COLUMN: The New Normal

The wave came quickly, the release a stadium filled with pent-up anticipation had waited an excruciating two minutes and fifty-four seconds for.

The field was flooded in no time at all. Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze had to rush to shake the hand of Alabama’s Nick Saban. Midfield would soon be covered. Soon enough, bodies overtook every inch of Jerry Hollingsworth Field.

Bedlam.

Laquon Treadwell made his way through the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd. Ole Miss fan after Ole Miss fan celebrated around him, excited as they were after a 23-17 win for the Rebels over Alabama, their first win over a team ranked No. 1 in the country in school history.

He was welcoming of their praise, of their pats on the back and high-fives and unbridled joy. But he was fairly reserved given the circumstances. No. 11 Ole Miss outscored Alabama 20-3 in the second half to move to 5-0 on the year. A Rebel offense came alive after a dreadful first half, Treadwell finishing with five catches, 55 yards and a touchdown on the day.

Treadwell smiled a time or two. He picked up the young daughter of an Ole Miss dad and hoisted her on his shoulder. As surprised as the fans around him were, his face stood calm and defiant.

Because a win is what he expected. These wins are why the former five-star prospect and top prep wide receiver nationally signed with Ole Miss.

“This is the new normal,” he said afterwards. “We’re not going to lose a game.”

It’s hard to argue with him, at least tonight.

Ole Miss and its national-championship-caliber defense became relevant on the national stage and in the national conversation on Saturday. There is no more hoping for wins over the likes of Alabama. Or LSU. Or Auburn.

An undefeated season, as far-fetched as it may be to some, is the belief of Treadwell and his teammates. And when the Rebels move up in the polls to No. 4, 5 or 6 on Sunday, those beliefs will be validated.

“In fall camp, we talked about the new normal, about a new air to us,” sophomore defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche said. “We win. We’re the big brothers. We put it on tape.”

And the tape don’t lie.

One of the most star-studded collection of visitors in Ole Miss history was in attendance for the game, and each and every one of those five-star and four-star prospects were able to see Ole Miss on its best day.

The most recognizable pop star on the planet, Katy Perry, sat along the sideline. Same for Hollywood stars Liam Hemsworth and Woody Harrelson and half of the Memphis Grizzlies, including newly-acquired, future-Hall-of-Fame forward Vince Carter.

ESPN’s flagship college football program, College GameDay, broadcast in the morning, the picturesque view of rows and rows of trees and tents the backdrop. Never before has Ole Miss had such exposure.

“The future’s really bright for Ole Miss,” Nkemdiche said. “I hope the recruits see that and I hope this game really opened their eyes. We’re getting better. We’re going to get to the point where we’re one of those teams that fights for the SEC West.”

A lonely, orange cone rests in the heart of the south end zone where a goal post once stood. Students were finally able to bring it down and usher it out of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium after a lengthy battle, off to one of the biggest parties Ole Miss will ever have that won’t end anytime soon.

And in the locker room, reporters around him, Treadwell spoke of Texas A&M, the Rebels’ upcoming opponent. He was excited, sure, but he didn’t show it too much, other than a wry smile every once in a while.

This is the new normal. Get used to it.

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