshon Judkins and Jaxson Dart all averaged better than six yards per carry against Troy in the season opener.
• WR Jonathan Mingo needs 177 more receiving yards to surpass the 1,000-yard plateau for his career.
• DT KD Hill was awarded the Chucky Mullins Courage Award and will wear No. 38 throughout the 2022 season.
• Against Troy, K Jonathan Cruz sent all five kickoffs into the endzone for touchbacks.
OLE MISS HEAD COACH LANE KIFFIN
Lane Kiffin (Fresno State, 1998) is in his third season at Ole Miss and helped lead the Rebels to back-to-back bowl appearances in his first two years in Oxford. Kiffin guided the Rebels to a 10-3 record in 2021, the first 10-win regular season in school history. That included a perfect 7-0 mark at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, part of an ongoing 10-game home win streak for Kiffin’s teams. The Rebels finished the season ranked No. 11 in both the AP and AFCA Coaches Poll; its highest final ranking since 2016. Ole Miss ranked top-20 in the FBS in nine different offensive categories in his first season, including having the No. 3 team in the country in total offense, shattering the school record with 555.5 yards per game. Kiffin is in his 11th year at the NCAA level and has posted an all-time record of 76-42. In December 2016, Kiffin took over an FAU program that had won a total of nine combined games over the previous three seasons. Kiffin proceeded to take the Owls to new heights over the last three years, including two conference titles and two 10-win seasons. In his head coaching stops at USC, Tennessee and FAU, Kiffin has shown a propensity in helping turn programs around. Kiffin graduated from Fresno State in 1998 after playing quarterback for three seasons (1994-96) for the Bulldogs. He began his coaching career as a student assistant at Fresno State under Pat Hill in 1997 and 1998.
He moved on to Colorado State in 1999 as a graduate assistant.
CENTRAL ARKANSAS HEAD COACH NATHAN BROWN
Nathan Brown enters his fifth season at the helm of Central Arkansas, having spent the entirety of his 14-year coaching career with his alma mater. Prior to being named head coach of the Bears, Brown served as UCA’s quarterbacks coach for five seasons before being promoted to the team’s offensive coordinator for four seasons. Since taking over as the team’s head coach, Brown has helped lead the Bears to a 25-20 record, including a 9-4 season (7-2 Southland) in 2019 in which UCA would claim co-conference champion honors and the No. 8 national seed in the 2019 FCS Playoffs. It marked just the fifth playoff appearance in program history for the Bears. Central Arkansas comes off of a 2021 season that saw the Bears finish with a 5-6 record overall, with Brown’s offense ranking 11th in the FCS in scoring (34.5), 16th in passing offense (280.6) and 22nd in total offense (422.5). The team’s success under Brown dates back to his first season as head coach for the Bears in 2018, where he led UCA to recording the No. 2 rush defense (111.5), No. 3 scoring defense (26.1) and No. 4 scoring offense (30.5) in the Southland Conference en route to a 6-5 record. Prior to his coaching career, Brown saw a prolific playing career at quarterback for the Bears from 2004-09 in which Brown was a three-time All-American. Brown remains UCA’s all-time leader in passing yards (10,558 yards) and passings TDs (100).
BEAR SCOUTING REPORT
Central Arkansas comes into Vaught-Hemingway at 0-1 on the season following a 27-14 loss to Missouri State. Following a 5-6 record in 2021, the Bears return a roster of both new and old playmakers on both sides of the ball, with UCA bringing in a crop of 45 newcomers to join the 74 players returning for the 2022 season. Running back Darius Hale, who earned Freshman All-America honors last year, tallied 1,015 rushing yards on 198 carries alongside 17 rushing TDs on the year. While the team loses 2021 starting quarterback Breylin Smith, Northern Iowa transfer Will McElvain is waiting in the wings to take over as the new leader of the UCA offense. McElvain leaves UNI having set the school’s freshman passing record in 2019, throwing for 2,778 yards and 20 touchdowns and receiving a spot on Phil Steele’s 2019 Freshman All-America Third Team. Also returning to the Bears’ is senior offensive line standout Jaylin Hendrix, who comes off of earning 2021 All-ASUN honors for his work in the trenches in front of Hale. The defensive side of the ball for UCA is highlighted by the return of both junior defensive end Logan Jessup and sophomore defensive back Tamuarion Wilson, who were each 11-game starters and All-ASUN honorees for the Bears during the 2021 season.
