Later tonight, Ole Miss and Vanderbilt will fight to the death in front of 25,000 cold fans for the right to claim a second SEC win in seven attempts. While that drama is clearly the main storyline, running a close second is that this game will be played at night.
When you think Ole Miss/Vanderbilt, at least in the modern era, you recall memories of waking up at some horrific hour on a Saturday morning so you could be ready for the 11:30 AM kickoff under the banner of Jefferson Pilot Sports and the watchful eyes of the three Daves. As miserable as that process was, you still had to sit through a game that, AHEM, at best, would be torture to the eye. Oh, and did I mention it was likely 90+ degrees with 60% humidity?
Based on my memory and some light research, from 1999-2011, Ole Miss/Vanderbilt was the JP game 32 times. Upon further review, that number is actually 10 times (STILL INCREDIBLE), with seven straight appearances in low definition from 1999-2005, with each game being more unwatchable than the one before it.
Of the 92 CLASHES OF TITANS: AGE OF VOLTRON IRON MAN IV between Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, 74 have taken place in daylight, with Ole Miss posting a 37-36-1 record against the Commodores. However, in the 18 games under the bright lights exposing all the flaws, Ole Miss has a 14-3-1 record.
It’s a weird bit of factoid that likely means nothing (UNLESS IT DOES), but it’s also intriguing enough to take a look at the history of Ole Miss/Vanderbilt night games, especially when you’re in the midst of a 5-5 season, everything is mostly terrible, and there’s no reason to get out of bed. On that high note, let’s recall those 18 rarest of birds.
1954, 1955, 1957, 1959, 1960, 1962
Four of these games were played in Nashville and two in Memphis, because VANDY HAD THAT CASH MONEY WHERE THEY AIN’T HAVE TO TRAVEL FAR. Ole Miss won all six games by a combined score of 157-7, with five of those wins contributing to SEC Championships and three to National Championships.
My point being, without checking the record book, it’s possible Vanderbilt was coached by one of Houston Nutt’s relatives during these years.
1964 and 1970
The 1964 contest brought the one and only tie in games played at night in the series, with a rousing 7-7 final score. Prayers sent to the people who chose to spend their Saturday night watching that.
In 1970, Ole Miss won 26-16, which gets a shout-out because how in the hell do you get 26 points?
1993, 1994, 1996, 1997
After waiting 23 years, Ole Miss would remain undefeated at night against Vanderbilt, winning the two games in Oxford and two in Nashville during this stretch. While I recall nothing from the first three games, I vividly remember being at the 1997 version of this stupidity, which ended in a 15-3 Ole Miss win.
The images your mind created after you read the 15-3 score are completely accurate.
2008 and 2009
I invite you to drink in the deliciousness that is Houston Nutt being in charge of the first Ole Miss team to lose to Vanderbilt at night. To his credit, or blind luck, following the 23-17 loss in 2008, he took the team to Gainesville the next week and gave the world the gift of the Tim Tebow crying speech.
In 2009, despite having a ticket, I watched the game in a Nashville bar because WE ALL SAW THAT THURSDAY NIGHT SOUTH CAROLINA GAME. A more miserable 23-7 win I cannot recall.
2012 and 2013
Let us never speak again of the time Dr. Bo threw for over 400 yards, but Ole Miss had 55 rushing yards on 40 attempts and lost. I did not enjoy that night.
However, let us always speak of 2013:
2015 and 2016
The 27-16 win in 2015 came the week after Ole Miss executed one of the most brilliant plays in the history of college football in its 43-37 win over Alabama. One would expect that they might be a little sluggish after pulling off such a high degree of execution, and they were. I WAS THERE TO WITNESS THAT BOREDOM.
The following season, Hugh Freeze rolled into Nashville, needing a 30-minute session at a massage establishment and a win to get his team bowl eligible. A reminder of how that went:
He followed up that masterpiece with a five-touchdown loss to Mississippi State at home the next week. BUt I wOUld tAkE hIM bAcK iN a SeCOnD.
While none of this will have any bearing on tonight, other than Freeze’s abysmal defensive recruiting, we should all rejoice that no one has to be exposed to this game before noon. To quote our former program-wrecking coach, we are #blessed.