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SOUTHERN FOOTBALL FRIDAYS: The Ballad of Archie Who

Back in the day a fall couldn’t pass without Ole Miss and Tennessee playing, which brought the classic Nov. 15, 1969 SEC tilt when the Rebels were led by a legendary quarterback.

Archie Manning could do everything — scramble, pass and win.

Tennessee entered the game undefeated and ranked No. 3 in the country. Manning led a team that had experienced several tough losses: 10-9 to Kentucky on the road, 25-11 to Houston, and a memorable nationally-televised 33-32 defeat to Alabama on the road. Ole Miss had also beaten Georgia and LSU when both were undefeated.

Tennessee had waxed Ole Miss 31-0 the previous season in a game that saw Manning throw six interceptions. Thus, the undefeated Vols saw no heavy lifting on the horizon heading into their 1969 tilt.

“Ole Miss vs Tennessee 1969 (4233310964)” by RebelNation1947 – Ole Miss vs Tennessee 1969 Archie Manning steps to the line. “Ole Miss vs Tennessee 1969 (4233310964)” by RebelNation1947 – Ole Miss vs Tennessee 1969

Tennessee featured future NFL linebackers Jack “Hacksaw” Reynolds and Steve Kiner. And it seems that Kiner decided to talk some smack about Manning, who had become America’s darling following his performance against Alabama.

Smack wasn’t the norm back in those days, so Kiner’s words were fighting words. Particularly after “Archie Who?” buttons appeared on the Tennessee campus.

Ole Miss coach Johnny Vaught seized the motivational moment. Mysteriously a plane flew over the Rebels’ practice field the week of the game and dropped leaflets declaring among other things, “Vols are No. 1” and “Archie Who?”

Tennessee never knew what hit them after Ole Miss roared out of the tunnel at Mississippi Veterans Memorial Stadium in Jackson that day.

Following the opening kickoff, the man who would father Peyton and Eli — perhaps the greatest brother act in sports history — led the Rebels on an 11-play, 82-yard touchdown drive. Manning and company were relentless. After three possessions, Ole Miss held a 21-0 lead and hunted for more.

Tennessee never got off the mat, taking a humbling 38-0 loss.

In the aftermath of that game came “The Ballad of Archie Who?” by the “Truck Stop Sweethearts & C.B. Savages.”

The ball is on the 50,

The down is third and 10,

He runs it down the sideline,

Yeah, Archie takes it in…

bchastain19@gmail.com

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Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Bobby Ross. The former college and pro football coach led Georgia Tech to a share of the national championship in 1990 and later led the San Diego Chargers

©2020 by Bill Chastain. Photo credits: Jill Doty Photography