Archie Manning’s legend was launched on the Bayou in 1968, when he led the Ole Miss Rebels to a 27-24 comeback victory over LSU in Tiger Stadium as a sophomore starter.
But his biggest wins as a Rebel to come wouldn’t happen in Baton Rouge or Tuscaloosa or even Oxford, but in Jackson, inside the monolith of Mississippi Memorial Stadium.
Manning’s Rebels were 7-1 in the capitol city in his career, and never lost an SEC game there.
“The big ones were in Jackson. We were good there. We felt like it was our second home and we had a great advantage with our crowd, just a great atmosphere. We were very confident when we played there,” Manning said in our interview for “The Vet.”
No win was more significant than the rematch with LSU in 1969. The Tigers were a better version of the team Manning had beaten in Baton Rouge the previous season. Led by coach Charles McClendon and All-American Tommy Casanova, the Tigers pulled into Jackson undefeated, ranked in the Top 10, with designs on a national championship.
“They were better in ’69. They had good players on both sides of the ball. A lot of people say that was the best team Coach McClendon ever had,” Manning said.
But Manning authored another comeback victory with two rushing touchdowns in the third quarter to put Ole Miss on top 26-23. It was just enough.
“We scrambled around a lot and just kind of hung in there with them. It looked like at the end of the game they were going to march march down and score to beat us, just like we’d done (the year before), but we stopped them on fourth down,” Manning remembered. “That was a tremendous team we beat that day. Another big win in Jackson.”
Did the victorious Rebels stay in the capitol city to celebrate? You betcha.
Manning offered this tidbit with a wry grin.
“Coach (Johnny) Vaught decided to let everybody stay that night in Jackson….I don’t know. That may not have been a good idea, but everybody had a pretty good time,” Manning laughed out. “You got to enjoy your wins and celebrate when you beat somebody like LSU.”
The Grove is now the shining center of the party on Ole Miss football Saturdays, and the brimming town of Oxford plays a sublime party host at night. But there was a time when it all happened at “The Vet.”
See more in Episode Two of ‘Between the Pines: Mississippi’s Greatest Sports Stories.”