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Ross Bjork, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Mississippi, has been given a four-year contract extension to remain the leader of the UM athletics program. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications
Ross Bjork, vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Mississippi, has been given a four-year contract extension to remain the leader of the UM athletics program. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

Ole Miss Athletics Director Ross Bjork has been named vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics at the University of Mississippi.

In announcing that Bjork had been given the new vice chancellor title, university officials also noted that an agreement was reached this summer to extend the athletics director’s contract to June 30, 2020.

UM’s request to give Bjork the title of vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics was approved Thursday by the Board of Trustees of the State Institutions for Higher Learning.

The new title, as well as the extension of Bjork’s contract to reach the four-year maximum allowed by the state, reflects the university’s appreciation and support of the athletics director’s exemplary work since coming to Ole Miss, Chancellor Jeffrey Vitter said.

“Athletics serves an important role at our university as our ‘front porch’ – capturing the hearts and minds of people and bringing them to campus so that they can experience the full richness of our great university,” Vitter said. “Athletics has played a big role in elevating the Ole Miss brand to its strongest point in school history.

“The success of our athletics program is unprecedented and is directly attributable to Ross’ leadership. Naming him as the vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics will continue that momentum. I expect under Ross’ leadership that athletics will continue to be an integral part of our growth and increased visibility.”

Ole Miss is the fifth school in the SEC to give its athletics director the vice chancellor designation, which more accurately reflects the all-encompassing role of the position.

“The idea is that this puts the AD at the table with the provost and other academic leaders on campus on a regular basis,” said Ron Rychlak, UM professor of law and faculty athletics representative. “That facilitates communication between athletics and academics, which is good for all parts of the university.”

Bjork has led Ole Miss athletics programs to unprecedented success since his arrival in 2012. Under his guidance, support has increased with record private donations and record attendance numbers in football, basketball and baseball. The athletics budget has increased from $57 million upon his arrival to $105.5 million for the 2016-17 season.

“My family and I are very grateful for the support and confidence shown by Dr. Vitter and the entire university community with a renewed long-term commitment to continue leading Ole Miss athletics,” Bjork said. “Holding the title of vice chancellor for intercollegiate athletics is not only symbolic of the department’s core values, but also solidifies our role in the university’s overall mission of educating the next generation of America’s leaders.

“I am a big believer in being fully integrated with the university and will continue forward with a great sense of responsibility.”

As a result, Stephen Ponder, the senior executive associate athletics director for external relations, will be promoted to the title of deputy athletics director.

“Stephen has shown great leadership in so many areas since his arrival four years ago,” Bjork said. “His energy level and ‘can do’ attitude have allowed us to grow our entire athletics program physically, financially, competitively and emotionally.

“This promotion to deputy athletics director is well-deserved and fitting for Stephen as my right-hand person. I am grateful for Stephen’s leadership and blessed to work with the best coaches and athletics staff in the country.”

Bjork’s direction of the Forward Together campaign has garnered more than $170 million in donations, resulting in the construction of The Pavilion at Ole Miss, the Vaught-Hemingway Stadium expansion and the renovations of the Gillom Center, Track and Field complex and the Olivia and Archie Manning Athletics Performance Center.

Ole Miss student-athletes and fans have witnessed immediate success in competition under Bjork’s leadership. The Rebel football team appeared in post-season bowl games for the last four consecutive years, reaching the Allstate Sugar Bowl last season for the first time in 46 years. Ole Miss soccer reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament last season for the first time in program history.

In 2014, the Ole Miss baseball team competed in the College World Series in Omaha for the first time in 42 years, and Ole Miss men’s basketball claimed the SEC Tournament Championship in 2013. Ole Miss softball reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in program history.

Men’s and women’s tennis, women’s golf and track and field have also reached post-season play, with pole vaulter Sam Kendricks claiming back-to-back NCAA championships in 2013 and 2014 and a bronze medal at the 2016 Summer Olympics. Track and field athlete Raven Saunders brought an NCAA Championship to Ole Miss for shot put.

