The Cleveland boys discuss a huge college football Saturday, the yoyo Saints and the Greenwood Christian dilemma.

Stream all episodes here.

Want an email alert when the latest episode publishes? Enter your email address below:

Transcript

Tyler: Hello, and welcome to the Crooked Letter Sports Podcast. I’m one half of your host and crew Tyler Cleveland, along with the man, the myth, the legend, the gov, Rick Cleveland. Dad, how was your weekend?

Rick: It was unusual, Tyler. I didn’t, uh, for the first football Saturday, maybe of my lifetime. I didn’t watch a single college football game Saturday. I had other commitments, so I picked probably the most eventful Saturday of this, or any season to not be able to watch any football. So I kept up with it on Twitter and I kept thinking, golly, what in the world am I doing?

Tyler: Well, you had good other plans. And we want to talk about some college football today, and we’re going to talk about the Saints and the were gonna kinda end it with some high school stuff.

So, let’s start with Saturday. You did miss one hell of a college football Saturday. You know, it started at 11:00 AM with Ole miss and Arkansas. A game that certainly lived up to the billing. I didn’t think either team was going to get a stop the entire game. Came down to the wire. Arkansas got the ball back with like a minute and 20 seconds left, went down the field and scored and went for two to go for the win. And, you know, Sardis native KJ. Jefferson just couldn’t find the receiver in the back of the end zone. I thought when they got the ball back, I thought they were going to drive the field, score and go for two and win and told the person I was watching the game with as much. We talked about it this morning, you didn’t like the decision to go for two.

Rick: Well, when I said, I didn’t see any college football this weekend, I saw the last 30 seconds of the Ole Miss – Arkansas game.

And I told the guys I was with, we had played golf and we were just finishing up. We ran in to see the end of the game and I told them that if I was Arkansas, our kid can play on. And they all said, “No! You’re on the road you got to go for two to win.” So, you know, I guess I would have played on, I just didn’t think, I think on a short field, you’re playing on a twenty-five yard field, that Arkansas actually may have had a little bit of an advantage over Ole Miss because Ole Miss has so much big play potential and they score from all over the field. And the more you shrink the field, I think it becomes, in my opinion, Arkansas had a better chance to win.

Tyler: Yeah. Jefferson just had a fantastic game. You know, a guy that I think most would remember him from his time at North Panola, but they had just had a fantastic game.

They were running the option, ole Miss really didn’t have an answer for it. The Rebels looked, on defense a lot, like the team we saw for most of last season. You know, granted they’re a little banged up at this point in the year, but boy, Arkansas just kind of exploited that over and over and, you know, ran for a ton of yards, passed for a ton, but it was highly entertaining.

And then I think my favorite part right after the game was over, the sideline reporter finds Lane Kiffin, you know, and says, “Coach, I know your defense didn’t play as well as you liked, but you, but you got to stop when you needed it.” And then Kiffin just, hilarious. He just gives this incredulous look and he’s like, “You can dress it up any way you want to. We didn’t stop anybody all day today. You know, we just made one more play than they did at the end.” And brought it back to Corral and his amazing performance. So it’s just those sideline interviews with Lane just keep getting better and better.

Rick: Well, this is where we are in college football right now ,is that Arkansas gained 670 yards, total offense and lost the football game.

I mean, you look down the score list Saturday, Tyler, again, I wasn’t watching, but I can go back to this. You know, you got the Oklahoma – Texas game, you got the Alabama – Texas A&M game. You got Ole Miss – Arkansas. So many games where it’s almost like flag football now.

Tyler: Yeah, you should have seen that Red River Shootout. That thing was stupid, it was just back and forth. It was like watching a ping pong match. And then I’m glad you mentioned Alabama and A&M because that was, to me the best game on Saturday that, you know, really mattered. It was, you know, it was back and forth. I didn’t expect Alabama to lose.

