- Count me among the many who did not want Hugh Freeze as the head coach of the Ole Miss Rebels. Now count me among the group of Rebel fans scouring the web for recipes for Crow casserole, because my suspicions about Freeze's hire and his qualifications to coach in the Southeastern Conference were way, way wrong.
I realize that we had less-than-impressive performances against Georgia and Texas, and I realize that Auburn and Arkansas underwhelmed tremendously, but those are the type of statements we can only make with the benefit of hindsight. Just under a year ago, when Hugh Freeze was hired, we were fresh off of a 31-3 loss in the Egg Bowl to close out a 2-10 season. If anyone would have said Hugh Freeze and his one season of FBS head coaching experience would take most of the pieces off of that same team to seven wins, three of which would come against SEC West competition, you'd have tried to arrest that person for witchcraft on the spot.
As far as I can tell, his players love him, his assistant coaches are allowed to do their jobs freely, his offense is simple enough to learn yet varied enough to worry opposing defensive coordinators, and he is so far proving himself to be an adept recruiter. And, best of all, he's from just up the road in Tate County, Mississippi. He's a homegrown coaching product who likely has no intentions of going anywhere else, and he just may be what it takes to ensure that Ole Miss can be a consistent competitor.
- I would visit Birmingham again. I would not attend the Compass Bowl again. I had a good enough time about the Magic City, and especially enjoyed the Avondale Brewing Company and the 41st Street Pub (And Aircraft Sales? Don't lie to me, pub; you don't sell aircraft of any sort. Go home pub. You're drunk.), but the bowl itself was a comedy of errors, with poor organization and planning souring what could otherwise be a fine lower-tier SEC bowl game.
- Please, allow me to elaborate with a series of anecdotes:
- The parking situation was a disaster, with us pulling into an unmarked lot, only to have an attendant tell us that the lot was "reserved" and asking us to pull back out and into the next lot. That, itself, wasn't a problem. The fact that the lot wasn't marked as such, therefore causing a long line of cars behind us to do the exact same thing, was. I'm sure those parking attendants spent half of their morning turning people away, causing traffic to be worse than it should have been. We got to the next lot just fine though, and bought multiple spaces to set up our tailgate (more on that later). The attendants didn't get the message tough, and had people parking in our spots that we had already paid for. We fed the attendants bacon though, despite their transgressions, which kept them off of our case for the rest of the day.
- The concessions ran out of everything aside from shit like pork rinds and Mountain Dew by the second quarter. Despite it being the highest attended Compass Bowl ever (print the t-shirts!), and despite them knowing how many people we'd have there well in advance, they had barely enough food and drink for a large high school football game. The palates of Yuengling tall boys though were a welcome addition, even if they ran out of them in our section quite quickly. It was pretty neat to just walk up, hand some nondescript guy cash, and have him thrust a cold four-pack into your hands. (Note: I had no idea who worked for the stadium and who didn't - shit wasn't marked at all, and the beer guys were literally just standing in the concourse with palates of beer and wads of cash. Hell, it could have been smuggled beer for all I know or care.)
- Daytime fireworks!
- The restrooms in our section had an inch of standing water in them. Or maybe it was pee. I don't want to think about it too much.
- The remember the video board we had at Vaught-Hemingway before the Powetron? Make that thing smaller, have it broadcast everything in some Instragram-looking blue tint, and have large patches of it randomly go black during replays, and you'd have something akin to the video board at Legion Field. After about the second or third replay, I said "fuck it" and just imagined the replays from there on out. They were awesome.
- The PA announcer was alright. The PA system wasn't, especially when the officials were making a call. "After the pl---------------on the defen-------------ard penalty, first d----------aced on the 23 yar---ine." I gave up on listening too. Really, I just transported myself back a few decades with my football watching which, considering the stadium and neighborhood, was pretty appropriate.
- I know that the only good adjective for Legion Field is "historic," but holy shit that place is a crumbling disaster of a stadium. Honestly, it's sad. /waxes poetic about the decay of American industrial sector and the impact of poor governance, social disparities, and labor migration on the infrastructure of American cities //no politics please ///I mean it
- And I totally realize that it's in a bad part of town, but that didn't bother me at all. I guess I'm not preoccupied enough with my personal safety or something, because I can have a shitload of fun so long as I'm with the right group of people. True story: one of the best vacations I've ever been on was to Serbia, and that has everything to do with the people I was with and nothing to do with our surroundings. The only real concern I had during the game was with our car, being as how we had camping equipment, speakers, and various Apple products tucked within, but we snagged a good enough parking space close to the stadium and fed the security guards in our vicinity a hot breakfast, so we were watched after.
- Still, I was surprised to see that large swaths of the parking lot weren't even paved. Literally, the area right up by the press box, where I'm assuming the media folks were parking their whips, was nothing but gravel with lines spray painted over it.
- Look, I totally get that the Compass Bowl doesn't have the resources available to it that, say, the Cotton Bowl would. Some of these things can't just be fixed without the time and money to do so. However, a lot of it, especially everything that suggested a general lack of planning or organization, could easily be fixed. It's almost as if this guy were in charge of the damn thing. So, while I really did have an absolute blast, I probably wouldn't attend the Compass Bowl again.
- While our tailgate wasn't at all faincy by Grove standards, I didn't give a damn. I do love the Grove, but it was nice to tailgate more traditionally without the pretension necessary to do so on the Ole Miss campus. When in Rome, right? Cooking bacon and eggs on a cast iron skillet over a Coleman camping stove while drinking Jameson directly out of the bottle and listening to Muddy Waters garblingly force his way out of a set of home speakers hooked to an iPod - in a public place at 7:00 in the morning - was fun as hell. I hope those of y'all who swung by felt the same way.
- Hey, lookit! We made it onto Ole Miss Sports dot com's official photo gallery!
- To all of you who I saw before, during, and after the game, y'all are the best. I do believe that we have a great group of readers and contributors, and you all continue to prove my suspicions right every time we meet. We'll make sure to do it again sometime.