After his interception sealed Ole Miss’ 23-17 win against Alabama Saturday in Oxford, Golson said he had been preparing for that moment for a long time, and for sure the past month.
“I’ve been watching film on Amari Cooper for about four weeks now,” said the senior form Pascagoula. “Watching film on the Bama offense for about four weeks now.”
Really? Yes, it’s true. Not that the Rebels didn’t prepare successfully for their first four games prior to Alabama. After all, they are undefeated, now at 5-0.
Even as the games appeared to get tougher?
“We were preparing for Alabama, and I think it kind of showed up against Memphis,” he said, smiling and drawing laughter.
Ole Miss defeated Memphis a week ago 24-3 but the Rebels weren’t sharp. They weren’t necessarily looking ahead...
Well, in a way they were. And who could really blame them?
Saturday might not have been a game of the century for Ole Miss. But it could possibly be the game of this century to date.
The previous two times Ole Miss has defeated Alabama were in 2001 and 2003 with Eli Manning as quarterback. But this is a greater Alabama program now than then. And the Crimson Tide had reeled off 10 wins in a row against the Rebels.
Saturday, Ole Miss led by six points with Alabama driving as a nation watched on CBS. The Tide was at the Rebels’ 29-yard line. On first down Blake Sims completed a 7-yard pass to T.J. Yeldon. But Alabama was called for holding.
It was now second and 13 from the Ole Miss 32. Sims passed into the end zone for tight end O.J. Howard - not Amari Cooper. Golson was right there and hauled it in at the back of the end zone.
But it was ruled incomplete. Golson, the veteran of many football wars, knew they had gotten it wrong.
“I know I had got my foot down. I was basically watching my foot touch the ground,” he said with an assurance he might not have displayed in precious times.
All it took was just one look, from the replay officials that is. Well, maybe two or three looks.
But in the end, an overturn. And maybe more than that; perhaps a tide-turner for the fortunes of Ole Miss football.
Those fortunes have actually been turning for a couple of years now.
“That 2-10 was the longest football season I ever played in my life,” Golson said of his freshman season under Houston Nutt, losing his job as head coach at the end of that miserable season. “From that to College Game Day and beating Bama.”
And from being a guy who didn’t know if he belongs, and neither did his new head coach, to becoming a leader of the program and a game-saver on Saturday.
“It’s well-documented, my feelings for him,” said Hugh Freeze postgame Saturday. “I tried to run him off when I first got here. I didn’t think he would ever make it in this program. He was not ‘bought in.’ He didn’t understand how to work. He did not want to be great.”
Golson was drafted by the Red Sox out of high school. He almost took the money and ran then.
“You look down at that paper and you see all those commas and zeroes,” he said. “I had pen in hand. But I knew what I had to do. I was coming to school.”
Even though there were tough times, Golson did not dispute Freeze’s evaluations of how things were in those early days of the new program.
“He’s right,” Golson admitted, honestly, candidly, truthfully. “We were going back and forth. It took me a while to adjust and have the right attitude. I realized I had to make a lot of self-evaluations and get my life together.”
Freeze said he's certainly done that.
“Now he’s a guy who stands on the podium in this locker room telling guys ‘men, protect this team.’ He’s not only saying it, he’s doing it.”
Freeze said watching the growth of someone like Senquez Golson is one of the rewards for a coach.
“You get in this job to mentor young men first,” he said.
Nobody understands that more than Senquez Golson.
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