OLE MISS IN SEPTEMBER
• Ole Miss is 158-92-7 (.628 winning pct.) all-time during the month of September after vacated wins.
• Ole Miss is 101-35-3 (.737 winning pct.) in September home games (including contests played in Memphis and Jackson).
• The Rebels are 76-22-2 (.765 winning percentage) in September games played in Oxford after vacated wins.
• Ole Miss is 111-41-6 (.722 winning pct.) all-time versus non-conference opponents during the month.
The Ole Miss roster features three players who hail from Arkansas: LB Andrew Griffith (Bentonville), DL Trip White (Little Rock), OL Jayden Williams (Conway).
HOME SWEET HOME
Dating back to Nov. 14, 2020, the Rebels have won 10 straight home contests, tied for sixth amongst Power 5 schools. It marks the longest winning streak in Oxford since winning 12 straight games from Nov. 5, 1960 to Nov. 7, 1964. A tie to LSU in 1960 broke up the winning streak. With the tie, the Rebels went unbeaten for 34 games over the course of 12 years (1952-64). Ole Miss finished the 2021 campaign with a perfect 7-0 home record, its first undefeated season at home (on the field) since 1992 when the Rebels finished 6-0 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Records show Ole Miss as 5-0 at home in 1993, but the Alabama victory was by way of forfeit due to NCAA rules violation by the Crimson Tide. Alabama defeated the Rebels 19-14 on Oct. 22 of that year. Last year was also the first time that Ole Miss has won seven on-campus games within the same season.
Ole Miss will honor the legacy of four-year letterwinner Luke Knox (2018-21) during halftime Saturday vs. Central Arkansas. Knox passed away suddenly last month at the age of 22. The Brentwood, Tennessee, native had recently enrolled at Florida International and was again under the tutelage of former Ole Miss defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre. Knox’s parents, David and Rachel, along with siblings Dawson, LJ, Nate and Isaiah, will be on hand for the ceremony. The hash marks at 16-yard line will also be painted red in honor of Knox.
TCU transfer Khari Coleman registered 5.0 tackles for loss during Ole Miss’ season-opening win over Troy. Coleman became just the third Rebel since 1999 to tally five or more TFLs in a single game. Mark Robinson registered 5.0 TFLs last season and Kendrick Clancy had 6.0 in 1999. Coleman earned Freshman All-America accolades in 2020 after a stellar freshman campaign for the Horned Frogs. Coleman ranked second in the Big 12 and seventh nationally with 15.0 tackles for loss as a true freshman on his way to being named the Big 12 Co-Defensive Freshman of the Year. The 10.0 tackles for loss were the most by any SEC team in their season opener and are the in an Ole Miss opening game since 2014.
NEW REBS HIT THE FIELD
A total of 28 different Rebels made their Ole Miss debut Saturday vs. Troy: LB Tyler Banks (first career), RB Ulysses Bentley IV, OL Mason Brooks, LB Troy Brown, LB Khari Coleman, K Jonathan Cruz, QB Jaxson Dart, RB Zach Evans, DT Zxavian Harris (first career), WR Malik Heath, CB Davison Igbinosun (first career), DE Jared Ivey, S Dashaun Jerkins, RB Quinshon Judkins (first career), WR Jalen Knox, P Fraser Masin (first career), DT JJ Pegues (first career), OL Micah Pettus (first career), LB John Porchivina (first career), WR Jaylon Robinson, CB Jarell Stinson (first career), S Ladarius Tennison, TE Michael Trigg, WR Dayton Wade, WR Jordan Watkins, CB Demarko Williams (first career), OL Jayden Williams (first career), RB Isheem Young.