I still didn’t think they were going to lose when they were, you know, went down, with like two minutes ago. I didn’t think they were going to lose the game. You know, they had played so well. They out gained A&M, again, by like 150 yards and, you know, possess the ball for longer. And, you know, almost every statistical category except for the scoreboard. And that kind of goes to what you’re saying.

Rick: Yeah. Well, Alabama had played Florida and Ole Miss and then they had Texas A&M back to back to back and now guess who they have.

Tyler: Yeah. It doesn’t bode well for the Mississippi State Bulldogs. You don’t want to play Alabama coming off a loss. I wouldn’t imagine.

Rick: Well, you know, you really don’t want to play Alabama anytime. You know, Mississippi State has had an open date, you know, who they played the week before their open date. They won at Texas A&M where Alabama lost Saturday.

Tyler: Yeah. Well, let’s play a little bit of a game since you haven’t looked at the the lines for this weekend. What do you think the line is on that? Alabama at Mississippi State, Saturday.

Rick: My guess would be 17.

Tyler: 17 and a half. This man’s a legend for a reason, ladies and gentlemen, what about Ole Miss at Tennessee?

Rick: I would make Ole Miss a six point favorite

Tyler: Ole Miss is currently a three point favorite on the road in Knoxville.

And then finally, we haven’t talked about Southern Miss yet. They lost to UTEP on Saturday to fall to 1-5. They have UAB coming to town.

Rick: I would say UAB would be a 13 point favorite.

Tyler: UAB as a 16 point favorite in Hattiesburg on Saturday.

Rick: Boy where there was a time I thought we’d never see that.

Tyler: I know it used to be like, you know, number four TCU coming to town on a Thursday night. And they’d be like, you know, four point favorite.

Rick: Well it’s tough times, going to be a tough slog for Will. I still think he’s the right guy for them, but it’s not rebuilding. It’s almost like starting over.

Tyler: Yeah, it is. It is. And I mean, you know, like we talked about this morning, they’re on their fourth quarterback of the season and it’s just, you know. Like we’re talking about college football, such an offensive driven machine, a good defense will only get you so far.

Rick: Well the kids played okay, but you got to think about this. You got a freshman who was a backup quarterback at Jackson Prep who’s their guy now.

Tyler: Yeah, it’s going to be a long season, like you said. But you know, they’ll take their lumps and they’ll be better for it, hopefully, going forward.

Let’s move on to the NFL. I know you did watch the Saints on Sunday cause you were in New Orleans.

Rick: Yes, I did watch the Saints and I thought they really, really played well in a game, they could easily have lost, especially with all the injuries they had on the offensive line and then losing Deontay Harris and Taysom Hill early in the game. They played pretty well. I thought they, and it’s a great time to have a win like that going into a bye week when they should be getting a lot of these injured players back.

Tyler: Yeah, they had to come back stronger, man. I think getting off to a 3-2 start before the bye instead of 2-3 is just massive. And I thought the defense played well. We got to talk about the punter,

Rick: The punter won the game. The punter was the most valuable player. And I was glad to hear that they gave him the game ball because he was the MVP for the Saints.

Tyler: Downed, I think it was three punts inside the three yard line, on a day when, you know, we put the defense on the field a little bit too much, and they found a way to come through.

Rick: It really reminded me of back when I was in my formative years and writing sports and watching Ray Guy at Southern Miss and then with the Oakland Raiders how he controlled games. Every time the other team gets the ball, you’re starting out inside your five yard line. You know, it’s a reminder of what football was like before it was 55 – 48 every day.

Tyler: I mean, and that’s the NFL. I mean, you know, you don’t, you never know what you’re going to get. You get those, you know, 45 – 38 games. It’s just, you know, it’s pretty rare because the defenses are so good. But what you do get as a close game pretty much every week. There’s no, I mean, it used to be, you know, when the Saints were really cooking with Brees and Peyton in the heyday, it was, you know, there’s a lot of games that they would go up, you know, 24 points and you could kind of, you know, go piddle around in the kitchen or whatever you want, cut the grass or whatever. But it ain’t going to be like that anymore. And I think that’s what 95% of the league is kind of used to is every game coming down to the end.

