I'm a well-trained Ole Miss fan. Before I embark on what would certainly be a rollicking series of jokes (about how that could mean anything from learning to be tastefully racist, to perfecting the art of being drunk while wearing a sport coat, to being able to hit a moving target with an empty whiskey bottle from 30 yards away), I'll spare the funnybusiness. Being a well-trained Ole Miss fan means that you see the disastrous future before it happens. Like penny loafer-clad Miss Cleo wannabees, our generation of Ole Miss fans are quick to stare into their crystal balls of abject mediocrity, and predict the wildly, unfathomably terrible future.Blame it on my undergraduate years. In four years, we won 14 games. We beat one ranked opponent (a #23-ish USC squad in 2004). We split the Egg Bowl series with an MSU team that sported 17 wins over the same period, lost to Memphis once, Vanderbilt twice, and had 12 losses decided by a touchdown or less, including The Single Worst Officiating Debacle In The History Of Football (TSWODITHOF... it rolls off the tongue.). I want us to win. I frequently predict us to upset better opponents. At some point in every Ole Miss game I've ever watched, I felt like we would win. Still, when things go south, they go south hard, and I've come to anticipate this.
So when LSU scored the touchdown to draw the game within two, forgive me if I was certain that they would miss the conversion, recover the onsides kick, and score to seal the game. Forgive me if the second most plausible outcome in my mind was: LSU converts the two-point conversion, the game goes to OT, and Ole Miss loses in 8 overtimes due to a review situation involving a Shay Hodge force-out and/or some magical seconds appearing on the LSU game clock.
Like I said before, I'm a well-trained Ole Miss fan.
So when I walked out of the stadium, well after the players had retreated to the locker rooms, my head and my heart knew that we'd won, but my stomach felt as unsettled as if I'd engorged myself with China Royal pork 5 minutes before they closed.
All of that having been said, let's talk about how totally fucking awesome this weekend was.
Friday night: Ghost, JUCO, and some people I don't remember, went to Parrish's to observe the debacle unfolding on the Square. The environment wasn't LSU 2003 crazy, but needless to say, there was chanting in the barrooms, and drinks were hard to come by. Before the bars, I dominated a Big Easy from Ajax, and all was right with the world.
The Grove: When I'm anxious about something, I require no alarm clock. I woke up in a cold sweat at 8:30 a.m., because I'd promised the RCR tent that I'd make jambalaya. I'd purchased a bevy of awesome produce at the farmers market the day before, so, my financial commitment already laid down, I poured a Jack and Coke, and began chopping onions. Two Iron Chef-esque hours later, I had successfully transferred the jambalaya to the Grove, and the ridiculousness began. LSU fans are awesome, in their own way. Sure, they look completely absurd. Sure, they have no problem yelling at strangers. But they will also take a good corndog joke in stride, compliment your jambalaya (with helpful hints on how to make it better, of course), and generally shrug and laugh if you can scream back at them instead of cowering in gentrified horror. We met two lawyers, a Miami fan and an Oregon fan, who had traveled to catch the Grove spectacle, only one of the dozen interesting conversations we had before kickoff.
The Game: I sat in the Old People Seats. I got yelled at by an Ole Miss fan for my choice of words after the celebration penalty. I became high-five buddies with a late 30's, blonde tanning bed denizen as the game wore on. I ate Corky's bbq nachos for the last time until next September rolls around. As for actual game observations:
- Ole Miss fans are quick to feel victimized by officiating in the SEC. I've felt that way before, and this game had some poor calls, but I can't say it was the worst, or even the second worst SEC officiating job this year. This is a problem we need to fix, and a hearty fUcK yOu goes out to Mike Slive for pushing the problem under the rug.
- Shay Hodge was the MVP of the game, in my opinion. You don't have a 100+ yard day against Patrick Peterson unless you ate your Wheaties. He runs great routes, has impossibly quick cuts, and has a pretty excellent set of hands. If you think we miss Mike Wallace this year, wait until we have to replace Shay.
- Lionel Breaux had an amazing special teams play to down a punt on the 1 yard line. A guy that's underperformed this year (and probably suffered from Snead's difficulties), I'm glad he was able to contribute to a huge special teams play
- Emmanuel Stephens was not a guy I counted on to contribute this year, even knowing that Hardy was likely to be hurt at some point. He had an amazing game. He has a motor and a nasty streak, and I'd rather watch him overachieve than watch a more talented guy fall short of his potential. His sack, on a 3 or 4 man rush, won the game.
- LSU has the best receivers in the SEC. It isn't even close. Jefferson played lights-out too, but the biggest reason for that is because the receivers were usually open, and were able to haul in anything near them. If you can score in the SEC with only 40 yards rushing, that's quite an accomplishment.
- The offensive line has become an average SEC unit. We knew that if we managed to pull together an average SEC line, we'd win football games. Sowell, while still physically and mentally shorthanded for SEC play, has stepped up his game immensely, and he may be good before his career is over. That's hard to believe after the first few games. Markuson also made a great move in the lineup. John Jerry is a phenomenal player, but not a phenomenal tackle. Groom Massie at tackle, let Jerry do what he does best at guard, and all of a sudden, we don't suck along the line anymore.
- Cassius Vaughn: Hey, thanks for coming to play this weekend! Tell your friend Marshay that we're taking a road trip next week, and it'd be cool if he came along. Seriously, it's funny that week in and week out, we don't know which starting corner is going to show up, and which one will get scorched. Either way, it's better than knowing that all of them will get scorched, always, no matter what. I still can't believe it every time we successfully defend a pass. I just forgot what that looked like for a few years.
- Dear national media: before LSU was "upset" in a tragic turn of events in Oxford, remember, we beat LSU in almost every statistical category, and the game was kept close by a bizarre 14-point turnaround. If we score there, LSU possibly finds themselves out of the game by halftime. Please quit framing your news coverage as if LSU deserved to win, or as if you wanted them to win. That shit's annoying.
- Dear students: notice that, without From Dixie With Love (a song that I loved, but you ruined), we were still Ole Miss. There weren't hemp necklace vendors in the stadium, or hippies strapping themselves to oak trees in the Grove. We'll be ok, I promise.
Saturday night: I went to Parrish's, again. I met Godfrey and Halpert for the first time. We celebrated with Rumpleminz (Samuel Adams voice: "Always a good decision!"), I made out with two random girls (thanks?), and I had to lead Ghost back to my car by the scruff of his neck, OPD licking their chops in anticipation of a drunk wipeout. It was pretty badass.
So this season: sure, it fell short of our extravagant expectations. Most seasons do. Still, I could get used to this. Losing in November hurts a lot worse than losing in September. The Cotton/Capital One/Outback Bowl is a lot better than the Indy Bowl, or more recently, the Schadenfreude Bowl. Beating LSU twice in a row is better than sitting through a 40-7 beatdown in the rain, proclaiming amongst your friends that we will see it through to the bitter end, because it will make the wins so much sweeter down the road.
Well, this probably set the record for the longest post game report EVAR, so I'll tie it up here. This was the best home football weekend I can remember, and if I never have that much fun again, I could live with it. I hope someone took pictures...
Good night everyone, and Hotty Toddy.