But Bjork’s commitment to success reaches well beyond the field of competition. His strong emphasis on academics has led student-athletes to a record average GPA of 3.0, and the graduation success rate has increased from 72 percent to 81 percent.

His active involvement in other university programs, including the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, led to his recognition by the NCAA as a Champion of Diversity in 2015. He and former UM Chancellor Dan Jones were the first individuals highlighted with this designation for their work to support the interests of ethnic minorities and underrepresented populations.

Bjork encourages community involvement among student-athletes as well. Under his leadership, athletics programs and their members have participated in more than 50 service projects. Additionally, he’s traveled the country over the last five years, speaking to more than 19,000 Ole Miss alumni and fans on the Rebel Road Trip.

“We are extremely proud of what our team has accomplished over the past four-and-a-half years, and I truly believe the best is yet to come for the entire university and our athletics program,” Bjork said. “We are Ole Miss!”

By Christina Steube and the Ole Miss News Desk

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Moises Lemus, owner of El Agave Mexican Grill, is no stranger to restaurant life. He grew up watching his dad cook in restaurant kitchens. It was his dad’s job that prompted a move to New Albany, Mississippi, when Lemus was nine years old, just one year after the family arrived in the United States from Mexico.

“My dad is retired now, but he visits and supports me at the restaurant,” said Lemus, whose family still lives in New Albany. “Enrique, our head cook in Oxford, used to cook alongside my dad. He just moved back to the states and we’re excited to have him in our kitchen.”

The new Oxford location, which opened Tuesday, October 11, is a bright, airy space with gleaming new furniture, a full bar and gorgeous hand-painted murals done by Lemus’ mother-in-law Sandra Hoyos.

“She’s a graphic designer, so she also designed our logo and menu,” Lemus said. “She’s the cashier at our New Albany location, too.”

Lemus said it was his customers in New Albany who gave him the push he needed to open a restaurant in Oxford.

fullsizerender-4“We had a lot of customers who were driving from Oxford to eat in New Albany,” Lemus said. “My customers gave me the confidence I needed to expand.”

El Agave’s menu strives to offer familiar Mexican favorites as well as something new.

“There are a lot of authentic Mexican dishes on our menu, but we also try to set ourselves apart,” Lemus said. “We differentiate ourselves from other Mexican restaurants by offering items like our tableside guacamole, street tacos, shish kabobs, tortas, a great hamburger, chipotle cheese dip, white rice, steamed vegetables, fiesta shrimp with bacon and Redneck Nachos.”

Lemus’ personal favorites include El Agave’s shish kabobs, which are chargrilled over an open flame, and the street tacos, because he can mix and match the meats and order as many as he wants.

Lemus may have a business degree, but he believes a restaurant career has always been his calling.

“I’ve worked in restaurants since I was 14 years old. My first job was taking chips to the table,” Lemus said. “I wish I could put into words what I’m attempting to do; I guess I feel like I’m part of the new generation. I’m trying to push new ideas without losing our Mexican roots.”

El Agave Mexican Grill is located in the Oxford Galleria I shopping center at 2305 W. Jackson Avenue and open every day from 11 a.m. until 10 p.m. (10:30 p.m. weekends). For more information, visit elagaveoxford.com, find them on Facebook, or call 662-539-7011.

For information on the Galleria I shopping center or other local restaurant/retail opportunities, contact Trezevant Realty’s Taylor Lovitt at 601-466-2009.

liz headshot

Liz Barrett Foster is the EatingOxford editor for HottyToddy.com, an award-winning business journalist and author of the recently published Pizza: A Slice of American History. Liz ran the popular restaurant information site EatingOxford.com from 2009 to 2015. Liz can be reached at liz.foster@hottytoddy.com.

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Family and friends quickly took to social media to express their sympathies and farewells to a beloved former Ole Miss professor and vice chancellor, Dr. Ronald F. Borne, who passed away today at the age of 77.

David Allen, dean of the School of Pharmacy (SOP), said the pharmacy school is deeply saddened over the passing of Borne, who served as a faculty member of SOP for 37 years.