It was great to see the Saints find a way to win a game like that because the past couple of weeks they’ve been, you know, I thought it was going to be for a minute there they were going to blow a third straight lead in as many weeks.

Rick: 11 point lead in the fourth quarter for the second straight week. And this time they answered. Played a solid game.

I thought Jameis Winston played pretty well. Defense was outstanding. Demario Davis, we should talk more about him. What a great player.

Tyler: He’s an incredible player. And there was one play, they killed me Sunday, where he came around the corner and you could see the quarterback’s eyes just get big as saucers because he came free around the edge and just walloped the guy. So, I mean, you know, it was one of those things where like, I was glad the Saints were winning, but man, it was hard to watch.

Rick: Yeah. We need to get Demario to be on our podcast one day, because his whole story of where he’s come from and, you know, the problems he had as a child in Brandon, Mississippi, and then at Arkansas state and then all the good things he does now off the field, as well as on the field. Just such a great story.

Tyler: I’m sure Demario listens. So Demario, if you’re out there, the offer stands. We’ll talk, Brandon football for however long you want to. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Dakota Prescott because the Cowboy has picked up a huge win yesterday afternoon and are completely rolling, and he is right at the center of it just playing fantastic. Just kind of having the season that we knew that he was capable of having again. At this point, he’s in my top echelon of NFL quarterbacks. And it’s just been really fun to watch them.

Rick: He’s just playing as well as he ever has played or better, and that’s really saying something and he’s a leading candidate right now, one of the leading candidates for MVP.

Tyler: And well deserved. And I, you know, I’m sure he’s going to be there at the end of the season, too, if he can stay healthy, which, you know, not great if you don’t like the Cowboys, but it’s hard to pull against Dak. So we’d be remiss if we didn’t get out of here without talking about some of these high school stories, Dad, we’ve got a lot going on in the state.

Last Friday night, I watched Madison Central beat Clinton at Clinton. The Jaguars very squarely in the hunt in region too, but the team to beat there and the story that has kind of developed is Starkville. They have got, you know, Chris Jones, their head coach told me at the beginning of the season, they were going to be, you know, a work in progress and they were young and everything.

They may be early, but they’ve arrived. They’ve got super sophomores everywhere. Their quarterback, Trey Petty’s great. They’re undefeated. They beat Tupelo on Friday night. Down on the coast, we got Ocean Springs as undefeated and trying to shake the stigma of coast teams, you know. It seems like every year, the coast has one really, really, really good team that barnstorms through the season and, and loses in the first or second round of the playoffs.

I think Ocean Springs is going to change that. And then we’ve got West Point. Who just keeps rolling right along with coach Chris Chambliss up there. They’re just, they’re still undefeated. So were kind of separating the men from the boys now that we’re into region play. And there’s a lot of good teams out there.

Rick: Yeah. I’d like to see a West Point – Greenville Christian game.

Tyler: Yeah, I would too. And I think the possibility for that was out there at one point. But now with the Green Wave kinda in region play, I don’t know that there’s any chance of that happening. I mean, I thought for a minute that we were just going to see Greenville Christian play every undefeated team, just to see if they could handle them.

Rick: Well they would. I mean, given the chance right now, they’d play anybody. You know the story we talked about it, but they’ve had three teams cancel on them now. Basically each one of them said for health and safety reasons, they don’t wanna get beat up. And so they thought they had a game against a nationally ranked team this Friday in Washington DC. And then that team, St. John’s College, a really big Catholic school in DC canceled on them. So they’re back to where this’ll be, this is the second Friday night in a row. They haven’t had a game.

Tyler: Yeah. And it’s tough to take a couple of weeks off in the middle of the season. And then when they do play, that might be a little rusty, but you’ve been following this story closer than I, are there any possibilities out there for them?

