GAME NINE NOTES – Ole Miss at Kentucky

OLE MISS REBELS (3-5, 1-4 SEC) AT KENTUCKY WILDCATS (6-2, 3-2 SEC)
Date: Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017
Time: 3 p.m. CT
Location: Lexington, Ky.
Venue: Kroger Field (61,000)
Surface: Natural Grass
Series: Ole Miss leads 27-14-1
    In Lexington: Kentucky leads 11-9-1
Streak: Kentucky, W1
Live Stats: OleMissSports.com
Live Audio: OleMissSports.com
Twitter Updates: @OleMissFB
Television: SEC Network
Dave Neal, Play-by-Play
Matt Stinchcomb, Analyst
Dawn Davenport, Sideline
Satellite Radio: Sirius 137, XM 190

 WHAT TO WATCH FOR…
• Ole Miss and Kentucky will be meeting for the 43rd time in a series that dates back to 1944.
• The Rebels lead the all-time series vs. the Wildcats 27-14-1.
• Kentucky holds a 11-9-1 edge in games played in Lexington, Kentucky.
• This is the first meeting between the two schools since 2011.
• The home team has won the last four contests in the series.
• Matt Luke is in his 10th season at Ole Miss but first season at the helm, taking the reins of his alma mater as the 38th head coach in program history.
• Making the start for an injured Shea Patterson, junior QB Jordan Ta’amu completed 20-of-30 passes for 368 yards vs. Arkansas, all career highs …
• It was the most passing yards ever by an Ole Miss quarterback making his first career start.
• The four rushing touchdowns by Ole Miss against Arkansas were the most this season and the most since last year vs. Memphis (4).
• The Rebels lead the SEC and rank eighth nationally in passing offense (338.1 ypg).
• Ole Miss is tops in the SEC and 15th nationally in kickoff return average (25.44 ypr).
• Sophomore WR A.J. Brown leads the SEC in multiple receiving categories: yards (765), yards per game (95.6) and receptions per game (5.1).
• Senior DE Marquis Haynes is third in the SEC and 16th nationally in sacks (6.5)

OLE MISS HEAD COACH MATT LUKE 
Matt Luke (Ole Miss, 2000) is in his 10th season at Ole Miss but first season at the helm, taking the reins of his alma mater as the 38th head coach in school history. The Rebels are 66-54 with Luke on staff as a full-time coach, including 3-5 with him leading the program. He was born a Rebel as his family has ties to Ole Miss that span three generations. During his 23 years as a player and coach at the collegiate level, Luke has risen through the ranks while learning from a number of successful veteran coaches. He has worked alongside national champion Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer, Duke head coach David Cutcliffe and former Ole Miss head coach Tommy Tuberville, among others. On the field, he has mentored 17 all-league selections as well as All-Americans and first-round draft picks Laremy Tunsil and Laken Tomlinson. Luke, a four-year center for the Rebels (1995-98), spent the past five seasons as the team’s co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach. During his first stop in Oxford (2002-05), he served four seasons coaching the Ole Miss tight ends and offensive line under Cutcliffe.

KENTUCKY HEAD COACH MARK STOOPS
Mark Stoops (Iowa, 1989) is in his fifth year as the Kentucky head coach after successful stops at Arizona and Florida State as defensive coordinator. After inheriting a program that had produced a 2-10 record the season before his arrival, Stoops has markedly improved the team’s performance. In 2014, UK won five games – more than the previous two seasons combined. In 2016, Stoops led the Wildcats to the TaxSlayer Bowl; Kentucky’s first bowl game since the 2010 season. Stoops was raised in Youngstown, Ohio. Like his brothers, Mark played in the secondary at the University of Iowa for Hall of Fame coach Hayden Fry.  He participated in four bowl games as a player. Fry hired Stoops as a graduate assistant coach at Iowa in the 1990 and ’91 seasons. The Hawkeyes won the 1990 Big Ten title and played in the Rose Bowl, duplicating feats Stoops also achieved as a player. Stoops went on to coach four years in high school before entering the collegiate ranks.

