Headed toward a bowl game and beyond

Call me slow. It took me a moment to realize the stuff falling from the skyboxes above the press box was cotton.

Fans were throwing it out. Cotton balls. And then some folks started tearing open bags in the stands below and throwing more into the air. And the Cotton Bowl reps in the press box saw it.

Cotton Bowl? Are you kidding me? After an 0-8 SEC season a year ago?

OK, as far as I know it isn't Cotton for sure. Things aren't completely clear. But one of the two reps here from Dallas did give me an AT&T Cotton Bowl lapel sticker.

Wherever the Rebels end up, it will have been a season to remember. A November to remember for sure.

Remember Houston Nutt talking about that late last, ah, November? That was right after the 0-8 was in the books.

The scene after the game Friday was nothing short of amazing. Or maybe it's been so long since I've seen an Ole Miss celebration like that one at home I just forgot what they look like.

Oh I've watched Missouri and Wake Forest fans take over the stadium late in big wins for their teams. Even Wyoming's contingent danced into the Mississippi night after a victory.

Not to mention SEC teams who have had their way in Vaught-Hemingway for the better part of several seasons.

But Friday was different. Friday, there were more people – Ole Miss people – in the stands 15 minutes after the 45-0 shellacking of Mississippi State than there were at any point during last season's low point for attendance against Northwestern State. There may have been more here then than were in attendance for Louisiana-Monroe two weeks ago.

There were a lot of them enjoying the moment. None perhaps moreso than Nutt, who appears to have enjoyed this season, or at least since the final horn sounded on Oct. 25 in Fayetteville, about as much as any coach I've ever seen.

We've seen everything that is vintage Nutt these last few weeks. We saw his enthusiasm when he won games at the school across the river. We saw his interaction with the players and fans and band when his teams got another W.

We've seen that for five straight weeks here now, and Ole Miss has been lifted. As a team, as a program, and as a fan base.

Folks, this season is for everybody.

Nutt wanted his players to buy in, and they have, in a big way.

Now here's what has to happen for Ole Miss to sustain it. Fans have to buy in even more. And it won't come cheap.

Now is the time for all good Rebel fans to give their loved ones bowl tickets, make that bowl trips, for Christmas. Yep, your shopping list should now be complete.

I asked the Cotton Bowl reps how many tickets each school got and was told 12,000.

"But you can request more than that," I was told as well.

12,000? If Ole Miss goes to Dallas, there'd better be 20,000 UM fans there.

Heck anywhere the Rebels go this postseason there should be 20,000 tickets purchased through the school. And that's the key.

Buy them from Ole Miss. But by all means be there.

And then buy season tickets next spring for next season.

It is imperative that more Ole Miss fans do so. With Alabama, LSU, Tennessee, and Arkansas coming in, Vaught-Hemingway doesn't need to be a sea of whatever color the opposition is wearing. You've got to believe 10,000 fans of all those schools, maybe even Arkansas, will try to get in if they can.

Ole Miss is somewhere around 8,000 season tickets down from 2004. If I were in charge, I'd have a plan to call everyone of those who bought that aren't buying any more, call them twice, and e-mail them three times. And get them back to this campus.

Be more proactive than ever. Don't just let winning be the only effort for selling more tickets.

The Ole Miss fan base must re-grow to its 2004 level. And it needs to happen in the next eight months.

I actually believe that it can.

How about 40,000 season tickets sold not counting students? I like that goal.

And really, sales pitch aside, who among you wants to miss out on anymore of the excitement that Nutt and his staff and players are bringing to Ole Miss these days?

Who wants to miss out on anymore of the postgame celebrating I saw Friday afternoon?

Nobody I know.

Load up the bandwagon. The regulars will make room. Ole Miss is spending the holidays in Dallas or somewhere.

Who would have ever thought that after 0-8? Or even earlier this season after losses to Wake and Vandy and Carolina?

But here we are, and as Nutt said after this one, "This is definitely a November you'll remember."

He's right. That goes for all of us.

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