CATEGORY: FOC College Football
By Gregg Ellis
OXFORD - If opposing defenses continue to focus on stopping Ole Miss' seemingly potent running game, the price could be costly.
For a reliable reference regarding this scheme, call Tulane.
The Green Wave was so intent on stopping Deuce McAllister & Company last Saturday by putting nine players on the line of scrimmage, it had no answer for the aerial assault launched by quarterback Romaro Miller.
Yes. McAllister was held to just 29 yards on nine carries. But as a result, other players emerged as stars in the Rebels' 49-20 trouncing of Tulane.
Nowhere was that more apparent than Ole Miss' receiving corps.
Miller successfully found the open hands of seven different receivers, and tossed three touchdown passes to three different players.
But if there was a surprise of the day, it was Doug Zeigler.
The 6-foot-3, 235-pound sophomore tight end from Wilmington, Ohio, hauled in four passes for 53 yards, three of which came in the first half.
His output against Tulane matched all of last season's receptions.
"Doug Zeigler is an outstanding player," Rebels coach David Cutcliffe said. "He's really improved himself physically and in the running game."
As in blocking.
But Zeigler wanted to proved to coaches he could do more than just run block. His made his point against Tulane.
"It felt really good to contribute to the offense," he said. "It was nice to hook up as a receiver instead of just blocking."
It didn't take too long for Zeigler to contribute to the Rebels' offense. Facing third-and-5 from the Ole Miss 31, Miller connected for the first time with his tight end for a 15-yard gain to keep the drive alive.
His second reception, on the same drive, was a 6-yard catch and run that gave Ole Miss possession at the Tulane 3. However, he fumbled the football, but the Rebels recovered and scored three plays later when McAllister crossed the goal line from 1-yard out.
"I was fighting for the end zone and didn't secure my hands on the football tight enough," he said.
Miller, who completed 18-of-26 passes for 302 yards and three touchdowns, was pleased with his tight end's performance.
"Zeigler's a tremendous talent," Miller said. "I knew last year the type of player he was. He caught some big catches this week in the practice."
And the fumble?
"I didn't say anything to him about it," Miller said with a grin. "If we hadn't recovered it, though, I might have said something."
Ole Miss has made of habit of producing tight ends that garner national exposure, such as Wesley Walls, Chris Magnum and Rufus French.
Now, it's time for Zeigler to establish his legacy.
"Our offense is designed to get everyone involved," he said. "That way, the defense won't know who to key on.
"Blocking is still a big role for me," Zeigler added. "But, I want the coaches and Romaro to know they can count on me to catch the football. I just want to contribute."
That he did.
As long as defense key on stopping the run, different players each week will have the chance to step up and produce big numbers.
McAllister put it best saying, "We can't be stubborn if a team puts nine players in the box. That's just too many people to block. If they do that, then we'll eat them up passing."
And as it turned out, the Green Wave defense turned into the ideal meal for the Ole Miss offense.
The menu will be revealed 6 p.m. Saturday in the confines of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.