I’m not sure if you heard the screaming outside of Oregon, but this week I get to watch a game AS IT’S HAPPENING. The live action will unfold on the teevee and I will get to holler and chant and sing “Texas Fight” just like a real person! I can’t believe I have to wait another whole day before my thirst for football will be slaked. Sure, I watched some of the OU game, and saw a lot of the Oregon game, but wow. Finally, Texas. And, I assume they’ll wear their foxy away-game uniforms—all white with burnt orange lettering. My favorite.
Anyone who has seen a sporting event with me either live or on television can attest to my lack of self-control. I absolutely lose it. My language governor shuts off completely. I forget what planet I’m on. One of my dogs gets concerned when I become too upset about anything. Like, in my face, offering comfort, no matter if I’m really upset or just animatedly discussing the last episode of Honey Boo Boo. She practically needs sedation when I watch football because I go right off the mania cliff and never look back. We have some friends we really love and miss who moved back to Texas in 2007 (Tom, Ann, and Drew, holla!). We stayed with them on a visit in January 2010. Remember what happened in January 2010? That’s right, the National Championship game against Alabama. Please, do not even get me started on Colt McCoy and his wounded drumstick. Anyway, I was so unhinged I scared their infant. Watch sports with me at your own risk.
And this week will be no exception! The Longhorns take it on the road and travel to the genteel burg of Oxford, Mississippi. Oxford is Old South. It’s small, with only about 20,000 residents. That means everyone is all up in your bidness. The university just about doubles the town’s population. Ole Miss has a long and very interesting history. More on that in a minute. It’s basically a sleepy southern town…until this weekend, when the Texas fans show up! Lodging has been sold out for months. People are renting out their own homes for $20,000. I read it on the Internet, so it must be true. (Seriously, there’s a legitimate story about how crazy rental prices are during the game weekend.) Having never been there, I imagine the folks in Oxford stroll around the town square in linen suits, sundresses, and broad-brimmed hats sipping cold lemonade or perhaps a mint julep. All the men have lovely wooden walking sticks. People say things like, “I do declare!” They retire to the sun porch where they enjoy supper with Big Daddy and Memaw. However, I think things are about to get pretty fired up in the land of cotton!
Both teams come into this game 2-0, having faced opponents that were honestly outmatched to begin the season. This game will be a test for the teams, and will likely set the stage for the rest of the season. Will David Ash continue his trajectory of improvement? Will the Ole Miss defense be able to stop the ‘Horns, as they claim they can? Does everyone in Oxford talk like Foghorn Leghorn? (I hope it’s yes!)
The Ole Miss Rebels (of course) have a first-year head coach, Hugh Freeze, who has thus far satisfied the fans with two wins right out of the gate. That’s a huge improvement over last season, where the Rebels only had two wins in the entire season, both in non-conference games. Frankly, any kind of showing against Texas is a benefit to Freeze. His team is in arguably the toughest conference—the SEC (although people WITH A BRAIN know that simply isn’t true). A good performance, even a losing performance, will surely catch the eye of a recruit or two. Freeze is really in a great position, even if his team comes away with one in the “L” column.
Both teams are helmed by sophomore QBs. The Rebels’ QB, Bo Wallace, is playing in his own house, but has quite a lot of pressure going up against a nationally-ranked program. In the game against the UTEP Miners, Wallace completed 15 passes out of 22 attempts for 174 yards. He also rushed 11 times for 53 yards. The Rebels finished with over 500 yards of total offense. As a gentle reminder, it was UTEP who owned the Sooners through an entire half of football not too long ago. In the first half, Ole Miss had two consecutive touchdown drives that went for 97 yards and 84 yards. Coming off that scorcher, the hometown crowd will be fired up.
Let’s hope the Texas fans bring it as well! Folks in Internetland are assuming Oxford will be covered in a sea of burnt orange starting, well, around now. Texas fans do love to travel, and Mississippi isn’t that far away, even by car. Statistically speaking, the teams match up pretty evenly, but this is based on the two games played so far this season. Ole Miss hasn’t faced a team of Texas’ caliber just yet. Texas can’t stroll into The Grove and expect to walk away with a victory. The defense has to bring its best game with them. They’re playing away from home, with a hostile crowd. Look, I’m not talking Texas Tech or Colorado levels of hostility from the fans because frankly, that’s tough to match outside the federal penal system. But these Rebel fans will be fired up and hoping for a major upset on national television (YAY). Ash must continue his path toward enlightenment, connecting with his own receivers, rushing when he needs to, and keeping the opponents’ defense off-balance. Here’s hoping the ‘Horns mix up the play-calling, and show a good variety of running and passing plays. I say, throw the whole arsenal at them. You’re on the road, give it all you’ve got. Take them seriously as an opponent and don’t give an inch. In an interview this week, Coach Brown talked about how excited the players are to be traveling and how much they’re looking forward to the entire experience of being in an unfamiliar stadium without their cozy home crowd. I know what they’re REALLY excited about. The away-white uniforms. I get it.
Texas is the favorite by 10 points. Remember our little talk about the spread? Good. Calculate carefully when you call your bookie tonight. Baby needs a new pair of shoes. These two teams haven’t met since the year of our Lord 1966, which was a banner year in the history of civilization when great things came to pass (it’s when I was born). Texas has won five out of the teams’ six meetings. After Saturday, it will be six out of seven. Fingers crossed and burnt orange gear locked and loaded.
Now, some fun facts about Ole Miss. The university was chartered in 1844 but didn’t admit its first students until 1848. It predates UT, which opened its doors in 1883. Ole Miss became co-ed in 1882, and was the first institution in the Southeast to hire a female faculty member, way back in 1885! Hooray for the smart womenz! When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the entire student body enlisted in the Confederate Army. They were the 11th Mississippi Infantry, nicknamed the University Greys. They fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. During the war, the Greys suffered an almost 100% casualty rate. Only one student returned after the war, when the school re-opened.
Ole Miss was also the scene of a turning point in the civil rights movement. In 1962, a United States Air Force veteran named James Meredith tried to enroll in the university. He was denied admission specifically because he was black. Meredith previously attended the desegregated Jackson State University, but decided to push the civil rights issue by applying to a segregated school. The US Supreme Court granted Meredith the right to attend Ole Miss. However, when he tried to show up for class, escorted by US Marshals (really? REALLY, Mississippi?), he was barred on more than one occasion before being allowed to enter on October 1, 1962.
Mississippi Governor, Ross Barnett, tried to enact emergency legislation prohibiting “any person who was convicted of a state crime from admission to a state school.” Meredith had been convicted of “false voter registration,” or to translate, “trying to vote while black and/or poor.” As an aside, this should sound very familiar and modern to you, since these same disenfranchisement efforts remain alive and well today. To our shame.
Ultimately, a huge number of law enforcement and military personnel were called in to quell the riots. Why were the people rioting? BECAUSE ONE BLACK DUDE WANTED TO GO TO CLASS AT OLE MISS. In the end, he went to school and graduated, despite being ostracized and tormented by other students. In 2003, his son graduated from Ole Miss at the top of his doctoral class. So there.
This weekend, let’s cheer on the ‘Horns, and let’s also reflect on how one person’s incredible courage can change the course of history.