A FRESH START
Nine Rebels made their first start at Ole Miss on Saturday: Troy Brown (LB), Jaxson Dart (QB), Zach Evans (RB), Malik Heath (WR), Davison Igbinosun (CB), Jaylon Robinson (WR), Michael Trigg (TE), Jayden Williams (WR), Isheem Young (S). Prior to Ole Miss, Brown had 30 starts at Central Michigan, Young 21 at Iowa State, Evans eight at TCU, Heath nine at Mississippi State, Robinson six at UCF, Dart three starts at USC.
EX-ZACH-LY WHAT WAS NEEDED
Zach Evans, a running back transfer from TCU, led the Ole Miss rushing attack in the Rebels’ season opener with 20 carries for 130 yards, including a long of 46 yards. Evans added 22 receiving yards for 152 all-purpose yards vs. Troy. His 152 all-purpose yards were the second-most in the last 10 seasons by a Rebel making their debut. The only other player to register more all-purpose yards in their first game was Scottie Phillips in 2018 (204, vs. Texas Tech).
Dating back to last season’s game against Liberty Ole Miss has held six straight opponents to 21 or fewer points. It is the longest active streak among Power 5 teams and the longest streak by any Ole Miss team since a streak of seven straight games in 2014. The Rebel defense held Troy to 60 yards rushing on 33 attempts last week. It was the fewest rushing yards by an Ole Miss opponent since the 2020 Egg Bowl in which the Rebels gave up only 39 yards.
Looking to replace 33 letterwinners, including 14 total starters, Kiffin and the Rebels turned to the transfer portal to help strengthen its roster for 2022. The Rebels brought in a total of 28 transfers, including 24 portal transfers that ranked No. 2 according to 247Sports. USC transfer QB Jaxson Dart was rated the No. 3 overall transfer and started three games in 2021 for the Trojans. RB Zach Evans was also ranked in the top 10 in 247Sports’ transfer rankings. Evans was ranked as the No. 2 running back and No. 8 overall player in the transfer portal. TE Michael Trigg was the third Rebel to be ranked as a top 20 transfer, rated as the No. 1 tight end and No. 19 overall player. 55 of the 124 players (44 percent) on the Rebel roster are newcomers and are in their first season at Ole Miss.
One of the most exciting factors of the talent on the Ole Miss roster would be the depth at the receiver position. Ole Miss will have to replace its leading receiver for the fifth consecutive season and must replace its top four reception leaders from a season ago. Even with so many new names added to the receiver roster, the relationships between the athletes have not let competition get in the middle of the purpose of the team: to win. Veteran Jonathan Mingo has started 26 games in his career and hauled in 22 catches for 346 yards and three TDs in 2021 after battling a foot injury early in the season. Transfers Jaylon Robinson, Malik Heath and Jordan Watkins all bring valuable collegiate experience that will help the Rebel offense.
KD HILL RECEIVES CHUCKY MULLINS COURAGE AWARD, WILL WEAR NO. 38
Ole Miss DT KD Hill was recently named the winner of the 2022 Chucky Mullins Courage Award. The award, sponsored by Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, honors the late Chucky Mullins, who had his Ole Miss career come to an end during the 1989 Homecoming game against Vanderbilt when he was paralyzed after making a tackle. After returning to his studies at Ole Miss, Mullins passed away May 6, 1991. A native of Eufaula, Alabama, Hill becomes the 32nd recipient in the 33-year history of the award. Hill will wear Mullins’ No. 38 number throughout the 2022 season. Hill has appeared in 35 career games for the Rebels, including 11 starts at nose tackle last season. The two-year starter for the Rebels registered 24 total tackles on the season in 2021, including two tackles for loss.
