Oct. 24—OXFORD — Few things excite Ole Miss fans more than talking about E-L-I unless it's a W-I-N over L-S-U.
The Rebels celebrated one of their greatest quarterbacks ever Saturday and did it with a dominant 31-17 win over hated rival LSU.
Eli Manning kept his remarks brief at halftime, thanking the people who are special in his life and speaking about the feeling he'll have seeing his No. 10 retired and attached in upper corner of the southwest end zone along with his dad, Archie, and with Chucky Mullins.
He ended with a Hotty Toddy.
The Rebels were in good shape then, leading 17-7 against an LSU team that last Sunday announced it was firing its coach, Ed Orgeron.
Orgeron went just 3-21 in SEC games while coach at Ole Miss but was 5-0 against the Rebels as LSU coach.
The game wasn't always breeze.
The Ole Miss offense got off to an uncharacteristic slow start.
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The Rebels were in danger of falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter with LSU at the Ole Miss 3 on fourth down when Tysheem Johnson picked off Max Johnson and stepped out of bounds — at the 1.
Field position aside Ole Miss dodged the bullet and gained things just as valuable as ball possession — momentum and confidence.
Soon the offense was making plays. The defense followed suit.
Ole Miss fans were able to do something they rarely do at the end of this game, and that's relax in the fourth quarter with the knowledge that everything's going to be OK.
There were no nerves on edge for a team that's won on the last play of the game for the last two weeks.
The Rebels' performance pumped life into Eli Manning's day.
Ole Miss announced more than a year and a half ago that it would retire Eli's number. Fan-less football with COVID 19 made it an easy decision to push back the celebration.
The result was that this Ole Miss team is now in its second year under Lane Kiffin and is much better than it was a year ago, much more reminiscent of Eli's 2003 team that played LSU with a chance to make the SEC championship game — assuming one more win — on the line.
Eli deserved this performance on his day.
Ole Miss needed this performance on his day.
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It wasn't always clean. There were way too many penalties but fewer dropped passes than last week as Matt Corral threw passes to guys like freshman JJ Henry and Jadon Jackson while playmakers Jonathan Mingo and Braylon Sanders are out.
The defense improved from poor against Arkansas to adequate against Tennessee to something more against LSU as it forced three turnovers.
The Rebels, imperfect but potent, are capable of winning the remaining games on their schedule, not easily of course, but what is?
If they do they could be just one Alabama upset loss from being back in that rare championship game mix.
The Rebels in Atlanta might even get a few more words out of Eli.
PARRISH ALFORD is the college sports editor and columnist for the Daily Journal. Contact him at email@example.com.