September 28, 2012 – It was a three dog kind of night in Mississippi. The wind was chilled and the atmosphere surrounding the 2003 Ole Miss vs Alabama game in the Vaught was electric. Just one year prior, the Alabama Crimson Tide had shown their strength against Ole Miss with an impressive win of 42-7 at Bryant- Denny stadium. In this 51st match up against the Tide, Ole Miss had only claimed seven prior victories. The small town of Oxford was flooded with “Hotty Toddy” and “Roll Tide Roll” signs as the home team crowd and the visitors filled up the restaurants, bars, and hotels. The next morning, the Ole Miss Rebels took the field where Eli Manning threw for 230 yards giving Ole Miss the first 24 points on the board. The Rebels went on to beat the Tide 43-28.
Those game day moments and memories are what keep an Ole Miss fan believing for more victories. Ole Miss is no stranger to losses. There have been plenty of disappointing years sprinkled into the years of triumph. Ole Miss and Alabama have had 59 match ups against each other with Ole Miss only claiming 9 of those wins. Anyone, on any team, on any sports channel, will tell you that Ole Miss is the underdog going into this Saturday’s 60th game against the Tide. Alabama is a 30-point favorite against the Rebels and will certainly prove to be the biggest challenge the Rebels have faced under Head Coach Hugh Freeze.
Freeze has said of Alabama, “They’re deeper than any team we have faced, particularly on the O-line and D-line and obviously other places to…Their defensive line, they can go three deep with very, very talented kids. They’re able to keep them fresh and that allows them to play with a high motor all the time…” (Espn.com). If ever there was a true challenge of this new coaching staff and this team it will be the Alabama game this weekend. Of the nine previous wins, only one was in Tuscaloosa and that was in 1988.
Alabama is a giant in College Football. Even the best teams know when they play the Tide, they cannot succeed without practice, determination, and speed. If the 2003 Ole Miss Rebels can win 43-28 after a 2002 loss of 42-7 against the Tide then why shouldn’t Ole Miss fans believe that the 2012 Ole Miss Rebels can pull out a victory after the 2011 52-7 loss against the Tide?
No, Ole Miss is not the same team and no, they do not have a Manning on the field but they are under solid leadership and coaching. In the football movie, “Facing the Giants,” a great illustration is made: “There were two farmers that desperately needed rain and both of them prayed for it; however, only one went out and prepared his fields to receive it. Which one do you think trusted God to send the rain?”
No doubt Head Coach Hugh Freeze has prepared this team for the Rain. They are practiced and ready to go against the spectacular Tide, and win or lose they will give it 60 of the hardest fought minutes they can give. It would be easy to give up on this Ole Miss team against a strong competitor like Alabama. There’s no guarantee Ole Miss will win or that the game will even be close, but one thing is certain, in the words of former Rebels cornerback and hero Chucky Mullins, “It’s Time.”
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Photo by Robert Lester