September 13, 2008

Eason emerges as clear No. 1

All week, Ole Miss' running game received the lion's share of the emphasis in practice.

First-year coach Houston Nutt wanted to see the Rebels get more physical up front and he wanted to see one of the three running backs separate himself from the pack.

Mission accomplished _ on both fronts, apparently _ in Ole Miss' 34-10 win over Samford Saturday night.

"I thought our offensive line was more physical," Nutt said. "I saw some running lanes I haven't seen. I really thought our guys got physical. …Walking off the field, I thought Cordera Eason really ran hard tonight. I thought he really ran behind his pads. He protected well for us. He's probably overall a little ahead of everybody. We've got to depend on him."

Eason had 68 yards on 13 carries against Samford. Brandon Bolden had 42 yards on eight carries and Enrique Davis had 36 yards on seven attempts. All three running backs scored a rushing touchdown.

"That makes me feel good, knowing that the head coach has confidence in me," Eason said. "He never gave up on me. The first two weeks probably wasn't what everybody was expecting and Coach Nutt still has faith in me. He tells me every day in practice, 'Keep pounding. Your day is going to come.' I just felt like I needed my first touchdown to get my feet wet."

Eason did have a fumble early in the game. Jason Cook pounced on it to prevent the turnover.

"I got carried away with the ball and didn't wrap it up like I'm supposed to," Eason said. "There was a huge hole. I was just looking to score and forgot about the ball."

REBELS GET INJURY SCARES Wide receiver/Wild Rebel quarterback Dexter McCluster left for the locker room in the second quarter, reportedly to have X-rays on his ribs. They apparently came back negative, as McCluster returned for the second half and caught a pass in the third quarter.

Offensive tackle John Jerry suffered a left leg injury with 24 seconds left in the first quarter, forcing offensive line coach Mike Markuson to insert Reid Neely into the lineup. Maurice Miller moved to right tackle. Darryl Harris switched sides and moved to right guard, opening a spot for Neely. Jerry missed two plays before returning, replacing Harris temporarily.

BREAUX GETS FIRST START: Ole Miss wide receiver Lionel Breaux started Saturday, marking the first start of his college career. Breaux, a sophomore, also had three catches, his first receptions at Ole Miss.

"I felt proud of myself," Breaux said. "It was a big step in my life. Last year I didn't get that many reps or get any balls. I'm glad Coach Nutt gave me a chance."

In addition to Breaux's emergence, freshman Andrew Harris and sophomore Markeith Summers were in on the third play of the game.

QUEASY MOMENT: Ole Miss' new $6 million video board is first rate and high-definition in every sense of the word. That only made the instant replays of Jeremy Richardson interception of a Jevan Snead pass with 1:17 left in the first quarter all the tougher to watch. Richardson returned the pick to the Ole Miss 13, setting up Samford's first score and the Bulldogs' 7-3 lead. However, Richardson, a 6-foot-2, 207-pound safety from Moss Point, Miss., suffered a severe knee injury at the tail end of the return, one that the video board showed in gruesome detail. Richardson was helped off the field and did not return.

PHILLIPS HIGHLIGHTS VISITOR LIST: Oxford (Lafayette), Miss., athlete Montez Phillips attended Ole Miss' practice on Thursday afternoon. Some 48 hours later, Phillips was back on the Ole Miss campus for the Rebels' game against Samford. Phillips' presence was noteworthy for a number of reasons. First, many of the state's top players were in Starkville for Mississippi State's Southeastern Conference clash against Auburn. Secondly, Phillips is a Mississippi State commitment, and his repeated trips to Ole Miss _ while much closer to his home than Starkville, obviously _ have to provide some reason for pause for the Bulldogs.

Ole Miss' guest list will be much longer next week when the Rebels entertain SEC foe Vanderbilt, but Saturday's had some interesting names. Louisville, Miss., quarterback Clayton Moore, who committed to the Rebels during the summer, was on campus again Saturday, as were Jackson, Miss., kicker Andrew Ritter and Itta Bena, Miss., offensive lineman Jonathan Henderson.

Oxford, Miss., tight end Dan Hicks, whose stock has jumped in recent weeks, was on campus checking out the hometown team, as was Southern Mississippi commitment Will Martin. The three-star inside linebacker from Madison, Miss., has been on the Rebels' radar for months.

REESE FEATURED CHEERLEADER: Ole Miss long jumper Brittany Reese, who had a strong showing at the Olympics last month in Beijing, led the pre-game Hotty Toddy cheer Saturday. Nutt was the guest cheerleader for the season opener against Memphis.

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