COLUMN: Accepting Reality

COLLEGE STATION, Texas - Letting go is never easy.

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We all struggle with it, the nostalgic people that we are. We have a tendency to live in the past, to glorify the accomplishments that were and will never be again. We form our opinions early in life and draw a hard line of stubbornness. We believe what we believe. It’s hard to unearth those beliefs, to split at the root what has long been ingrained in the deepest depths of our brains, of our psyches.

The world is as it is to us.

Sometimes, though, moments come and rock us to our core. Everything we believed to be true, as if some grand revelation, becomes clear to us: we were wrong.

I went to College Station for Ole Miss – Texas A&M with my dad and three friends, all of which are Ole Miss fans. My dad is an old-school Ole Miss fan, his disposition always positive but apprehensive. He worried about a letdown from the Rebels’ thrilling, 23-17, comeback win over Alabama last week. A high-powered Aggie offense kept him up at night. He didn’t know what to expect, glued all week to the SEC Network and The Season for any snippet of information. An insatiable appetite.

I poked fun at him, but I got it. The last time Ole Miss was 5-0, in 1962, he was one. He couldn’t get enough.

He asked me what I thought would happen, if Ole Miss would win. I told him Ole Miss has the best defense in the country, as well as an offense that took a huge step last week. I expected the Rebels to roll into Kyle Field and leave no doubt, quite frankly. They were the better football team.

The No. 3 Rebels moved to 6-0 Saturday with a 35-20 win over No. 14 Texas A&M. They jumped ahead early, running out to a 21-0 lead thanks in large part to a Cody Prewitt interception returned for a touchdown. They owned the night, silencing an SEC-record crowd of 110,633 with a 33-yard touchdown pass, Bo Wallace to Quincy Adeboyejo, at the end of the third quarter. The stands emptied, the 12th man retired for the evening.

Ole Miss is a championship-caliber football team. Accept it, Rebel fans. Own it. Because it’s true.

You a believer now, dad?

“This didn’t just happen this week,” Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said afterwards. “We’ve been here two-and-a-half years. We’ve been preaching the same qualities to these kids, and something special is happening with our kids.”

These aren’t the Rebels you grew up with. The so-close wins. And disappointments. And moral victories and Music City Bowls. Hoping for wins no longer applies. A 2003 loss to LSU with Atlanta on the line isn’t the biggest game in Ole Miss history anymore. No, every game from here on out is, because each of those games carry national-championship implications.

“Our kids are excited,” Freeze said. “They enjoyed the win. They’ll come back down. We’ve got to prepare for another tough one.”

The times, they are a-changin’. The nightmare of 2011 is so far in the rearview mirror, it’s all but disappeared. A credit to Freeze, by the way, who inherited a disaster of a program. But he’s built it up the right way – recruiting better than any coach in school history, instilling a week-to-week mentality and confidence, building an unmovable defense and littering his offense with playmakers.

Gone are the years the Egg Bowl was the most significant in a season; the final destination a Liberty Bowl berth or, at best, the Cotton Bowl, as great a bowl as it may be.

Forget your long-established self-doubt and uneasiness. In back-to-back weeks against the two toughest opponents on its schedule, Ole Miss dominated, riding its defense whose starting lineup has surrendered all of three touchdowns through six games, including consecutive games against top-5 national offenses.

Ole Miss is a damn good football team, and that’s OK to say. Repeat it to yourself. Practice in the mirror if you have to.

Learn to let go and move forward. The future is now.

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