Notebook: Will Manning Take a Bite Out of Gators?

Oct 2, 2002

By The Associated Press

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) - Eli Manning has a flair for late-game dramatics, so if Mississippi can keep it close against No. 6 Florida on Saturday, the Rebels might be able to pull off an upset.

During his 21-game career, Manning has directed three fourth-quarter comeback wins, a few near misses and most recently thrown a late-game, tie-breaking touchdown pass against Vanderbilt.

"I guess as I loosen up more, I kind of have a feel for what the defense is doing and feel comfortable back there making decisions," Manning said.

The first glimpse of his comeback ability was in the 2000 Music City Bowl. With his team trailing West Virginia 49-16 entering the fourth quarter, Manning replaced Romaro Miller. He threw three TD passes and the Rebels made a game of it before losing 49-38.

Last season, he threw fourth-quarter, game-winning TD passes against LSU and Alabama. Also, he threw a TD pass against Arkansas that sent the game to overtime, then added five more TD passes before Mississippi lost in 58-58 in seven OTs. This year, he had three fourth-quarter TD passes to rally the Rebels over Vanderbilt 45-38, and a comeback against Texas Tech fell short in a 42-28 loss.

"I think there are certain people that just have that magic," coach David Cutcliffe said. "I think Eli, his focus increases, not that it was bad to begin with."

Cutcliffe, though, doesn't want to rely on Manning's last-quarter heroics against the Gators.

"No, I don't want to get behind," he said.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (AP) - Bring on Pittsburgh! Syracuse is still looking for a win against a Division I-A team this season.

Not that the Panthers will be an easy mark, but at least the Orangemen have history in their favor - an 11-game winning streak over Pitt.

"The kids have worked hard. We're 1-3 and we don't have much to show for it," Syracuse coach Paul Pasqualoni said following his team's latest loss, 37-34 to Auburn in triple overtime.

What they do have is a 63-17 win over I-AA Rhode Island. Even though the loss at Auburn was tough to take - Syracuse led 17-0 - the Orangemen are still confident they can fare well in the Big East Conference.

"Auburn was our pivotal game. Unfortunately, we lost," cornerback Will Hunter said. "But it was the start of something new. We took a step forward in the right direction. We've been playing kind of sloppy, but I think we've settled down now."

Hopefully. Also on the schedule are games against No. 1 Miami and No. 4 Virginia Tech.

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Pete Carroll isn't terribly impressed that Southern California ranks No. 1 nationally in total defense at 205 yards a game. The Trojans' coach finds another, less obvious number more compelling.

"The one that's really pretty exciting is the third down stat," Carroll said. "That's relatively remarkable. The number is so low it hardly registers on third down right now and that's unusual."

Opponents have picked up just seven first downs in 53 tries on third down against the Trojans. Making that more impressive is the fact USC has played one of the country's toughest schedules, with victories over Auburn and Colorado, a 27-20 loss at Kansas State, then a Pac-10-opening 22-0 win over Oregon State last week.

Auburn converted only three of 11 times on third down against USC, Colorado went 1-of-14, Kansas State 2-of-12 and Oregon State 1-of-15.

"That's really factored into a lot of what's going on with our team - the ball goes back to the offense again," Carroll said. "If we keep it going, we should be in good shape."

Tackle Shaun Cody, one of three sophomores on the Trojans' defensive line, said: "Three-and-out is what we want to do, what Coach Carroll wants. He doesn't want us to be out there too long.

"Every time it gets to third down, you can feel our intensity build."

USC is at No. 17 Washington State on Saturday in the Pac-10 opener, taking on a team averaging 36 points per game.

"This conference is so productive and explosive offensively. We'll find out where we fit," Carroll said.

EXTRA POINTS: Florida State has won 10 straight games against Clemson - the five played in Tallahassee by a combined margin of 210-10. ... Syracuse, hoping to avoid its first 1-4 start since 1986, is among four schools currently with 15 or more consecutive winning seasons. The others are Florida State, Michigan and Nebraska. ... Nebraska, out of the AP Top 25 for the first time in 21 years, has lost four of its last seven games. The losses - to Colorado, Miami, Penn State and Iowa State, were by a combined 175-71. ... There will be a Top 25 team on the field when McNeese State visits Nebraska. The Cowboys (4-0) are No. 2 in the Division I-AA poll.

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Eli Manning and the Rebels host Florida on Saturday.