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Ole Miss Looks to Returners for Guidance in Season Opener Against Memphis

By Adam Brown
Sports Editor

Coach Matt Luke and his team “Locking the Vaught.” Photo by Walter Lyle.

The Ole Miss Rebels travel to Memphis to open the 2019 season on the banks of the Mississippi River against the Memphis Tigers at the Liberty Bowl Stadium on Saturday. Kickoff is slated for 11 a.m. on ABC.

Ole Miss looks to move past the 5-7 mark in 2018 after bringing in new coordinators Mike McIntyre (defense) and Rich Rodriguez (offense). Head Coach Matt Luke and his staff lost a few starters to the NFL but look forward to this year’s team, he said.

“Memphis is a great football team and will be a tremendous challenge,” Luke said. “We will find out a lot about ourselves right off the bat.”

Redshirt-freshman Matt Corral looks to build on his experience from the four games he played last season to his first official college start.

“I’m not looking at it like that,” Corral said. “I’m just going into it like a regular game.”

The Rebels’ senior offensive lineman Alex Givens returned to practice after having back surgery earlier in the summer and will play against the Tigers.

“(Givens) practiced this week in full pads and at full speed. He won’t be able to play the full game, but his experience gives him a chance. Having him out there form a moral standpoint will be very positive for the team,” Luke said.

Memphis is the two-time defending champion of the American Athletic Conference’s West Division and looks to make a run at a third division title. Running backs Darrell Henderson and Tony Pollard opted to declare for the NFL Draft, but Patrick Taylor Jr. will shoulder much of the offensive load after gaining 1,122 yards and 16 touchdowns on the ground last season.

At quarterback, Brady White returns after passing for nearly 3,300 yards and 26 touchdowns. Leading receiver Damonte Coxie also returns for the blue and white. Coxie hauled in 72 catches for 1,174 yards and seven scores last season. Tight end Joey Magnifico, another key player, had five TD receptions and averaged a team-leading 17.3 yards per catch last year.

Memphis’ defensive line returns three of its four starters, including three-year starter Jonathan Wilson. Wilson finished tied for second on the team in 2018 with six sacks. Senior defensive end Bryce Huff led the Tigers in tackles for a loss (19) and sacks (9.5) and tied for the lead in quarterback hurries (7) last year. The defensive backfield returns two starters in cornerback T.J. Carter and strong safety Tyrez Lindsey. Carter, a junior, has started since his true freshman season and was third on the team last year with 68 total tackles.

When the Rebels and the Tigers face off on the gridiron it will be the 63rd all-time meeting between the schools. Ole Miss holds the all-time series record at 47-11-2 and has only dropped eight games to the Tigers in Memphis.

“We have a huge following right in the Memphis area. It will be great for our fans to travel and be there,” Luke said.

Fans who are not traveling to the game can watch all the action on ABC and on the Watch ESPN app. They can also listen to the call on the Ole Miss Sports Radio Network.

Adam Brown
Adam Brown
Sports Editor

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