For the benefit of incoming freshmen at the University of Mississippi here is some useful information that you may not find in your student handbook. First, there is a law in Oxford against selling beer, but don't sweat it, because cars leave at regular intervals for Minnie's or some of the other dim, dark watering spots in the towns nearby. Second, don't expect much in the way of grass (about the only marijuana on campus is grown by the school for government research) or, likewise, activism (Ole Miss has been remarkably peaceful since the James Meredith business eight years ago). Third, try hard to join a fraternity or sorority or else your social life will consist of listening to a lot of Billy Graham reruns on—get this—the radio. Finally, and this is most important, be sure to bring along your Rebel flag, your "Archie" button and a lot of raucous affection for the Ole Miss football team.
The latter, of course, is a must, because this just may be the year when the Rebels will conquer the world. At last report, you may recall, Ole Miss had upset Arkansas 27-22 in the Sugar Bowl, and its fans were muttering things like "Bring on Texas" and "Woody who?" That team won seven of its last eight games for a final 8-3 record, and this autumn no fewer than 40 lettermen are back in gear—including Quarterback Archie Manning. Add some nice talent from the freshman squad, and no wonder everybody around Ole Miss is saying that the Rebs may be headed for their finest season in the 24 years they have spent under the quiet, efficient direction of Johnny Vaught. And what is Vaught saying? Isn't he simply tickled?
"I'm concerned about how we'll play on defense," he says, sitting in his office overlooking the Rebs' 35,000-seat Hemingway Stadium. "And on offense, even though we lost only one starter I didn't realize how valuable he was until I had to replace him."
In Oxford, longtime Vaught watchers have learned to take his pessimism about as seriously as they take the beer law. Just as the students always find a way to get their brew, so does Vaught manage to come up with a winning team and a bowl bid. The Ole Miss defense will need some shoring up, perhaps, but it also has a nice sprinkling of veterans, such as Linebackers Bill VanDevender and Fred Blister. And, for that matter, so what if the defense does give up a few points here and there? Heavens, with its offense Ole Miss could probably afford to spot most of its opponents a couple of TDs—and still win going away.
The only missing starter from last season's offense, one of the most explosive in Ole Miss history, is Fullback Bo Bow-en, but even that loss may be relatively painless. Luther Webb showed in spring practice that he should be an adequate replacement. Says Vaught, "We hope Webb can get the yardage to take the pressure off Archie."
Ah, Archie. Once more the Ole Miss attack will revolve around Manning's dazzling sprint-outs and, more often, his passes to his favorite targets, Wide Receiver Floyd Franks and Tight End Jim Poole. Franks is a thickset, handsome blond who is known to his teammates as The Ice Man because of his cool threads and even cooler dates. Poole is the latest in a long line of uncles, cousins and brothers who have been All-America ends at Ole Miss.
Judging from the Ole Miss schedule, nothing else much should bug Archie or his teammates this season. Vaught did not elect to schedule an 11th game (with 15 bowl trips in the last 16 years Ole Miss generally plays an extra game, anyway), and he replaced Tennessee with—heh, heh—Chattanooga. Moreover, seven of the 10 games will be played on one or the other of Ole Miss' three "home" fields—in Memphis, Jackson and Oxford. If the Rebs get past Alabama on Oct. 3 in Jackson, they should be unbeaten going into their final—and most challenging—game, against LSU on Dec. 5 in Baton Rouge's howling Tiger Stadium. Oh, yes, freshmen, one more thing: plan on spending New Year's Day at a bowl game. Any questions, freshmen?
With the campus reflected in windows, Ole Miss students queue up for tickets.