Party in the ‘Sip: Ole Miss fans, players enjoy Saturday’s atmosphere in the Vaught
OXFORD, Miss. – Saturday, Vaught-Hemingway Stadium played host to the Troy Trojans and 60,533 fans.
It was the largest non-conference game crowd in Oxford in five years.
The attendance was also something new for Ole Miss running back Zach Evans in his first appearance at VHS since transferring from Texas Christian.
“It was amazing energy in the Vaught today,” Evans said after the 28-10 win.
“I want to thank the fans and everybody for coming out. I want to thank y’all for just paying attention and being in tune. It was amazing out there. Me personally, at TCU I think we held 40,000. The crowd was waking me up in the second half. It felt good being out there and being able to perform for y’all. I’m really blessed and thankful.”
Ole Miss running back Zach Evans
Last season, only two games – both Southeastern Conference games – drew more fans at the Vaught. One was a battle with Texas A&M and the other was against LSU.
The win over the Tigers in front of 64,525 also was the day Eli Manning’s number 10 was retired.
Ole Miss hosted three non-conference games last season. The best attendance was against Tulane (54,188), followed by Hugh Freeze’s return to Oxford as the coach of Liberty (53,235) and the season opener against Austin Peay (47,848).
Rebel fans in attendance Saturday for the win over Troy were excited about the atmosphere.
“Saturday afternoon in the Vaught was amazing,” Ole Miss fan Heather Hatcher said. “The first game of the year is always hot, so it was great to see so many white shirts and red pom poms waving to support the team. And who doesn’t get pumped when Sam Williams appears on the Jumbotron to ask if you’re ready?!”
(Video courtesy Heather Hatcher)
Ole Miss supporter Cathy Campbell concurs. “Football is back! And it showed in a big way yesterday from the Grove to the Vaught!”
Jeremy Lepard noticed the crowd and some of the upgrades. “With it being Labor Day and vacations and opening day of dove season, I was pleased with the crowd,” he said. “The upgrade to the audio system was huge. Big difference there!”
The last time a bigger crowd attended a non-conference game in Oxford was just over five calendar years ago when the Rebels beat South Alabama 47-27 in 2017. The crowd that day was 62,532.
That crowd could have been large in part because of the proximity of Mobile, Ala., USA’s location and Ole Miss. Troy is about the same distance away from Oxford and the Trojans brought plenty of fans with them.
“I’m grateful for our fan base,” Troy coach Jon Sumrall said after the game. “We had a tremendous turnout today, could not thank them enough. I was very proud to see the way the Troy Trojan nation supported us today.”
New faces bring excitement
The fans who were in attendance Saturday were treated to several new players for Ole Miss who either came via the transfer portal or as freshman signees.
Evans ran for 130 yards, averaging 6.5 yards per carry. USC transfer Jaxson Dart got the start at quarterback and completed 18-of-27 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown. That scoring pass went to Mississippi State transfer Malik Heath who caught a pair of passes for 15 yards.
Tight end Michael Trigg, who transferred with Dart from Southern Cal, led the team with four catches for 33 yards.
One of the newcomers who shined was true freshman Quinshon Judkins who ironically grew up in Pike Road, Ala., just down Highway 231 from Troy, earned a hard-fought 87 yards on 14 carries and a touchdown in his first college game.
SMU transfer Ulysses Bennett IV also scored his first Ole Miss touchdown which gave the Rebels a 7-0 lead in the first quarter.
Ole Miss plays two more non-conference games in September at home. Next week, Central Arkansas comes to town and after a trip to Atlanta to face Georgia Tech on September 17, the Rebels host Tulsa Sept. 24.
Then, the following week, Oct. 1, sees the first SEC game at Ole Miss when Kentucky visits. No doubt there will be a huge “party in the ‘Sip” to welcome the Wildcats.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss)
Steve Barnes joins The Rebel Walk staff as a senior writer and brings a trifecta of journalistic experience. As a writer, he has covered college sports for Rivals.com, Football.com and SaturdayDownSouth.com as well as served as a beat writer for various traditional newspapers.
He has been a broadcaster for arena football and several national tournament events for the National Junior College Athletic Association as well as hosting various shows on radio.
A former sports information director at Albany (Ga.) State University and an assistant at Troy and West Florida, he has helped host many NCAA conference, regional and national events, including serving five years on the media committee of the NCAA Division II World Series.
Barnes, a native of Pensacola, Fla., attended Ole Miss in 1983-84, where his first journalism teacher was David Kellum. The duo has come a long way since that time.
He will bring a proven journalistic track record, along with a knack for finding the out-of-the-ordinary story angles to The Rebel Walk.
Barnes continues to reside in Pensacola a mere ten minutes from the beach because he does have taste and a brain.