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NOTEBOOK: Rebels not letting Iron Bowl distract them

The road to Atlanta still has Ole Miss occupying it, even if it is not in the driver’s seat.

The 19th-ranked Rebels (8-3, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) could still punch their ticket to their first SEC Championship Game if they defeat in-state rival Mississippi State (7-4, 4-3) Saturday in the Egg Bowl. They also need No. 2 Alabama to stumble against Auburn in their annual Iron Bowl matchup.

The Crimson Tide and the Tigers clash at 2:30, four hours before Ole Miss and No. 22 Mississippi State tee it up at Davis Wade Stadium (6:15 p.m., ESPN2).

The opportunity to watch the Iron Bowl before their own game presents itself to the Rebels, but that does not mean they will take it.

“We will leave (the team hotel) around 3 and the game will just be starting and we will not turn on TVs,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “I can’t control all the phones, but I don’t think the kids are following it as closely as I would if I had access to a TV. Once we get to the stadium, all phones will be put away and we won’t have any idea what’s going on in that game.”

The outcome between Alabama and Auburn will be a moot point if Ole Miss does not take care of its own business and do something a Rebel team has not been able to do in the last five trips to Starkville — defeat the Bulldogs.

“It’s going to be a tough-fought game,” quarterback Chad Kelly said. “We’re not going in there and going to lay down if Alabama wins. We’re going in there to win a game. That’s it. Simple as that. We want to go in there and win.”

Brown doubtful
The Ole Miss defense could have one piece return, but it’s unlikely to have at least one key cog on the defensive line.

Junior defensive end Fadol Brown has a stress fracture in his foot, and Freeze said he is “not optimistic” about his chances to play. Brown missed last week’s game against LSU.

Starting free safety C.J. Hampton, who also missed the LSU game, wore a green non-contact jersey during practice Monday. Hampton is dealing with a stinger and will probably wear the non-contact jersey throughout the week to allow it to heal as much as possible before Saturday night.

“It’ll be day by day with him,” Freeze said of Hampton. “He will need to regain strength and mobility in that arm so that he is at no more risk of further injury.”

Ordway to miss first half
After being ejected from the LSU game after a scuffle that caused both benches to spill onto the field, freshman defensive back Cam Ordway will have to miss the first half of the Egg Bowl.

The referees deemed Ordway threw a punch during the scuffle, resulting in him missing the second half of last week’s game. With two quarters already having been served, Ordway will sit out the first and second quarter at Mississippi State to fulfill the full game requirement of the punishment.

Freeze and his staff are not appealing the decision as he felt the ruling was just and the league office was confident in having the facts.

“We have a good relationship with our SEC officials, and when they give me something that they believe is the right interpretation and the right view of what they saw, I’ll support that,” Freeze said.

Haynes, Gates honored
With a depleted defense for multiple reasons, two sophomores stepped up for Ole Miss and were recognized for their efforts Monday.

For a third time this season, Marquis Haynes was honored by the SEC office as the SEC Defensive Lineman of the Week. Haynes tallied four tackles with one tackle for a loss along with a fumble recovery.

Stepping in for Denzel Nkemdiche, DeMarquis Gates had a career day with 14 tackles to earn SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors. It is the first SEC weekly honor for Gates, who has improved immensely in the eyes of Freeze each week.

“DeMarquis has matured some this year, which needed to occur,” Freeze said. “I think he continues to do that as a player and as a young man. Marquis has just had a really solid year for us. Just crazy about that kid.”