“I know that the entire SOP family will be deeply affected by this sad news and we all will be keeping the Borne family in our thoughts,” Allen said. “Here’s wishing the entire Borne family comfort and peace during this time.”

Other friends also shared their thoughts and photographs on social media:











HottyToddy.com will provide more information regarding funeral arrangements as they are made available.

For information about Ron Borne’s work as an author, click here.

Randall Haley is the managing editor of HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at randall.haley@hottytoddy.com.

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When Ole Miss Head Football Coach Hugh Freeze and his wife, Jill, started the Freeze Foundation in 2014, they were inspired by faith and a genuine desire to give back. Now, they are taking what has been a self-funded mission to the next level by hiring Alice Blackmon as the Foundation’s first Executive Director.

“Our mission and our heartbeat are to support orphans and needy children both foreign and domestically,” Blackmon said. “Whether it is a sick child in America or an orphan in Africa, the Freeze Foundation wants to make an impact.”

Blackmon, a third generation Ole Miss graduate, who got her degree in Hospitality Management in 2012, feels like God was at work in the three-year process that led to her new role. A chance meeting with Coach Freeze as an event planner in Memphis eventually developed into an opportunity to return to Oxford to lead the Foundation. Her new role just so happened to begin during a busy time for Coach Freeze — the first week of fall camp back in August.

“I felt that God was calling me to go a little bit deeper in my faith, and step out of my comfort zone,” Blackmon said. “It was a unique time, and knowing that the growing work of this Foundation is his passion off the field, he needed to know someone was going to wake up every day thinking about it and being passionate about it.”

Coach Freeze, along with members of the Ole Miss Football team, has adopted a community in Haiti — Camp Marie — where they have traveled for two straight years over spring break in a joint effort with the organization 410 Bridge to bring clean water to the community. That water system, which was not compromised by Hurricane Matthew, now serves 35,000 people.

An emotional Freeze said in a documentary titled “Living Water” about one of the foundation’s mission trips, “God is good, and to see fresh water flowing into this village is an amazing thing, and the small part we played in it at the Freeze Foundation is huge…you see the joy in their faces when they have a water system, things we take for granted, the simple stuff is unbelievable.”

After doing research, talking to others and studying models of similar nonprofits, such as that of the Tim Tebow Foundation, Blackmon and Freeze are working to take the Foundation’s work to the next level and to further its mission of helping children and people in need both locally and internationally.

“On Day 1, Coach gave me a blank canvas and said here are your painting tools –here’s the paint, the brushes, go run with it,” Blackmon said. “Slowly but surely were figuring it out, and we are excited about what the future holds.”

With the work done in Camp Marie, the Foundation has already been able to make a difference on an international scale, and with an expanded base the Foundation plans to  focus right here in Mississippi, specifically in the Mississippi Delta. By partnering with local churches and businesses, the Foundation is looking forward to ultimately bringing like-minded people and organizations together to do good in the world.

“The more that we get out and talk to people, the more we realize this is the passion of an entire community,” Blackmon said. “What we can accomplish through the Foundation on our own is great, but when you involve the community, the sky is the limit.”

To learn more about The Freeze Foundation visit http://ift.tt/2bAlzU8.

Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at steven.gagliano@hottytoddy.com

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Randall Haley is the managing editor of HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at randall.haley@hottytoddy.com.

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Sara Caroline Bridgers is not an ordinary high school student. When Bridgers was only 16 at Oxford High School, she started her own jewelry line. A year later, her jewelry line is carried in 10 different locations.

Bridgers doesn’t consider herself a jewelry person. Ironically, she started her line by accident.

“I got a necklace from the Square for my upcoming junior year picture day, and it ended up breaking the morning of… so I had to get creative,” Bridgers said. “I had suede cord in my arts and crafts box and just had to string something up and ended up loving it. I wore it to school and all of my friends were obsessed.”

Bridgers’ inspiration for her line came from a fashion trend from the early 2000’s that was making its way back into the fashion world.

