Since Saturday night, I've gotten several texts and e-mails about what a huge "WAOM" moment the play against Auburn was. I used to think like that too, that the "sports gods" were out to get Ole Miss. Whenever good things could happen, something would go wrong. Murphy's Law always applied to us. Ole Miss, against improbable odds and on the verge of victory, would figure out a way to lose. It's who we were, in my view.
But... that's total bullshit.
Where was this WAOM when Ole Miss' baseball team went to Omaha? Where was it when the basketball team won the SEC tournament? Where was it when Hugh Freeze's ragtag first year team went 7-6 against all sorts of odds and expectations? Or the next year when a quarterback with a non-functional shoulder led the team to an 8-5 record? Where was it when the No. 1 recruit in the country signed with our program on National Signing Day 2013?
The reason Ole Miss teams, in all sports, had so many "WAOM" moments for so long is that the teams were just bad. That's it. When a bad team, somehow holding its own against a good team, suffers a late-game setback, of course it will lose. Underdogs who are undertalented cannot handle the smallest of breaks going to the other team. This is how sports work.
It's easier to blame some kind of ethereal thing or some intangible idea for one's sports shortcomings than it is to admit that the team you're cheering for just isn't good enough to win big games because they're less talented than the other team. It has been the Ole Miss scapegoat for a long time, through David Cutcliffe, Ed Orgeron, and Houston Nutt. It wasn't the team/coach's fault that they lost. It was "WAOM."
But we didn't see a lesser team succumb to a better one on Saturday. We didn't see a team in need of excuses.
What we saw was two great teams in a back and forth game that wasn't a fluke. Both of those teams are fantastic. Ole Miss' defense was just horribly depleted (too many injuries to list), and Auburn caught an incredibly fluke moment at the game's end. That happens in sports. Good teams lose to other good teams. The key is to have a team good enough to beat other good teams, and not rely on last second heroics or improbable outcomes, something which has been a bit of a hallmark of Ole Miss programs for the past few decades.
I understand that teams have limited windows for championships, and this year appeared to be one for Ole Miss. This team had a chance to represent the SEC West in Atlanta, and that opportunity is now gone. (Don't use math. It's gone.) But why does that have to be the barometer at this point? I don't see Saturday as some type of hump the football team couldn't get over that will sink them into some level of sustained mediocrity. I see it as evidence that Hugh Freeze has built a good team and is continuing to do so with great recruiting. I see it as Ole Miss "arriving" more than I see it as Ole Miss "departing." The old WAOM doesn't apply when you're the No. 4 team in the country losing to the No. 3 team in the fourth quarter.
Right now, I see a team and program that continue to trend upwards. Ole Miss is continuing to fill its roster with more and more worthwhile talent. There are very few senior contributors (though Bo Wallace, Senquez Golson, Cody Prewitt, and others will of course be missed). Several true freshmen are already playing significant snaps. The sophomores are wonderful. The incoming recruiting class is looking to finish strong, and the 2016 class already looks special. This program is righting itself to be in games like this for the long haul.
But this isn't even about next year or the next. This Ole Miss team could very well finish 10-2 in the regular season and play in a major bowl with an opportunity to finish 11-2 (something they haven't done in, oh, ever). The season isn't over.
But this whole old-school "WAOM" mindset. Please. Please, let that be over. If anything, go with the new, Ross Bjork-approved "WAOM 2.0." We are Ole Miss, and we're a pretty damn good football team.