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Manning Rejects Holtz’s Flattery Strategy

October 31, 2003

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) _ Mississippi quarterback Eli Manning doesn’t care about Lou Holtz’s opinion.

``I know that Coach Holtz is always very complimentary of the other team. He tries to hype them and tries to give them a big head and make them think they are better than they are,″ Manning said. ``He has been doing that forever. It is a great strategy. I will probably try not to read any of his quotes.″

Manning and the 20th-ranked Rebels drew predictable raves from Holtz, who brings South Carolina into Oxford on Saturday for the first time in five years.

Ole Miss (6-2) is 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference for the first time in 33 years, riding a four-game winning streak into first-place in the SEC West.

``I don’t think there’s anybody who wants to go down to Oxford to play this football team right now,″ Holtz said.

The Rebels have the league’s most prolific offense, scoring over 37 points per game.

That’s scary stuff for Holtz, whose defense hasn’t gotten many stops lately.

``They’re probably trying to figure out how to add a third digit to the scoreboard on the Ole Miss side,″ Holtz said.

This will be the first time Holtz has coached against Manning. He sees a lot of big brother Peyton in Archie’s youngest son.

``He’s got a great touch on the deep ball, he’s very smart, good presence, good awareness, great ball handler. Very, very similar,″ Holtz said. ``But I also think, like Peyton, he is very unselfish, he just wants to win and wants to win the conference.″

Manning, who leads the SEC in passing, is coming off a career-low 145-yard performance in last week’s 19-7 victory over Arkansas. Stats like that don’t do much for a Heisman Trophy candidacy, but the senior might bulk up his numbers if South Carolina can’t fix its slumping pass defense.

The Gamecocks (5-3, 2-3) rank third in the SEC against the pass, but have been scorched the last two weeks.

LSU’s Matt Mauck and Vanderbilt’s Jay Cutler completed 53 of 72 passes for 538 yards and five touchdowns. And neither of those guys are likely early first-round NFL draft picks like Manning.

South Carolina’s inconsistency has Gamecocks secondary coach John Gutekunst questioning his career choice.

``If you’re weak at this, you’re always weak at this,″ he said. ``Then what you do to cover up those weaknesses should be a help.

``But if all of sudden one week you’re good at this, but the next week you’re weak at your strengths ... you wonder why you coach 35 years. And then you see Manning and I don’t know whether to sleep or pass out,″ Gutekunst said.

While Holtz has turned hyping an opponent into an art form, Ole Miss coach David Cutcliffe is never short on compliments for the opposition, either.

Holtz was the target of Cutcliffe’s most flattering words this week.

``Well, Lou is a great motivator. His team is going to play really hard. It’s going to be a team that’s well prepared in all phases of the game. He’s one of the best coaches there’s ever been. It’s really intimidating to play against (that mystique),″ said Cutcliffe, who won his only meeting with Holtz in 1999.

Both teams come into the game with an uncertain situation at running back.

South Carolina freshman Demetris Summers, the team’s leading rusher, has an elbow injury. He practiced this week, but it remains to be seen if he will be at full strength.

Ole Miss’ productive tailback threesome could be down to one against South Carolina.

Second-leading rusher Ronald McClendon is being held out of the game because of a possible unspecified rules violation. Vashon Pearson, third on the team with 308 yards rushing, has a shoulder injury that could leave the Rebels thin behind leading rusher Tremaine Turner.

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