She said, “Around the time I started Jewels by SarCar the black chokers were coming back into style, and I really loved the look of that combined with a longer hanging piece with the statement stone.”

Bridgers hopes to keep seeing Jewels by SarCar grow online, but also in store fronts.

She said, “I can’t wait to see what is in store for Jewels by SarCar!”

See some of Sara Caroline’s favorite pieces of her collection below: 

Her favorite piece to wear to Ole Miss games is the royal blue wrap necklace, she loves the pop of color it adds to the neutral clothes she most commonly wears:

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Bridgeres’ favorite original piece is the white on white wrap necklace because it goes with everything and is so easy to throw on no matter the occasion:

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However, from her fall line, her favorite piece is the thick black snakeskin choker. Bridgers said, “It’s a twist of the black choker everyone loves with the gray from the snakeskin mixed in.” It also can go with just about any outfit:


Check out her collection: http://ift.tt/1KEL2b4

Alex Kitchens is the social media editor for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at alex.kitchens@hottytoddy.com.

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Confederate Statue on the Ole Miss Campus, as the revised plaque is being installed.

Earlier this week, a revised plaque was placed in front the Confederate Statue on the Ole Miss campus. This action caused the Mississippi Division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) to revive a lawsuit from 2014 that asks for an injunction to be placed on the action taken by the university to put the plaque in front of the statue. The SCV’s petition states that they do not believe the plaque accurately represents the history behind the statue and its significance. The suit, originally filed in 2014, was dismissed at the time. However, a petition for reinstatement was granted on August 1, 2014.

“The SCV requests that this Honorable Court use its broad powers of equity to … grant an injunction against the University of Mississippi, enjoining and preventing the University of Mississippi from disturbing or otherwise altering, desecrating, attacking, removing or placing any kind or plaque or placard which may in any way change, alter or disturb the significance and meaning of the Confederate Monument,” the petition states.

According to mississippitoday.org, the lawsuit points to Miss. Code Ann. § 55-15-81, a state law that declares no “monuments, memorials or nameplates (plaques)” honoring numerous wars, including the “War Between the States,”  not be “relocated, removed, disturbed, altered, renamed or rededicated.”

University officials attempted to get the lawsuit dismissed once again, but Judge Robert Whitwell denied the request in May of 2016. The case was instead moved to circuit court.

HottyToddy.com reached out to the Sons of Confederate Veterans, and The University of Mississippi’s Chief Legal Officer, Lee Tyner for a comment and is waiting on a response. We will continue to update this story as more information becomes available.

For previous content posted about the plaque revisions, click here.

Steven Gagliano is a writer for HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at steven.gagliano@hottytoddy.com.

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Robert Langley (Submitted Photo)
Robert Langley (Submitted Photo)

The University of Mississippi Police Department will hold a memorial service at noon Friday (Oct. 21) in Paris-Yates Chapel on the 10th anniversary of the death of Officer Robert Langley, who was killed in the line of duty in 2006.

Langley was killed while assisting with a traffic stop on Jackson Avenue near the edge of campus. He left behind a wife, two sons and two stepdaughters.

The driver of the vehicle that killed Langley, who was an Ole Miss student, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 20 years. The tragedy shocked and saddened the UM community and prompted changes aimed to create a safer campus environment.

“We really want to remember Officer Langley, but we also want to share with officers how it feels to lose a coworker in the line of duty and how important it is to stick together and support each other,” said Ray Hawkins, associate director of UPD. “We want them to understand they may be called to give the ultimate sacrifice and if they do, that sacrifice will not be forgotten.”

Hawkins was Langley’s supervisor and planned the service of remembrance. Tim Rutledge, director of the Mississippi Law Enforcement Alliance for Peer Support, will be the keynote speaker, and several former UPD officers will reflect of the life of their friend. The public is invited.

Langley, 30, served in the Mississippi Army National Guard and had returned from a deployment to Afghanistan six months before he died. He also had become certified to work with the university’s K-9 officer, Truus, and served on both UPD’s motorcycle and bike patrols, among other duties.

