Ole Miss returns to the gridiron on Saturday as they play host to the No.23 California Golden Bears out of the PAC 12. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. on ESPNU.
“I’m excited about this opportunity, a chance to have a top-25 team coming into Oxford,” head coach Matt Luke said.
Ole Miss (2-1) is coming off a 40-29 victory over Southeastern Louisiana last weekend as freshman running back Jerrion Ealy had a career day in a Rebel uniform. Ealy reeled off 273 all-purpose yards (172 kickoff return, 95 rushing) the most ever by a freshman in program history.
“I was very excited about (Ealy) breaking records, and he showed up in the kickoff return. He showed up running the football,” Luke said.
Senior wide receiver Braylon Sanders returned to the practice field on Tuesday in preparation for this contest. Sanders went down with a hamstring injury against the Memphis Tigers in the season opener.
“Braylon has looked good out there at practice,” Luke said. “In football, it is the next man up mentality and any time that you get somebody back its a spark.”
The Cal Golden Bears are off to their third consecutive 3-0 start and heads into Oxford coming off of a 23-17 home win over North Texas. The Bears upset No. 14 Washington, 20-19, in their only road game so far in 2019.
On offense, Cal averages just over 350 yards of total offense per game, with 191 yards coming on the ground and 159 through the air. Sophomore Christopher Brown, Jr. leads the Cal rushing attack with 65 carries for 324 yards and two touchdowns. His 36 carries and 197 rushing yards in the season opener vs. UC Davis were both career highs.
Redshirt sophomore Chase Garbers serves as Cal’s primary signal-caller and has a 9-4 career record as a starter. Garbers has thrown for 478 yards and tallied three touchdowns, compared to just one interception in the first three games of the season. Despite only 36 total receptions as a team, 10 different Golden Bear receivers have hauled in a catch this season.
Senior team captain and a preseason All-American Evan Weaver leads a Cal defense that ranks fourth in the Pac-12, allowing just 313.7 yards of total offense. Weaver is fourth in the country with 13.7 tackles per game.
“They have the leading returning tackler in the FBS coming back in (Evan) Weaver, their middle linebacker. He plays extremely hard and they are very good in the secondary,” Luke said.
Cornerback Camryn Bynum helps patrol the secondary for Cal and has one interception on the season. Placekicker Greg Thomas is sixth in the NCAA with seven field goals on the year and is 3-for-4 from 40 yards or more.
Ole Miss and Cal will be meeting for the second-time ever between the two schools. The Rebels fell to the Golden Bears 27-16 back in 2017 in Berkeley, Calif.
Fans can watch all the action on ESPNU or listen to the call on the Ole Miss Radio Network at 11 a.m.