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Postgame Digestion: Ole Miss Bounces Back and Handles LSU on Senior Day

It's rare that anyone, let alone Ole Miss, beats LSU and Alabama in the same season.

Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

Two weeks ago, Ole Miss' lead in the SEC West was thwarted by a series of unimaginably improbable outcomes on the tail end of a one-point loss to Arkansas. It is conceivable, then, that Ole Miss would just coast through the end of the season with little-to-nothing of import to pay for. We were all honestly worried that the Rebs would lose to LSU and Mississippi State before sliding into some bowl game we don't want to spend money on. Last night, a big portion of those worries were proven unfounded, as Ole Miss redeemed itself, if only to its fans, with a convincing win over a rival LSU Tigers team that was very recently a serious national championship contender.

That sort of poise and moxie is remarkable, to play smart, aggressive football when not much more than mere pride is on the line is exactly what we've wanted to see out of Ole Miss at its worst moments. We got that last night.

You're free to be frustrated with the lows of the season we've seen - playing (and losing to) Memphis, the timing of Will Grier's suspension, Tunsil dealing with the NCAA's feet dragging, nonsensical 4th and 25 conversions - but this year has still been a good one. Yes, this season (like almost all Ole Miss seasons) is littered with "what if" moments. Yes, it may take the 2016 recruiting class plus a few years for expectations to be this high in Oxford again. But Ole Miss has its fourth winning season in as many years, something which this program has done one other time in the past 40 years. This team is a good team. This program is a good program. We're excited about that.

An Aperitif

When the Pride of the South gets hype, you get hype:

[HT: Chuck Wicker on the Twitters.]

"That Didn't Sit Well"

The home crowd
This past week, much was made of Les Miles' remarks that Ole Miss didn't present a difficult atmosphere for his LSU Tigers. Ole Miss fans countered this in two ways: by getting liquored up and going batshit crazy for four quarters, or by proving him completely right and leaving midway through the third because they were "cold" in 40-degree weather. Those of y'all who toughed it out, good on y'all. Those who didn't need to wear an additional layer or two and pack an extra pint of brown liquor. The Vaught can have a raucous environment if we collectively decide to give a damn and give it one.

The little things
There were moments where Ole Miss showed some vulnerability and gave the Tigers legitimate hope to pull out a win: A blown assignment by Cameron Ordway or Chief Brown (or both!) leading to an easy LSU touchdown; a Jaylen Walton kickoff return fumble; Marquis Haynes bumbling a fumble recovery in the Ole Miss endzone; punts, in general. Getting the little things right lead to success with the big things though, and the little things were done right for much of the contest. Big picture: it wasn't that close. Ole Miss took care of business; LSU didn't.

"Going Back for Seconds"

Mike Hilton
We can continue our usual admiration of Chad Kelly and Laquon Treadwell in this space, but their excellence was expected even since before they took a snap (granted, we didn't think Kelly would be this good). Watching Mike Hilton, clad in Chucky Mullins' No. 38 Jersey, play some of the most fundamentally sound and aggressive football in the SEC in spite of his 5'9" stature, is truly a unique joy. His skill is readily apparent, as is his infectious energy and leadership qualities. What we'll miss from the departures of guys like Treadwell, Laremy Tunsil, and Robert Nkemdiche is readily apparent, but it's tough to say we won't miss just as much upon Hilton's graduation.

Run Defense
The gameplan against LSU is simple: limit Leonard Fournette and force Brandon Harris to throw. LSU has tall, long, quick receivers, but Brandon Harris doesn't have the accuracy needed to consistently get the ball to them downfield. Force him to throw, and you can limit LSU's offense a good bit. Virtually everyone knows this. Few teams, however, can do anything about it. Ole Miss proved last night that they are one such team. Fournette barely broke 100 yards rushing and had just under three yards per carry. LSU's offensive line struggled to keep Robert Nkemdiche, Marquis Haynes, CJ Johnson, and the rest of the Landsharks from swarming Fournette nearly every time he touched the ball.

A Digestif

We fans, with good reason, give the Ole Miss coaching staff a lot of grief. No collection of human beings is irreproachable, especially not college football coaches. But while we are quick to criticize, it is important to understand how, overall, Hugh Freeze and his staff have done a pretty damn good job at Ole Miss since 2011.

A word of caution, however: the that 1998 coach who beat Alabama, Auburn, and LSU in one year was none other than Houston Nutt during his inaugural season at Arkansas. Robert Frost reminds us that "nothing gold can stay," but I'll remind him that we've got no option but to enjoy it while it's gold.