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The final whistle blew and Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace took the ball from the official, a keepsake the likes of which ranks with a wedding ring down the road as the most important material things you own.
Students flooded the field, maybe to the tune of a fine … but what the hell, if you’re going to be fined … make it worth it.
Ole Miss 23, Alabama 17.
Too often, sporting events don’t live up to their billing. They do their part in getting us all around the flat glass to watch and cheer if we’re not there, but sometimes you leave feeling a bit underwhelmed.
Not on this day, and not in Oxford.
Early on, the game looked like 2011 LSU-Alabama part deux, complete with droll drives ending in punts and not much else.
Late in the first half, the script felt like it was being set. A missed face mask penalty turned into an Alabama touchdown that sent the Tide into the locker room up 14-3; left one eternally tortured fan base feeling like it was more of the same; and one oft-blessed fan base thinking similarly, only in a more positive way.
As obtuse as it ends up being to the final result, the momentum swing might have been a missed field goal out of the gate in the second half by Alabama, the kind of kick that looked like one of those pitching wedge shots you flub 100 yards from the hole that ruins your round mentally.
Yet, that and other Alabama miscues had to be complemented by a show of strength from Ole Miss. Coming in, Rebel quarterback Bo Wallace had to be special. An already-special Bo Wallace became extra special from the moment Alabama missed that field goal.
Soon, Wallace had turned a 14-3 deficit to 17-10. He then made a few perfect throws … one painfully dropped that would have assuredly been a score … and although the Rebels missed a tying tally, a punt placed Bama inside its own one-yard line.
In another moment that in the grand scheme of things probably gets overlooked, Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon, on third down, seemed to have a clear enough path to a first down if he just fell forward. Alabama had an opportunity to engage in some more clock munching, if not a field position swing.
Yeldon ran into his own lineman. Punt, Alabama.
Ole Miss running back Jaylen Walton snared a perfect 10-yard pass from Wallace to give the Rebs the lead and somewhere, you could hear the ghost of Colonel Reb laughing just a bit at the sudden good fortune of the Oxford football team.
Of course, the extra point was blocked, and as Alabama ensued to rush down the field with bloodless precision — because they’re Alabama and they’re playing Ole Miss and that’s how these things go — it felt like some sort of Chicago Cubs-Cleveland Browns-Northwestern basketball black magic had engulfed the stadium.
But then, in one fell swoop, the tables were turned. Cats were living with dogs. Black was white. Up was down. Drunk was sober.
Ole Miss’ Senquez Golson got enough of a foot down while cradling a wayward Blake Sims pass in the end zone, despite a height disadvantage in the face of a much taller O.J. Howard. That was it, the script was flipped.
The Rebels, in the first half looking every bit an “Ole Miss,” became young and pretty again, donning a denim skirt and pair of Uggs when all we thought she had in the closet were Faded Glory tee shirts and pajama pants.
Now, they can celebrate in The Grove, with a result as pretty as the coeds that meander around in it. Ole Miss is full throttle in the CFB Playoff race, with teams like Texas Christian and Arizona.
Hotty Toddy is extra warm tonight.