Schaeffer shows signs of living up to hype|[11/19/07]

Published 12:00 am Monday, November 19, 2007

OXFORD — He was annointed the savior under center even before he had stepped foot on campus.

His resume from part of a year at the University of Tennessee and two at a junior college in California said he would have little problem jumping into the Ole Miss offense and leading the Rebels to heights Eli Manning once did.

But it never happened.

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He had trouble grasping the offense. His work ethic came into question. His decision-making at times left much to be desired.

But on Saturday, in a losing effort, Brent Schaeffer showed the Ole Miss faithful a glimpse of what was supposed to have been when head coach Ed Orgeron named him the starter on National Signing Day in 2006.

“I think he played well although he had the interceptions,” Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron said after the Rebels’ 41-24 loss to top-ranked LSU on Saturday. “We knew we had to have our best athletes on the field because of LSU’s speed. I thought he could give us a chance.”

Schaeffer came in for an ineffective Seth Adams in the second quarter Saturday and drove the team deep into LSU territory with a chance to tie the game at 14 at halftime. A delay of game penalty, though, led Orgeron to pull Schaeffer for Adams, who immediately was intercepted in the end zone by LSU’s Craig Steltz, dashing any momentum the Rebels would have had going into the break.

A cascade of boos from the Ole Miss student section rained on Orgeron as the fourth-year coach neared the locker room.

Orgeron said at halftime he thought Schaeffer had gotten rattled and that led to his removal. After the game he said, “Brent hadn’t been in there for a while and we tried to change to plays to get the formation right. It just wasn’t working the way we wanted it to work. That’s the reason we took him out down there.”

Schaeffer started all 12 games in 2006, completing 115 of 224 passes for 1,442 yards and nine touchdowns. He also threw 10 interceptions and was lifted at the beginning of this season in favor of Adams.

Before Saturday, Schaeffer had appeared in four games, completing 12 of 34 passes for 353 yards. He had his best game in the LSU loss, running for a team-high 94 yards and scoring on a 38-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter that brought the Rebels to within 10 at 27-17. Schaeffer also threw a touchdown pass in the second half.

“We came up short against the No. 1 team in the nation,” Schaeffer said. “We had a lot of plays out there, but we didn’t make them all. We played hard, but they played harder. They are a good team.”

With one game remaining against Mississippi State, Orgeron would not say who would start against the in-state rivals. Ole Miss will be trying to win its first Southeastern Conference game of the season.

“It will be big emotionally,” Schaeffer said of the State game. “I am not playing this game for me, I’m playing for Ole Miss. … We need the win.”