The second-worst offense in the Southeastern Conference will be short-handed when it plays No. 1-ranked LSU on Saturday night.
Ole Miss, ranked 11th in scoring offense (18.7 points per game) and total offense (297.8 yards per game), announced Tuesday that starting quarterback Randall Mackey and leading rusher Jeff Scott won’t play against the Tigers in Oxford, Miss., because they violated team rules.
Rebels coach Houston Nutt wouldn’t say what the violations were, but said the suspensions could also include the season finale against Mississippi State.
Ole Miss is 2-8 and 0-6 in the SEC under Nutt, who was dismissed two weeks ago, effective at the end of the season.
“I hate it,” Nutt said of the suspensions. They’ve “got to learn how to handle change, and it’s tough for a lot of them, especially when a season doesn’t go just right, it’s easy to let go. These last few weeks you try to teach them the best you can that life can be hard and lessons are tough, but there’s no easy way out. There are no shortcuts, you know? You finish and do right. That’s the bottom line.”
Mackey, who played at Bastrop High School, has started the past six games and thrown for 1,112 yards, seven touchdowns and five interceptions this season.
Nutt said Zack Stoudt, who has thrown for 542 yards, two touchdowns and seven interceptions, will start, and Barry Brunetti will also play.
Scott has rushed for 529 yards and six touchdowns this season. His absence likely means more playing time for former Scotlandville running back Brandon Bolden, who has rushed for 399 yards and four touchdowns.
Rarely used running back Korvic Neat was also suspended.
Ford prefers ?best shot’
When informed of the suspensions after practice Tuesday, LSU running back Michael Ford said he’d prefer the Rebels to be at full strength.
“When you’re a competitor, we want everybody to be on the field,” said Ford, who has seen a half dozen of his teammates miss playing time for a variety of disciplinary actions this season. “We don’t want no ifs, ands, or buts about it. We want them to bring their best shot.
“We never want anybody to not have their best player out there. We want to play the best guy.”
Closing in on Ware
Ford has moved within 5 yards of Spencer Ware for the team lead in rushing. Ford has 575 yards, and Ware has 580. Ford has gained a total of 216 yards in the past three games while Ware has gained just 68 after being held out of the Auburn game on Oct. 22 for violating a team rule and carrying just six times against Western Kentucky last Saturday.
“Spencer Ware may have been a little nicked in that game, so we kind of got him out of the game early,” Tigers coach Les Miles said. “Nothing serious, and we expect him to be at practice. The injury that he had, we wanted him to rest. He would have stayed in the game and played. He is tough as nails. It is something that we did not want to test him there. It was a specific injury that we saw and needed to come off the field.”
Miles never specified what the injury was, and Ware has been unavailable for interviews since he was disciplined. He was held out of most of the Kentucky game Oct. 1 after suffering a minor hamstring strain.?
Return of the returners
Tyrann Mathieu and Morris Claiborne might be getting more involved in the Tigers return games down the stretch. After not having returned a punt since the Tennessee game (Oct. 15) for a variety reasons, Mathieu had two returns for 39 yards, including a season-long 29-yarder, against the Hilltoppers.
Mathieu said he “definitely” looks forward to more returns, but added, “I just want to do what I can for my team, and if coach wants me to block the gunners or to catch punts, I’m with that.”
Claiborne hasn’t returned kickoffs in the past four games after being the primary kickoff returner in the first six. He said he has been “nicked,” but expects to return kickoffs this week.
New runner emerges
Jordan Jefferson is supposed to supply the running dimension for LSU’s two-quarterback system, with Jarrett Lee focusing on drop-back passing. But against Western Kentucky, Lee actually ran an option play and scrambled for 15 yards.
“He just broke out and ran,” tight end Mitch Joseph said, “and I was like, ?Whoa, I didn’t know he was a dual-threat quarterback.’
“It was pretty fun to watch. It was a great run.”
LSU has sold out of its tickets for the game at Ole Miss on Saturday and against Arkansas on Nov. 25 in Tiger Stadium, but tickets to both games are still available.
Tickets for Saturday’s game ($55 apiece) are available through the Ole Miss ticket office at (662) 915-7159, ext. 1. Tickets for the Arkansas game are available at the LSU Ticket Marketplace at http://www.LSUsports.net.
Advocate sportswriters Scott Rabalais and Scott Hotard and the ssociated Press contributed to this report.