NEW FACES IN THE BACKFIELD
The Rebel running back position will look much different for the Rebels in 2022 as they look to replace some of the best to ever carry the football at Ole Miss. Both Jerrion Ealy and Snoop Conner have moved on to the professional game, while the No. 3 back, Henry Parrish Jr., is now at Miami. The trio combined for 1,968 yards and 21 touchdowns on the ground a year ago. Despite the losses, the Rebels have plenty of viable candidates to fill the void. TCU transfer Zach Evans seems set for the lead role in the room after running with the ones for the majority of camp. After that, the Rebel coaches will have some decisions to make with several talented runners and only one football to share between them. Ulysses Bentley IV brings more veteran experience to the room after transferring from SMU. True freshman Quinshon Judkins has impressed in fall campus and brings a powerful running attack to the field for the Rebels. Kentrel Bullock, the lone returning scholarship running back remaining from 2021, will also play an important role in the Ole Miss running game.
THE BIG MEN UP FRONT
Arguably one of the deepest positions for the Rebels in 2022 will be the offensive line. Preseason All-America selection Nick Broeker anchors a line for an Ole Miss offense that finished sixth in the FBS last season in total offense. Broeker played in every single snap for the Rebels and has started 23 straight games. Jeremy James and Caleb Warren also both return after starting 13 and 11 games respectively last season. Eli Acker, redshirt freshman Jayden Williams and WKU transfer Mason Brooks, Hamilton Hall, Cedric Melton and Reece McIntyre will all see time on the experienced o-line for the Rebels.
Many Rebels are transitioning from high school or life at another university, but Tywone Malone is making a different transition—from baseball back to football. Malone appeared in seven games for the Rebels on the baseball diamond, leading all non-starters with a .444 batting average and two home runs in just nine at-bats. While he wasn’t on the Rebels’ travel roster as they conquered Omaha and brought a national championship back home to Oxford, he certainly showed he has what it takes to compete on the diamond in the SEC, and now he’s back looking to prove the same on the gridiron.
Ole Miss has four players on its roster from outside the U.S., including two Canadian players (Jaden Dicks and Tavius Robinson ). Offensive lineman Tobias Braun (Germany) and punter Fraser Masin (Australia) round out the Rebels who add a little international flavor. Robinson appeared in 11 games last season for the Rebels and registered 28 total tackles, including 3.5 sacks.
KIFFIN’S WEEKLY RADIO SHOW ON THURSDAYS
RebTalk, the official weekly radio show of Ole Miss Athletics, will broadcast each Thursday this fall at Bouré in downtown Oxford from 6-7 p.m. The show, which is hosted by the “Voice of the Rebels” David Kellum and includes special guests, will air live on the Ole Miss IMG Sports Network. Ole Miss Football head coach Lane Kiffin and select players will join the broadcast each Thursday throughout the season.
SIX REBELS EARN PRESEASON ALL-SEC HONORS FROM COACHES
The Ole Miss football team landed six Rebels on the preseason All-Southeastern Conference team voted on by the 14 league head coaches. Nick Broeker (OL) and Jonathan Mingo (WR) were selected to the second team, while Zach Evans (RB), AJ Finley (S), Jeremy James (OL) and Cedric Johnson (DE) all earned third-team honors.
DEGREES IN HAND
Earning a degree from the University of Mississippi is one of the top priorities for Ole Miss student-athletes. Eight current Rebels have already accomplished that goal with eligibility remaining this fall: Jonathan Cruz (Psychology), Hamilton Hall (Integrated Marketing Communications), KD Hill (Exercise Science), Malik Heath (Interdisciplinary Studies), Dashaun Jerkins (Medicine Health & Society), Amani Johnson (Accountancy), Jaylon Robinson (Human Communications), Isaiah Woullard (Social Work).