Eli Rewrites Manning Legacy at Ole Miss

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TheGeneral+

Another Day, Another Dollar
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OXFORD, Miss., Nov. 21 — David Cutcliffe has spent a lot of time in Archie Manning's living room. He first showed up there as the offensive coordinator of a Tennessee team that desperately wanted Peyton Manning, the middle son of one of the most famous sports sons of the South, to come to Knoxville. He got him. A few years later he was back as Mississippi's coach, hoping to talk Archie Manning's youngest, Eli, to throw the ball at Archie's alma mater. He got him, too.

In January, however, Cutcliffe was back in New Orleans at the Manning place for a visit whose outcome was very much in doubt. After two superb seasons as Ole Miss's starting quarterback, Eli was trying to decide whether to skip his senior season and join Peyton in the National Football League. In the Manning dynamics, Eli is more like his mother, Olivia — quiet, introspective, not too big on having a lot of discussion.

Archie Manning had no idea which way his son was leaning and at one point asked him, "Do you have any questions for me?"

Eli did not.

Cutcliffe, who has an even temperament much like his quarterback, laid out the pros and cons and returned here still not knowing what to think. Eli Manning hardly apologizes for keeping his family and coach in the dark.

"I'm kind of a guy that I'll take all the information in, but then sit down and decide myself," he said. "I don't like people knowing what I'm thinking."

Ultimately, he decided that another year in college would make him a better quarterback, would allow him one more year of fun with the teammates he arrived with, and might offer the Rebels a chance to play for the Southeastern Conference championship.

Manning was correct about the first two objectives, and could still prove right on the third. He has thrown for 2,881 yards and 23 touchdowns, with only 8 interceptions — numbers that are likely to land him in New York as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, where No. 15 Ole Miss plays No. 3 Louisiana State, Manning will be honored along with 20 other seniors who have powered the Rebels to their first 6-0 league record since 1962.

All that stands between Ole Miss (8-2 over all) and the S.E.C. West division title, and a berth in the conference championship, is Louisiana State (5-1, 9-1). Saturday's game is the biggest in Ole Miss history since 1970, when Archie Manning and the 16th-ranked Rebels traveled to Baton Rouge to take on the eighth-ranked Tigers. That one didn't go well for Archie, who, playing with a plastic sleeve on a broken left arm, was intercepted twice in a 61-17 defeat.

People here say the game Saturday is the biggest ever at Ole Miss. In addition to filling the 60,580-seat stadium, it will draw another 15,000 people to the Grove — 10 acres of oak-tree-canopied picnic ground where the Ole Miss faithful tailgate.

When Manning makes the traditional pregame walk with his teammates through the Grove for the final time, he will perhaps be eclipsing his father in Ole Miss lore. Eli has already broken 27 passing records once held by Archie. More important to Cutcliffe is the dignity and poise Eli has displayed in staring down what could have been an impossible legacy.

As a redshirt freshman, before he took a snap, fans seeking autographs at the team's annual Rebel Day mobbed Manning. In the past three years, he has been dissected in national magazines and critiqued in newspapers across the South.

"He's been under the microscope from Ole Miss family and media ever since he has gotten here, and he's been consistent and gotten more mature," Cutcliffe said. "Is he just hype? I've read that numerous times before ball games. He's proven time and again that he's not hype. It doesn't matter what his last name is."

Manning has weathered the comparisons to his father by adopting a willful obliviousness to Archie's place in Ole Miss history, though signs of it are everywhere, from the campus speed limit — 18 miles an hour, Archie's jersey number — to Archie's trophies and clippings, now on display on the second floor of the athletic training center.

"It was so long ago," Eli said. "The students now might know the name, but they didn't know what he did. I didn't know what he meant to Ole Miss."

They are more likely to feel a link to Peyton, the star quarterback for the Indianapolis Colts. Cutcliffe, of course, knows both and says the only thing they have in common is a strong arm and work ethic. Other than saying that he wants to follow his brother into the N.F.L., Eli rarely speaks of Peyton and has never asked him whether he should turn pro.

As he did in January, as he learned from his mother, Manning is keeping to himself his feelings about his final home game and the end of a remarkable career at Ole Miss, where he has thrown for 9,400 yards and 75 touchdowns. "I don't have much emotion right now," he said. "Once you get out there and do the seniors stuff and realize it's the last time running out on the field, I probably will. But once the first play goes off, I won't think of that anymore."

Manning's got plenty of time to take in the information and decide for himself what he made of his college years.

http://www.nytimes.com
 

TheGeneral+

Another Day, Another Dollar
Joined
Mar 1, 2002
Messages
42,730
I think LSU can shutdown Miss & Eli. Lsu is very impressive. I personaly believe the under is a better play than the sides. Miss allowing 397.1 ypg. When you have a strong will on your side like manning, you always have a chance, but the talent of Lsu is going to have and lay down to be beat.
 

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