Live From Oxford

The Rebels will play LSU in Tiger Stadium tonight. I won’t be there. But I’ve been there 14 times before for this game.

This one I plan to watch with hundreds, maybe thousands, on the Square somewhere in downtown Oxford. I'm not sure I've ever watched an Ole Miss football game there. Tonight, that's the plan.

All of us keep up with some of these type things, how many times we’ve been to this or that stadium, how many times in a row we’ve been to games, what’s the win-loss record of games we’ve attended, streaks, victories. On it goes.

The record of the games I’ve attended in Tiger Stadium is 5-9. Ole Miss has the 5, LSU the 9, if you’re wondering. Not too bad considering that since the 1970s LSU has been the dominant program and Ole Miss had had to settle for a few good seasons and a few victories here and there against LSU.

However, historically Ole Miss has had more success than any visiting team in Baton Rouge, except Alabama. The Rebels have 24 wins there and the Crimson Tide has 26. A lot of times the losses were close and gut-wrenching for Ole Miss people. Like 41-35 two years ago, or 32-29 in 1984.

Or the first time I visited the Tigers’ den. That was 1972. I was a kid. My dad and some family friends attended. We sat in the end zone now occupied by LSU students. The stadium was much smaller then, holding 68,000, which by Ole Miss standards then and now was big. No stadium in Mississippi in 2014 seats that many.

The 17-16 loss to LSU was as much to blame for ruining Ole Miss’ season that year as any other setback. The Rebels beat Mississippi State 51-14 in Oxford to wind things up.

But Ole Miss finished the season only 5-5, the last time the Rebels played as few as ten games in a regular season, and they didn’t go bowling. That snapped a national record 15 straight bowl appearances for Ole Miss.

I remember one of the people we went with carrying those old metal stadium seats for him and his wife to sit on. After the game, when he’d had enough from some LSU fans as we walked out, he slammed those two stadium seats together in a “Shut Up! That’s Enough!” manner.

LSU fans do love not letting it go.

There was a line in a story in the paper the next morning about an Ole Miss kid sitting in the end zone of Tiger Stadium crying after the game. My dad still believes that was the son of our friend, three years younger than I was, who was with us on the trip. He was sitting up there by himself, crying, not wanting to leave, dying just a little inside after the Bert Jones to Brad Davis TD and PAT by Rusty Jackson with 0:00 on the Death Valley clock.

I remember the traffic and the drive all the way back to the fabulous (now extinct) Belmont Hotel in Baton Rouge and how we listened to some radio show called Arthur’s Football Scoreboard, and how they’d repeat the final score over and over and over again.

How big was the 1972 game?

When the Tigers celebrated 100 years of LSU football in the 1990s, that game was named by a vote of LSU people as the greatest game ever played in Tiger Stadium.

Our group would not have voted that way.

It might have voted for some others I attended there. Like 2008 when the Rebels won 31-13. That one was rivaled only by my visits in 1999 when Ole Miss won 42-23, and a 36-21 win in 1997. And Eli's win there 35-24 in 2001.

The other win I witnessed in Baton Rouge propelled the Rebels to the Gator Bowl in a nine-win season. That was a 19-10 victory in 1990.

A few of my visits were blow out wins for LSU. But a couple were close setbacks for the Rebels.

Like 23-20, an overtime loss, in 2006. And the 14-13 loss in 2002 that Ole Miss could have and should have won. But some Tiger Stadium magic stepped up and sent the Rebels home with a close loss.

Tonight marks one of the biggest moments for Ole Miss in Tiger Stadium in years. It was 50 years ago that Ole Miss lost one of those close ones, 11-10. My family was actually involved in that one.

Jim Weatherly, my dad’s sister’s son as most readers know by now, was the quarterback that day 50 years ago for the Rebels. It was another in a long line of close and disappointing outcomes for a Rebel team that was ranked No. 1 in the country in September but lost four regular season games and a Bluebonnet Bowl to Tulsa.

Tiger quarterback Billy Ezell connected with Doug Moreau for a two-point conversion and the victory.

Moreau will be doing the LSU radio color commentary with Jim Hawthorne tonight, just like he did in my youth with the former voice of the Tigers, John Ferguson, and just like he’s done for more than 40 years.

In the mid-1960s, Coach Vaught and staff continued building the team for a run at a seventh SEC title and fourth national title before they retired. But it didn’t happen, although Vaught and staff defeated LSU four more times after that loss in '64 and before the 1970 season.

Vaught wrote in his memoir, Rebel Coach, that he had planned to retire after his 1970 team finished another great season. Some had predicted a national title for that club and a Heisman acceptance speech by Archie.

But things have a way of not turning out the way we envision sometimes, and when it came to Ole Miss football these past 45 - give or take - years, that’s been the case.

Chuck and Ben and Bruce and are on their way to Tiger Stadium. They are there to cover whatever happens, and Rebel Nation hopes it will be another win to move to 8-0 on the season and 5-0 in the SEC.

And to stay on track for one of those seasons not seen around these parts in 50 years.

This one has all the makings of another great one tonight. Just like it’s supposed to be when these two schools get together to play some football.

See you on the Square.

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