Nice Try, NCAA

Published 1:46 pm Tuesday, July 16, 2019

By Johnathan Williams

Throughout the past decade, Ole Miss Football has certainly left its mark on the college football world in many different ways. There has been a lot of great and memorable games that all of us can simply never forget. Despite being under the NCAA’s shadow, Rebel players and fans still showed great love and passion for its University.

Sadly though, on Feb. 12, the NCAA would strike once more and force the Rebels to vacate 33 wins from 2010 to 2016 as a part of the NCAA’s Investigation. When the news broke, I was devastated. After lamenting for a while, I realized the situation wasn’t as bleak as I originally thought.

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For most of my young life, I have been a die hard Ole Miss fan. I remember being a child at the age of seven, visiting THE  Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. On Sept. 5, 2010, I attended my first Ole Miss Football game against Jacksonville State. I will never forget that game. The energy was electric and the crowd noise was contagious.  I had the best time of my life. I can still hear the crowd chanting “FIRST DOWN, OLE MISS!” and the traditional “Hotty Toddy” chant.

For a seven-year-old, the feeling to join in quickly took shape. There I was, chanting “Hotty Toddy and “FIRST DOWN, OLE MISS!” whenever everybody else did and it stuck.

Jacksonville State would somehow manage to pull off a fourth quarter comeback and beat Ole Miss 49-48 in double overtime, but I didn’t really care about the final score, I loved the fact that I got to see Ole Miss play in person. I loved everything. I loved the explosive offense. I loved the atmosphere. I loved watching now New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden run all over the Gamecocks defense.

So, you might be wondering where I am going with all of this. The point is just because the NCAA vacated some of our wins, it will never take away our memories of those game. Besides, it’s just a piece of paper anyway. It would be different if they stuck a hard drive in our heads and erased all traces of the memories of those games, but they didn’t. They will forever be in the minds of rebel fans.

Ole Miss will forever cherish memories like Ole Miss taking a trip to Nashville to play the Vanderbilt Commodores in 2013 in arguably, one of the most underrated games in the SEC at that time. Two young teams with a lot of talent on both, respected teams, including the introduction of newly Ole Miss Rebel freshmen standouts – now  Miami Dolphins offensive tackle Laremy Tunsil,  Minnesota Vikings wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, Arizona Cardinals defensive end Robert Nkemdiche, and highly scouted high school player from South Panola High School Tony Conner – while Vanderbilt had their own standout players such as returning senior quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuel, San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Jordan Matthews and former Houston Texans’ defensive back Andre Hal.

Coming into this game, no one knew what to expect from Ole Miss. They were coming off of a 7-6 season including a win against Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass bowl in 2012 and had to face a fairly decent Vanderbilt team who was coming off of an unexpected 9-4 season led by second year Coach James Franklin, which may sound like a familiar name, if you are in the Big Ten Conference.

On the opening drive, Vanderbilt’s starting QB  Austyn Carta-Samuel threw an interception to the one and only Tony Connor to gain his first interception as an Ole Miss Rebel. Ole Miss would then go on to end the first quarter with a score of 10-0 including backup QB Barry Brunetti running it in for a touchdown.

It would be then a dogfight in the next two quarters after Vanderbilt would shut out the Rebel’s offense and put up 21 unanswered points to end the half up 21-10. However, Ole Miss would manage to close the gap to make it a three-point game entering the fourth quarter at a score of 28-25 with just 15 minutes of football left to play at Nashville.

Ole Miss would force Vanderbilt to punt on the opening drive and work their way into the red zone after a strong drive by Ole Miss starting quarterback Bo Wallace. Wallace would find his way into the end zone a few plays later to give Ole Miss their first lead in the second half. It was still plenty of time left on the clock though. With 1:30 left to play in the game, Carta-Samuel would throw a bomb to Vanderbilt Wide Receiver Steven Scheu for 34 yards and Touchdown to give Vanderbilt back the lead at 35-32.

For most Rebel fans, our hearts were pounding at a rapid rate of speed. I remember watching the game on my TV. I was so upset because we gave away the lead with little time remaining. The only option I had at that moment was to either finish watching the game to see the outcome or cut the TV off and chew on my fingernails hoping for the best. At the time, I was out of fingernails to chew on (congratulations if you caught the Roddy Piper reference).

The Rebels would start the drive off at their own 25-yard line. On the first play, Bo Wallace would throw an incomplete pass to Laquon Treadwell. I was starting to get more nervous as every second ticked away…and then the unthinkable happened. Bo Wallace would hand the ball off to Jeff Scott hoping to gain a few yards.

Scott would run to the outside looking to step out of bounds until he gets a good block and manages to continue to run near out of bounds until he would hit a move on the defender in front of him and would return it all the way into the end zone. I could not believe it. I jumped in the air with great joy. On the next drive, Safety Cody Prewitt would catch an interception which would ice the game for the Rebels as they would win the game by a score of 39-35.

Memories like this can’t be taken back. Likewise, who could forget times such as when former Rebel Cornerback, Senquez Golson, grabbed the game winning interception against No. 2 Alabama to earn one of the biggest wins in school history, or when Jaylen Walton ran a 91-yard touchdown to help Ole Miss secure a victory against Mississippi State in the 2014 Egg Bowl?

How about when quarterback Shea Patterson won his first game against the ninth-ranked team in the nation, Texas A&M, after starting quarterback Chad Kelly was injured a week before? Things like this we cannot leave behind. Once you leave your mark on something, the imprint always remains.

For the NCAA, vacating wins was the most least tactical weapon they pulled out throughout this investigation. Let us remember moments such as when students rallied in the Grove after the Rebels knocked off Alabama in 2014. Ole Miss football would not be as big as it is now without that time period that allowed us to grow not only as a team, but as a fanbase. Vacate the wins they say, no way, those memories live in every rebel fan. You can’t take those precious memories away.