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Notes from the Sideline: Quitters quit; fighters fight–and these Rebels are fighters

Notes from the Sideline: Quitters quit; fighters fight–and these Rebels are fighters

OXFORD, Miss. – Have you ever experienced a morning where things just don’t go smoothly, and you worry it’s going to be “one of those days?” Maybe you can’t find your car keys and you’re late for a meeting, or perhaps you spill coffee all over yourself as you’re walking in to talk to an important client.

Saturday, as I walked down onto the Vaught-Hemingway sidelines before the Vandy game to take pictures of pre-game warmups, I felt like things seemed a little “off.” I hoped the miserable heat—which waited, thankfully, until October 14 to appear—was not forewarning of what was to come.

As the pregame continued, I worried a little more. The timing of the KC-135 flyover appeared to be about 45 seconds late. And when the Rebels came out of the locker room, something felt a little disjointed from my vantage point, like the timing was off a little there, too. When it was time to Lock the Vaught, the stadium was about half-full.

The day sure seemed to be getting off to a weird start.

Quitters quit; fighters fight

The first Ole Miss drive was a three-and-out that included a false start penalty on the Rebels, as well as a sack of quarterback Shea Patterson for an 8-yard loss that made it 4th and 17.

Then, on the first play for Vandy, running back Ralph Webb busted loose for 21 yards.

Marquis Haynes had a career-high 3 sacks and 3 TFL against Vandy. (Photo credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)

Even with all this, though, I reminded myself of the old adage: “quitters quit; fighters fight,” and I knew on which side of that Ole Miss would be.

Sure enough, Marquis Haynes and the Landsharks bowed their backs. Marquis’ sack of Vanderbilt QB Kyle Shurmur for a seven-yard loss forced the Commodores into a 46-yard field goal attempt which was wide-left.

Whew!

On their third series of the game, the Rebels got on track in a flash. On first down, running back Jordan Wilkins picked up 16 yards to the Ole Miss 42. Then, Shea Patterson threw a beautifully-timed pass to A.J. Brown for 58 yards and an Ole Miss touchdown. The line on the quick-strike scoring drive: 3 plays, 74 yards, 51 seconds.

It had taken all of fifty-one seconds for Ole Miss to go 74 yards. Things were definitely looking up.

The two teams traded possessions until early in the second quarter when Shurmur hit a 23-yard pass to Kalija Lipscomb. On the very next play, Webb took it 38-yards to the house for a Vanderbilt touchdown that tied the game at 7-all.

Facing adversity

Wilkins rushed for a career-high 18 times for 120 yards and 1 TD against Vandy. (Photo credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)

Ole Miss received the kickoff, and everyone was ready to see how this young team would respond. The Rebels answered with a long touchdown run by Jordan Wilkins; however, the refs called a holding penalty on Ole Miss (upon looking at the replay, it was bogus) that negated the TD.

After seeing the replay, the Ole Miss sideline went nuts—as did every Rebel fan in the stands. The refs then threw yet another flag, this one on the Ole Miss sideline. Soon the offense found itself in a hole from which it could not climb out, and the Rebels were forced to punt.

Shurmur took over at his own 44 and quickly hit Trent Sherfield on a 38-yard pass, followed by a couple of shorter ones to Webb—before Webb then scored on a 1-yard TD run that gave Vandy its first lead at 14-7.

This might be the time a lesser team would fold the tent and say ‘woe is me.’ But, remember last week when I told you that this team is different? They have taken on the personality of their head coach—by this, I mean they are a blue-collar bunch. They are a group that would rather fight than run; a unit that is fully adopting the “never quit” motto for which Ole Miss is known.

Shea Patterson scores his first collegiate rushing touchdown against Vanderbilt Saturday. (Photo credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)

This team is young, but the players are armed with Matt Luke’s “dig down and fight it out in the trenches” mentality, combined with Wesley McGriff’s enthusiasm and Phil Longo’s quiet confidence.

So it came as no surprise when the Rebels ripped off 28 unanswered points and took a 35-14 lead with barely two minutes left in the second period.

Head coach Derek Mason’s Vanderbilt team was still fighting, however, and the Rebels let the Commodores pick up a big 48-yard run that led to a TD with 37 seconds left before halftime. Ole Miss headed into intermission with a 35-21 lead.

Halftime lead

Coach Luke and his team took a nice lead into halftime—but there was plenty of coaching still to do. I am sure not a single Ole Miss fan (or coach) felt safe with a 14-point lead at the end of two quarters.

I wasn’t in the locker room, obviously, but I have to believe defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff and his crew challenged their young group to step it up in the second half.

Marquis Haynes forced Vandy QB Shurmur to fumble and Ole Miss notched a safety when the ball bounced into the end zone. (Photo credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)

How would they respond? That question was answered very quickly.

Ole Miss kicked off to Vandy to begin the third quarter. Just 55 seconds later, Marquis Haynes sacked Shurmur for a loss of 8 yards back to the Vandy 5-yard line, causing Shurmur to fumble in the process.

The Commodores tried feverishly to recover the ball before it made its way to the end zone; however they were unable to do so and the Rebels scored two points off the safety. 37-21, Ole Miss.

Following the safety, Vandy kicked to Ole Miss, and the Rebels needed only three plays and 50 seconds to travel 50 yards for an Ole Miss touchdown, this one a 29-yard beauty from Patterson to Brown.

The Rebels had scored a safety and a touchdown in 1:48, going ahead 44-21, and, in effect, putting the game away. They never looked back.

Facing adversity

Quitters quit; fighters fight.

Matt Luke and his team. (Photo credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)

Stop and think for a minute what these coaches and players have gone through: NCAA allegations, head coach’s resignation, new offensive and defensive coordinators hired, lawsuit from former coach, hearings, depositions, scandals and social media character assassinations.

They’ve experienced it all.

But guess what? They’ve experienced it all together. A lot of programs give lip-service to facing adversity; Ole Miss is actually doing it. So thanks, Coach Luke, staff and players, for the work you do—week in and week out.

Next up: LSU

This week, the Rebels face LSU in an evening game in Oxford. I am sure it will be tough, and I’m sure the Tigers and their head coach Ed Orgeron will be fired up when they arrive. I also know that regardless of whether or not Ole Miss emerges victorious, this group will lay everything it has on the line to get the job done.

I challenge you to get to the stadium early Saturday night. For those who usually arrive fashionably late, you might want to get there early and hear the National Anthem. At every game I have covered, I say it’s the best version I have heard in a long time.

But mostly, I challenge you to lay it on the line like your Rebels do. Arrive early, be loud, stay late, and sing with the team when it is over. Be as spent at the end of the game as if you played it yourself. These Rebels deserve nothing less.

Hotty Toddy and Beat LSU!

(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)

Dan Anderson
Dan Anderson

Dan Anderson is a photographer and writer for The Rebel Walk. In addition to his work covering Ole Miss football and baseball for The Rebel Walk, Dan has written for a number of newspapers and has experience as a public address announcer, handling both play-by-play and color commentary. Dan has been involved with athletics as a player, coach or parent for 40 years, and brings this unique perspective to his coverage, whether through his lens or with his pen.

About The Author

Dan Anderson

Dan Anderson is a photographer and writer for The Rebel Walk. In addition to his work covering Ole Miss football and baseball for The Rebel Walk, Dan has written for a number of newspapers and has experience as a public address announcer, handling both play-by-play and color commentary. Dan has been involved with athletics as a player, coach or parent for 40 years, and brings this unique perspective to his coverage, whether through his lens or with his pen.

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