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Answer to a foolish question
Pat Putnam
November 24, 1969
All week Tennessee fans taunted Ole Miss with cries of 'Who's Archie?' On Saturday Archie Manning showed them
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November 24, 1969

Answer To A Foolish Question

All week Tennessee fans taunted Ole Miss with cries of 'Who's Archie?' On Saturday Archie Manning showed them

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You'd have thought those folks from Tennessee would have known better, being neighbors and all. Shoot, any 10-year-old kid who ever got his button nose past the cover of a history book can tell you it doesn't take all that much to rile Mississippians. Remember when old Abe got up and started off his inaugural speech by saying cotton underwear itched? Bam: a civil war. And you know how easily upset the traffic cops there get when they see a rich Yankee tourist driving 38 miles an hour in a 45-mile-an-hour speed zone.

So what does Steve Kiner do? Steve Kiner, he's one of Tennessee's All-America linebackers, and one day he's sitting around jawing with some of the boys about the horses they got playing football at Ole Miss. "Hee-haw," says Kiner, "them's not horses, them's mules." You can guess how gracefully that was received in Oxford and Biloxi and Vicks-burg, where they hang pictures of Archie Manning, the Ole Miss junior quarterback, on the living room wall, right next to the ones of Robert E. Lee and, lately, of Spiro T. Agnew. "Mules, huh?" was the word. "Well, old Archie will show them who's mules." In Tennessee, where everybody was feeling good about being unbeaten in seven games and being ranked No. 3 in the nation, they laughed and started handing out ARCHIE WHO? buttons. And, baby, that really tore it.

All this, of course, was greeted with secret delight by Johnny Vaught, the Ole Miss coach and a man who would welcome a Greek bearing gifts, just as long as they could be used as psychological weapons. And should the gifts be less than needed, Vaught, it is suggested, is not opposed to fattening them a bit. Last Wednesday, three days before he would send his troops out to destroy Tennessee 38-0 at Jackson, Miss., the gnarly old oak of a coach never so much as glanced up as a small plane came roaring over his practice field spewing enemy leaflets. But the pilot turned out to be a strange breed of propagandist. On his third pass—after dropping such pleasantries as "Archie who? Archie Mud" and "Wreck the mules, the Vols are No. 1," and all supposedly signed either by Kiner or Doug Dickey's Vols—the pilot cut his motor and yelled, "Go get them. Rebels! To hell with Tennessee!"

While the fires were raging in Mississippi, Vaught was making certain that no fuel was getting back to Tennessee. He closed off all players, most especially Manning, from interviews. Practices are always closed. Vaught once ran the president of the alumni association off the practice field. Another time, when a small plane circled the field, Vaught suspended the drill, called the FAA and had the plane grounded. When it turned out to be a member of the faculty showing off the campus to friends, Vaught told him to go fly someplace else. He did. "Once, just as a joke. I asked him if I could watch one of his redshirts take a shower," said a veteran Mississippi reporter. "He figured I must be up to something, glared at me and said no I couldn't, that the shower room was off limits."

But then, Vaught has always been a suspicious man. When he arrived in 1947, his first move was to call in the state highway department and have them bulldoze a new practice field—eight feet deep. Deciding then that this wasn't secluded enough, he called the bulldozers back and had them dig a second field, this one even deeper, and he had it surrounded by thick bushes and burly campus cops armed with walkie-talkies. One player suggested that if Vaught thought God was looking down on a practice, he'd put a roof over the field.

In the midst of all this tight seclusion was Archie Manning, big (6'3" and 205 pounds) and redheaded and wondering why in hell he isn't able to grow sideburns like everybody else. "But then," he says, "I guess it's because I only shave twice a week, sometimes." He makes up for his lack of sideburns in other ways. Like throwing passes. In Ole Miss' first eight games—before walloping Tennessee—he completed 128 of 222 for 1,394 yards and six touchdowns. And like running: 100 carries for 363 yards and 11 touchdowns. Which makes it hard to understand how Mississippi managed to lose to Kentucky, Alabama and Houston, the first two by one point each. And after that they beat Georgia when the Bulldogs were 3-0 and ranked sixth, and after that they beat LSU when the Tigers were 6-0 and also ranked sixth.

"I guess it's because all the games we won, we played in Mississippi in the daytime," said Billy Gates, Ole Miss sports information director. "And the three games we lost were out of the state at night. Do you know of any bowls played in Mississippi in the daytime?" Against Kentucky, Ole Miss was looking to Alabama, which came the next week. Ole Miss' game plan was to run, mostly not to show off Manning's passes to 'Bama scouts. And so they ran, and Manning passed but 13 times for 84 yards and no touchdowns, and Kentucky won a shocker 10-9. And then against Alabama, Mississippi geared its defenses to stop a running attack—and Alabama came out throwing and won 33-32. "Those we should have won," admits Vaught, holding up one finger. "Just one point each. But the kids knew we should have won and they didn't get down. We have a thing here called matter-of-fact pride. We never lose it."

Whatever it is they have at Ole Miss, they had it all against Tennessee, which came in favored anywhere from 11 to 6� points. Upstairs in the press box, Orange Bowl scouts were smiling and saying all they were afraid of was Tennessee losing in a rout—and you know that can't happen. And downstairs the Ole Miss players were thinking that if they won, Vaught had given them the night to stay in Jackson—something he had done only once before in his career—and didn't they already have the $5 traveling money to get back to Oxford the next day? Sure it could happen.

"Boys, what it's going to take out there today is a great team effort, so let's go," said Vaught, knowing the boys were so high he didn't have to say anything else.

And did it ever happen. After the opening kickoff, Manning took Ole Miss 82 yards in 11 plays, mostly on the running of Randy Reed and Bo Bowen, and then himself three times for the last three yards and the touchdown. Vaught had told him to open with a running game and then, when Tennessee stopped it, to go to the air. Tennessee never was to stop it.

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