UPD Chief Tim Potts, who came to Ole Miss just last year, said Langley left a legacy of service that is an example for many.

“Though I have only been at UPD for just over a year, Officer Langley’s death left a void in our community,” Potts said. “As he lived his life with a servant’s heart, his legacy lives on and continues to inspire all who knew him.”

Hawkins said he will always remember Langley as a hardworking man who treated coworkers like family.

“He was a very concerned, caring person,” Hawkins said. “He came from a very meager background and he really worked hard to create a life for he and his family. I remember him being so humble. There was nothing he was asked to do that he wasn’t willing to do.”

Hawkins traveled with the Ole Miss band as part of the security detail for a football game in Fayetteville, Arkansas, the night Langley died. That was his last road game.

“It was an unbelievable shock,” Hawkins said. “It’s hard to grasp. I’ve never gone to another away game since then because I’ve always had that fear that if I leave, something else is going to happen and I’m not going to be here to help. I stay close by just in case.

“It really affected our whole department because we were really tight-knit.”

Lafayette County Sheriff’s Deputy Lynn Webb, a former UPD officer who rode on the motorcycle unit with Langley, had worked with him on the night shift but was transferred to a different shift. She was reassigned to the same shift as Langley the week he died and got to spend the last few days working closely with her good friend.

Webb, who will speak at the memorial service, said she, Langley and the other UPD officers were a close group who often hunted, fished and rode all-terrain vehicles together when they weren’t on duty. She remembers Langley as fun-loving, but someone who worked hard to be the best at his job.

“He loved what he did,” Webb said. “He loved trying to take care of people and loved his kids. He was a good man who died doing what he loved to do: working in law enforcement and helping others.”

The tragedy had long-lasting effects. A stretch of Jackson Avenue where Langley died was renamed for him and a marker was placed there. All UPD vehicles still have “B-5,” which was Langley’s radio call number, on them, and his picture hangs in the entrance to UPD.

Langley’s death sparked the creation of the Alcohol Task Force, which was charged with finding ways to make the university and Oxford community safer. As a result of the recommendations issued in 2007, the university created a two-strike policy for students with drug and alcohol violations.

The task force report also led to comprehensive health assessments of UM undergraduates, the creation of the Office of Health Promotion and the mandatory online education and prevention initiative, AlcoholEdu.

UM also launched an awareness campaign to explain the university’s expectations for student behavior on game days and other major campus events, as well as consequences of violating those expectations. The university and Oxford also created the Oxford-University Transit, a public transportation system.

Leslie Banahan, assistant vice chancellor for student affairs, has worked to implement the task force’s recommendations to address concerns over students’ misuse and abuse of alcohol.

“Many excellent recommendations came from this group’s work and most have been implemented,” Banahan said. “But it’s not enough. We must do more, and that’s why another task force was appointed last year.

“We continue to learn more about alcohol and other drug misuse and abuse and how best to help students make good, safe choices. We are also doing more to support students who struggle with substance addiction and have successfully completed a recovery program.”

By Michael Newsom and Ole Miss News Desk

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topstoryhottytoddyEveryone in Oxford has been wondering what stores will be coming to town and when they will open. Today, we give you the answers to all your questions regarding the Galleria II.

Dicks Sporting goods: Open


Ross: No set open date 


 Marshalls: Will open November 10th. 


Ulta Beauty: Open


Five Below: Open 


Shoe Carnival:  Open


The map of the shopping center provided by Trezevant Realty:


Alex Kitchens is the social media editor for HottyToddy.com. She can be reached at alex.kitchens@hottytoddy.com.

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Photo by Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics
Photo by Joshua McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics

No. 22 Ole Miss was outscored 17-0 in the second half as No. 23 LSU handed the Rebels a 38-21 setback Saturday night in the Magnolia Bowl at Tiger Stadium. After going into the half tied at 21-21, the Rebels (3-4, 1-3 SEC) could not overcome a big night by LSU running back Leonard Fournette and a Tigers (5-2, 3-1 SEC) defense that stepped up in the final 30 minutes of play.

