A New Year, A New Attitude
Hope and change were two resounding themes of 2008. After years of disappointment, it became apparent that a regime change was necessary. We suffered through unpopular and ineffective leadership and, as a result, grew incredibly weary.
So, we made a hopeful change: we brought Houston Dale Nutt to Oxford. Immediately, our program was revitalized. While his goofy, preacher-like "rah rah" way of going about things earned him much criticism at Arkansas, it was a change welcomed by our team, fans, and administration. After spending three years with an unintelligible and unpleasant coach who was simply in way over his head as an SEC head coach, we were looking for anything, dear God just ANYTHING, other than that. Little did we know how much of a homerun we had actually hit. This change is exactly what it took to turn our program around.
If anyone needs any evidence of this, they should look no further than our recent domination (and yes, I use that word literally) of the #7-ranked Texas Tech Red Raiders in the Cotton Bowl. We spotted them a 14-point lead by playing careless, immature football. After buckling down and playing with the new swagger we've quickly grown accustomed to, we defeated a very good football team by 13. We even led by 19 late into the 4th quarter.
Our players played as if a bowl victory would have earned them 40 virgins in Heaven. The Red Raiders played as if their reward would have been a complementary trip to the Pizza Hut buffet during the bus ride back to Lubbock. We were inspired; they were complacent.
We weren't supposed to win. We were going to get dominated. Tech was going to hang 60-something points on us.
We heard it all month. Neither the mainstream sports media, fans outside of the Southeast, nor the Texas Tech players themselves gave us much of a shot.
But our players did not listen. They took the criticism and used it as motivation. Our coaches did not listen. They used the coveted prize of earning national exposure and respect to excite their team.
However, most importantly, we fans did not listen. "How dare they disrespect our team, our state, and our conference like that?!" When we trailed by a score of 14-0 in the first quarter, fans didn't cry for the coach's head or walk out of the Cotton Bowl. We had faith in this team and we knew that Texas Tech and the college football watching world had another thing coming.
Would any of this happened under an Ed Orgeron coached team?
Not likely. Under O, we would have thrown the towel in. Our team would have "fought" for that ever so precious moral victory while we fans would have bitterly grumbled our way to the nearest happy hour.
Hope and change have come to Oxford. Forget the victories over ranked teams, respect from the national media, and amplified play on the field. 2008 was about a whole new attitude with regards to Ole Miss football. We're confident, proud, and unflappable and I can only hope the same remains throughout 2009 and beyond.
Next season, we're not taking anything from anybody. If somebody from Starkville or Baton Rouge gets in your damn face, well you just get right back up in theirs. If someone from Fayetteville flips you the bird, flip them two and then throw something at them. If somebody makes a bold, Texas Tech-esque prediction that they'll dominate our Rebels, let them know that they're a dumbass.
We are Ole Miss. I know we at the Cup have grown accustomed to using that phrase in a rather sardonic manner, but we mean it this time. We are Ole Miss. We're here, SEC. Get used to it.
Here's to a great 2009, Rebels. Hotty Toddy!