OXFORD, Miss. — Good Monday afternoon, Ole Miss fans! Here we are two days after the 76-41 home victory over Southern Illinois. It was a harder-fought win than most of us expected, but it was a win, nonetheless.
One of the most interesting things I’ve noticed in the years I’ve been fortunate enough to watch football here in Oxford is that everyone leaves with a different perspective of the game. Obviously, people sit in different seats; some may watch from home, and some may listen on the radio—but that’s not what I mean. My take on “perspective” refers more to the way the game makes you feel. When the offense goes out, do you get excited to see another super-human catch from one of the NWOs? Or, are you more looking forward to seeing the experienced offensive line work against the opposing team in the trenches?
Personally, the perspective I carry is one of optimism for a great season. I am truly grateful I am able to watch my favorite school play my favorite game on earth. As a student here at Ole Miss, I can tell you nothing gets me quite as excited as when I wake up Saturday morning and I know I am steps away from one of the most fantastic gameday experiences on the planet.
Gameday at Ole Miss
Waking up on a Saturday morning in the fall — especially when you know you have a full slate of college football games to watch — gives you a feeling of energy and excitement.
Like many of you, I am always super-pumped to turn on College Gameday on ESPN to watch Lee Corso make his picks in front of thousands of rabid fans.
I am sure most of you remember that gorgeous day in 2014 when Katy Perry shocked the college football world by expressing her support for the Ole Miss Rebels, who would be facing the Alabama Crimson Tide later that day. The Rebs went on to notch one of the biggest wins in school history, and Katy celebrated on the Square all night with Ole Miss fans.
Though this past weekend wasn’t the biggest or most raucous crowd The Grove has ever seen, the warm family spirit was alive and well. The smell of sweet BBQ and the sight of beautiful desserts as far as the eye could see made this gameday just as special to me as all the rest. After plenty of eating and conversing with friends, I entered the north end zone of the stadium and felt that warm feeling return as I knew I was among friends who were all gathered together to support our Ole Miss football team.
Kickoff was minutes away when the small-yet-mighty “Pride of the South” Marching Band graced the stadium with the tunes every Ole Miss fan longs to hear, including our ever-favorite, “Forward Rebels.”
Ole Miss offense
Soon after, Coach Luke and the team took the field ready to take on the opposing Salukis. The first offensive drive was a bit of a disappointment as it ended quickly with a three-and-out for Ole Miss. But, being the optimistic Rebel fan I always am, I was positive we would take care of business in the next series.
Sure enough, over the next six drives, the potent Ole Miss offense scored on every possession, racking up 42 (!) points in the process. Over the stretch of these successful drives, the NWO were in full-speed-ahead mode, as Braylon Sanders, Elijah Moore, and A.J. Brown each had spectacular touchdown receptions.
Also in the six-drive stretch, running back Scottie Phillips got in on the action, scoring two touchdowns and racking up yards in what was another sensational day. The JUCO transfer notched over 100 yards for the second game in a row.
On the defensive side of the football, there was much more to be desired from a unit that struggled in the first half to stop the Salukis’ balanced offense—an offense that, surprisingly, was able to keep up with the seemingly unstoppable Ole Miss offense.
However, it seemed most of that confusion was confined to the first half of play, as the Rebels’ defense was able to hold the Salukis to only a single field goal in the second half. Looking back at what ending up being one of the highest-scoring games in SEC history, I would have to say I haven’t seen a defensive turnaround quite like that between two halves of a football game.
Coming out of halftime, the Ole Miss defense suddenly seemed to have a new energy—making big plays and big hits, and giving up minimal points. The Rebel defense actually became so productive that it became part of the scoring frenzy, as the unit racked up two defensive touchdowns in the second half.
Vernon Dasher dazzled with an 88-yard pick-six, and Victor Evans recorded a 56-yard scoop-and-score following an SIU fumble. These two TDs gave a huge boost of confidence to a unit that had struggled mightily in the first half—and also gave a lift to a seemingly-deflated crowd that instantly regained energy after those two big scores.
Near the end of the contest, when the Rebels were in firm control of the lead, freshman quarterback Matt Corral entered the game for his first appearance this season, and he quickly dazzled the crowd with a couple of spot-on throws and a great run that helped seal an Ole Miss victory.
By the way, if you did not see the SportsCenter Top 10 from this weekend, you might want to take a look at Alex Weber’s absolutely INCREDIBLE catch near the end of the game. It was a thing of beauty, both in person and on the TV following the game.
Alex Weber with the circus catch! pic.twitter.com/QhoakQn5oi
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) September 8, 2018
To wrap up what was a fun, albeit stressful, day in the Vaught, I will say I do see an edge to this team that I haven’t seen the past couple seasons. This team will play for each other and they will play for you, Rebel Nation.
The 2018 Rebels are fun to watch on offense. Currently, Scottie Phillips is the leading rusher in the SEC. With Jordan Ta’amu at the helm and an army of Nasty Wide Outs to whom he can throw, the Ole Miss offense is ranked No. 2 in the nation in passing offense, averaging 407.5 yards per game. In the second half Saturday, the defense showed glimpses of what could be the eventual return of the Landshark defense.
This brings me back to my original point about perspective. Everyone left the win Saturday with a different perspective—some good and some not. But however you feel, this is a team that we can all get behind. As a student here, we are a family and we are all in this together. I’ve seen some good things out of this team so far, and in the process the Rebels are still undefeated. Sure, we are only two games into the season, and we do have the nation’s No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide looming in our very near future. However, on Saturday our team will be here to lock The Vaught in front of the Rebel faithful—ready to play and ready to give everything they’ve got for their school and for one another.
Let’s support them in every way we can in their quest to upset the nation’s finest. Though Ole Miss is a large underdog, just remember the old adage: “that’s why we play the game!”