KENTUCKY SCOUTING REPORT
The Kentucky Wildcats currently sit at 6-2, 3-2 in the SEC and are off to its best start since 2007. The Wildcats are coming off a 29-26 home win over Tennessee to help Kentucky earn bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season. Offensively, Kentucky averages 341.0 yards per game, with 154.3 coming on the ground and 186.7 through the air. Sophomore Benny Snell, Jr. leads the ground attack, averaging just over 90 yards rushing per game. His nine rushing TDs ranks fourth in the SEC and 21st nationally. Snell is coming off a season-high 191 rushing yards and three-touhdown performance against the Volunteers. It was Snell’s fourth 100-yard game of the season and ninth of his career. Senior quarterback Stephen Johnson also showed he’s a threat to pull the ball and run after a career-high 84-yard rushing game vs. Tennessee. Tight end C.J. Conrad, a third-team preseason All-SEC selection, is a redzone threat, hauling in three TD receptions off just nine catches all season. Junior Josh Allen leads a Kentucky front seven that ranks sixth in the SEC in total sacks. Allen is second in the SEC and 12th nationally with seven sacks on the year. Allen sits third in career sacks amongst active SEC players. Junior safety Mike Edwards leads Kentucky with 64 tackles and has accounted for half of the Wildcats’ six interceptions. The Wildcats possess a strong kicking game with Lou Groza Award candidate Austin MacGinnis. On the year, MacGinnis is 13-of-18 on field goal attempts with a long of 53 yards.

A FIRST CAREER START FOR THE RECORD BOOKS
Making his first career start for an injured Shea Patterson, junior college transfer QB Jordan Ta’amu completed 20-of-30 passes for 368 yards, all career-highs and the most passing yards ever by an Ole Miss quarterback making his first career start. Ta’amu also ran for 76 yards on nine carries. His 444 yards of total offense (368 passing, 76 rushing) are the fifth-most yards in a single game in Ole Miss history. The 49-yard touchdown scamper in the first quarter by Ta’amu was the longest rush by an Ole Miss QB since Bo Wallace had a 59-yard scamper vs. Auburn (Nov. 1, 2014).

WILKINS RUNNING FREE
Senior RB Jordan Wilkins started the season slow, but has helped add another weapon to the potent Ole Miss offense. Wilkins recorded his fourth-straight game with a rushing touchdown after a 64-yard TD against Arkansas. After rushing for just 103 yards (34.3 ypg) during the Rebels’ first three games, Wilkins has averaged just over 96 yards per game on the ground over the last five contests. On the year, Wilkins has rushed for 586 yards and five scores. Earlier this season, Wilkins became became only the 12th player to exceed 100 rushing yards during the Saban era, after running for 101 yards on 12 carries against Alabama.

PICK YOUR POISON
The Ole Miss receiving corps has been a nightmare for opposing defenses this season. The Rebels boast four receivers who have hauled in more than 28 catches this season. Only Washington State has more receivers with such numbers (5).  A.J. Brown, D.K. Metalf, Damarkus Lodge and Van Jefferson all rank in the top 15 in the SEC in receptions per game. Brown leads the SEC and ranks 14th nationally in receiving yards per game (95.6) and is 28th nationally in touchdowns (6), while fellow wideout Lodge is seventh in the league in receiving yards per game (63.9), and is tied with Brown in touchdowns. The Rebels have had at least one 100-yard receiver in six of the eight games this season. They’ve had two 100-yard receivers twice.

FINAL CAMPAIGN FOR SACK-MASTER HAYNES
Preseason All-American DE Marquis Haynes continued to add to his school modern-era sacks and tackles for loss records with one sack and one tackle for loss against Arkansas. Haynes’ career sack record total of 31.0 sits atop of the all-time record book ahead of Greg Hardy (26.5). His 45.0 TFLs are tops in Ole Miss history, passing former Rebel DE Derrick Burgess (42.0). Haynes led the Rebels in sacks as a freshman (7.5), sophomore (10.0) and junior (7.0). The Jacksonville, Florida, native is a unanimous preseason All-SEC  first-team pick and made watch lists for the Bednarik, Nagurski, Hendricks and Lott IMPACT awards.

PUTTING THE ‘SPECIAL’ IN SPECIAL TEAMS
Sophomore kick returner Jaylon Jones is always a threat to take one back to the house. Jones, who had a 97-yard TD return during first game of the season vs. South Alabama, leads the SEC and ranks third nationally with 703 total kickoff yardage and is fourth in the SEC with 25.1 yards per return. Jones’ 194 kickoff return yards against LSU were the second-most in a game in school history. As a team, Ole Miss is tops amongst the SEC and 14th nationally in kickoff return yardage (25.44).

WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU?
WR A.J. Brown is off to a stellar sophomore campaign as he leads the SEC and ranks 14th nationally in receiving yards per game (95.6) and is third in the SEC in touchdowns (6). Brown’s four 100-yard receiving games this season ranks fourth in the single-season record books for 100-yard games, just two shy of Laquon Treadwell’s mark of six set during the 2015 season. Earlier in the year, the Starkville, Mississippi, native hauled in eight receptions for 233 yards and two scores vs. South Alabama, breaking Eddie Small’s Ole Miss record of 210 receiving yards set versus Vanderbilt in 1993. Brown’s total of 233 yards also tied Pharoh Cooper of South Carolina for the 13th most receiving yards in a game in SEC history. His two TD catches of 71 and 77 yards also marked the first time in school history a receiver posted two 70-plus yard touchdowns in the same game.

WUNDERLICH MOVING UP CAREER CHARTS
After a nearly flawless junior season, K/P Gary Wunderlich entered his senior season as one of the nation’s top placekickers. Wunderlich has made a field goal in 18 straight games in which he’s played, the longest active in the NCAA, and surpasses Ole Miss kicker Josh Shene’s streak of 16-straight back in 2008. Wunderlich continues to work his way up several Ole Miss career record lists. Wunderlich currently sits second on the Ole Miss all-time career record books in points scored (318), field goals made (59) and PATs made (141). In his last game, Wunderlich tallied three field goals. It was the eighth time in his career he’s recorded three FGs in a game. A Lou Groza Award semifinalist last year, he has been named to the watch list this preseason, as well as to various preseason All-America and All-SEC squads.

TACKLING MACHINE
Senior LB DeMarquis Gates recorded a career-high in both tackles (15) and tackles for loss (3) in Ole Miss’ last outing. Gates, a watch list candidate for the Butkus Award, currently leads the team and ranks second in the SEC with 72 total tackles. He is looking to become the first Rebel to lead in tackles for three straight years since Abdul Jackson did it from 1992-94. Gates has recorded double-digit tackles four times this season.

OFFENSIVE NOTES
• Ole Miss leads the SEC and ranks eighth nationally in passing offense (338.1)
• The Rebels rank third in the SEC and 16th nationally with only three fumbles lost.
• Ole Miss is one of only two teams in the country with four receivers who have tallied 28 or more catches on the season.
• Wideouts A.J. Brown and DaMarkus Lodge both rank third in the SEC and 28th nationally with six touchdown receptions on the year.
• Junior QB Jordan Ta’amu completed 20-of-30 passes for 368 yards vs. Arkansas in his first collegiate start … It was the most passing yards ever by an Ole Miss quarterback making his first career start … Ta’amu’s 444 yards of total offense (368 passing, 76 rushing) vs. Arkansas were the fifth-most yards in a single game in Ole Miss history.
• Brown leads the SEC in multiple receiving catergories, including: yards (765), yards per game (95.6) and receptions per game (5.1) … The sophomore WR is currently tied for fourth in the single-season record books with four 100- yard receiving games during a season.
• The Ole Miss offensive line features two lineman on the watch list for national awards at their respective position: LT Greg Little (Outland Trophy) and Sean Rawlings (Rimington Trophy).
• Senior RB Jordan Wilkins has recorded four-straight games with a rushing touchdown … After rushing for just 103 yards (34.3 ypg) during the Rebels’ first three games, Wilkins has tallied 484 yards on the ground over the last five contests.

DEFENSIVE NOTES
• All-SEC end Marquis Haynes has wreaked havoc on opposing offensive lines again this year, leading the team in sacks (6.5), tackles for loss (8.5) and fumbles forced (2) … A senior, he ranks first in school history (modern-day era) with 31.0 career sacks and first with 45.0 tackles for loss.
• Senior DeMarquis Gates is on pace to lead the team in tackles for the third straight season … Gates is second in the SEC with 72 tackles on the season … His 46 solo tackles leads the SEC.
• DB Javien Hamilton ranks third in the SEC with three interceptions … C.J. Moore is second on the team with two picks.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOTES
• The kicking game is a strong point this year with senior returnees Gary Wunderlich at placekicker and Will Gleeson at punter … Both are in their fourth seasons as full-time starters.
• Wunderlich has made a field goal in 18 straight games in which he’s played in.
• Wunderlich currently sits four field goals shy of breaking all-time Ole Miss record and just 21 points short of becoming the Rebels’ all-time leading scorer in program history.
• Ole Miss ranks 14th  nationally and first in the SEC in kickoff return average (25.4).
• Kick returner Jaylon Jones leads the SEC and ranks third nationally with 703 total kickoff yardage … Jones is fourth in the SEC with 25.1 yards per return.

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