Rick: Well, they have a game next Friday night against a team from Greenwood, Delta Streets, and Delta streets has assured them that they’re going to play. Get this, here we are, we’ll be in mid to late October and that will only be their second home game for Greenfield Christian. And then you get to the playoffs and then teams either have to forfeit or play. You know, do you forfeit out of the playoffs? Just say, “Nah, we don’t think we’re going to play in the playoffs.” so I guess they’ll get at least three more games in the playoffs.

Tyler: Yeah. The playoff teams surely will play them, but you know, I don’t think it’s going to work out and RIP in advance for Delta Streets.

Rick: Well, I should say, they’re still trying to play a game Friday night. The coach, John Reed McLendon, who does a terrific job at Greenville Christian, they did their research and found every team in the deep south that has an open date this Friday night. And they contacted them all. They got one team in South Florida who says, we’re going to try to work it out and they should. We’re recording this on Monday and they should find out later today whether they have that game or not.

Tyler: Well, I hope they find opponents to play. I mean, it’s, you know, that’s why the kids went to Greenville Christian in the first place so that they would get to play games last year. And so it carried it all over in this year. They deserve to get to play. I know if I was a head coach in Mississippi, and my team was even sniffing success in region play, I would not be signing up. Because it’s, you know, they already knocked off Oak Grove at Oak Grove. I’m not sure what, you know, unless they could get a game with a West Point or somebody like that. You know, I don’t know that there’s anybody that can really give them a game.

Rick: I had an interesting conversation with Lance Polk last week. Of course Lance, famously was the coach when South Panola had such great teams, and is now the coach at Jay and they played them as close as anybody has played them. I mean, any Mississippi team has played them. They lost 30 to nine at home a couple of weeks ago. And I asked Lance how he thought they would do, how Greenville Christian would do playing a 6-A schedule. You know playing every week against 6-A teams. And he said, “You know, it’d be really hard for them cause they don’t have any depth. That week after week that the physical toll would would happen.” It happens to everybody and there’s no next up, you know, but he said in a one-time deal, he said they’re as good as anybody.

I mean a one game, one Friday, you pick a Friday night. He said he’d put them against anybody, anywhere.

Tyler: Well, I was talking to, you know, just like you were saying on Friday night, I was talking to our friend, Judd Boswell at Clinton and he, you know, it’s like, they played Brandon, then they hosted Madison Central and it’s like, you know, they got Oxford coming in next week and it just goes from there, you know?

So, I mean, especially there in that region too. And then in region three, less so in region three than in region two, I mean, it is every week you were playing somebody who can beat you and will roll out, you know, 70 players, 75 players, 80 guys dressed out. So that would be hard for them, but they continue to be, probably the best story in high school sports in Mississippi, maybe in the past, you know, five, ten years. They’re as good as it gets. And you know, you hope to see them.

Rick: Frankly, I think they’re one of the best stories in Mississippi sports period in the last 10 years. I mean, just to come out of nowhere and you know, a little school that has 220 kids kindergarten through 12th grade goes down and wins at Oak Grove. That’s just unbelievable.

Tyler: All right. That about wraps it up for us today Dad, I think. You gonna play any golf this week?

Rick: Yeah, I hope so. I hope so. Got a busy week this week and I plan to watch some college football for about next Saturday.

Tyler: I’m looking forward to watching it with you, buddy. That does it for us on the Crooked Letter Sports Podcast.

I’m Tyler Cleveland, he’s Rick Cleveland. You can follow us on Twitter @TylerCleveland and @RickCleveland. Keep up with all the latest and what’s going on in high school sports at scorebooklive.com/mississippi. And you can keep up with all the latest and what’s going on and everything else in Mississippi at mississippitoday.org. Thanks to our friends at Blue Sky Podcasts in Jackson for producing this show. Have a great week everybody, stay safe out there.

Please take a few minutes to answer some questions about sports in Mississippi:

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.

Tyler Cleveland

Tyler Cleveland is a senior reporter for Scorebook Live and the co-host of Mississippi Today's Crooked Letter Sports Podcast.