Fournette finished the game with 284 yards on the ground, and LSU defense limited the high-powered Ole Miss offense to 325 yards. Senior quarterback Chad Kelly once again led the Rebels through the air and on the ground. The Buffalo, New York, native threw for 209 yards on 19 of 32 passing, while rushing for 56 yards on 12 carries. His favorite receivers were Damore’ea Stringfellow and Van Jefferson, who caught four passes apiece. Stringfellow totaled a game-high 92 yards receiving, and Jefferson added 43 yards and a touchdown.

For the Landshark defense, junior defensive end Marquis Haynes had another huge game that included a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. The Rebels recorded a season-high 10.0 tackles for loss, led by career highs from Temario Strong (2.5) and Detric Bing-Dukes (2.0). Bing-Dukes also posted a team-best eight tackles.

After forcing a three-and-out the Rebels scored on their opening drive for the sixth time this season. Highlighted by a 50-yard pass to Stringfellow, Kelly led Ole Miss 77 yards down the field. The Ole Miss quarterback completed 3-of-4 passes on the drive, including the 15-yard touchdown toss to Van Jefferson. On third down, the redshirt freshman settled down in an opening in the middle of the field. Kelly found Jefferson, and the wideout reversed field to streak to the pylon. The 2:12 drive put the Rebels on the board first.

The Landshark defense came up big once again, limiting the Tigers to three plays before another punt. Ole Miss quickly entered LSU territory and field goal range as Gary Wunderlich booted a season-long 46-yard field goal. With 4:48 remaining in the opening quarter, the Rebels held a double-digit lead, 10-0.

LSU produced its third straight three-play drive but this time found the end zone. A 21-yard pass on 2nd-and-15 gave the Tigers some momentum. On the next play, Leonard Fournette rumbled 59 yards for a touchdown to cut the Rebels’ advantage to three.

Using seven plays, the Tigers went 97 yards to take their first lead of the game at the 11:13 mark of the second quarter. Fournette started the drive with a 24-yard run to give LSU some room to work with, and quarterback Danny Etling capped it off with a 40-yard pass to DJ Chark to make it a 14-10 game in favor of the home team.

On the ensuing Ole Miss drive, the Rebels cut into the deficit with a 22-yard field goal by Wunderlich. Splitting the uprights for the second time in the contest, the junior kicker brought the Rebels to within a point. LSU countered with a 76-yard touchdown run by Fournette to bring the margin to eight, 21-13, with 6:11 left in the first half.

After LSU forced the Rebels to punt late in the second quarter, it looked as if the Tigers would take a lead into the locker room. However, Haynes had something to say about that. As Etling dropped back to pass on first down, the speed rusher blew past the right tackle and drilled the LSU quarterback from his blind side. The huge hit caused the ball to pop loose and freshman Jaylon Jones jumped on it to give Ole Miss the ball inside the LSU 10. On third-and-goal, Akeem Judd plunged into the end zone for a Rebel touchdown. After an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the Tigers, Ole Miss elected to go for two to try and tie the ballgame. Kelly’s decision to keep the ball on a read option proved to be a smart one as he crossed the goal line to knot the contest at 21-21. After 30 minutes of football, the game stood where it started, all tied up.

The Tigers controlled the second half. On LSU’s first offensive play of the half, Fournette took off 78 yards down the field for a touchdown to break the tie. A 44-yard field goal gave the home team its biggest lead of the night, 31-21, with one quarter to play. LSU added a final touchdown in the fourth, a 6-yard run by Derrius Guice.

Following the pair of road contests, the Rebels return to Oxford for another divisional matchup next Saturday. Ole Miss will host the Auburn Tigers at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with kickoff set for 6:15 p.m.

Follow Ole Miss Football on Twitter (@OleMissFB), Facebook and Instagram. For more information, visit http://ift.tt/16ouVLF.


Courtesy of Ole Miss Sports

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