Home Opener

Excessive heat for the season opener. Widespread flu the following week. Now near-flood-like conditions the week of the home opener.

At least Friday night was clear. Hopefully today will be as well.

With games on a Sunday (then skip a weekend), Saturday, and Thursday for the first three games, through it all the Rebel express rolls on.

Fifth-ranked Ole Miss (just 1-0 so far) is going to have some hoops and hurdles to jump through and over, maybe even around, if it's going to fulfill the prophecy of many prognosticators and the hopes of all its fans.

So what's a little mud and dampness as you trudge across campus, huh? This year, nothing stands in the way of a trip to Atlanta.

Coach Houston Nutt said Thursday, "Finally a Thursday practice on Thursday."

Of course next week that changes again.

The Rebels have to keep blinders on, so to speak, when dealing with all this. Most football seasons are normally routine. Saturday games, and maybe an open date or two. But some consistency no less.

Heck, just playing a contest in the friendly confines of Vaught-Hemingway is a challenge this early season. Only one game in Oxford until Oct. 10 – the fifth game of the campaign vs. Alabama.

That'll be more than two months after the team reported for preseason camp. Even a matchup with non-conference foe Southeastern Louisiana today has folks excited about being in Oxford for the only time in September.

And there's the turf. The Rebels are anxious to get on the turf. It will be as new to them as it is to the fans. But it's beautiful. A classic college football field that will look great in person and on TV.

Senior associate athletics director for facilities Blake Barnes offered this up for fans.

"The first home football game of 2009 has finally arrived, and everyone with facilities/event management is excited about the fans' enthusiasm and the anticipated large crowds. The stadium preparations are complete, and the staff is in place and ready for Saturday's game. We would like to remind fans to arrive early, because gates can get clogged and long lines occur. An article was posted on the website earlier this week with gameday reminders (posted at the top of the Spirit message board). I encourage fans to read over them.

During the month of August, the FieldTurf was successfully installed in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium without issue, as all of the scheduling fell right in line. The team has already practiced on the turf a few times, and everyone will see Saturday night how great it looks under the lights."

It's probably best to try to get to the stadium at least an hour before the game. The gates open two hours prior to kickoff. That way you'll have more time to get yourself through those gates. And Coach Nutt keeps telling fans to arrive early and be loud, coaching you up and getting you ready to help the team.

So it's going to be a little damp and muddy today. But a lot of tickets have been sold, and it will be interesting to see how close to 60,000 the crowd turns out to be. That might be a stretch now given TV and the weather.

The Rebels need to play well and win and not get anybody else hurt. That's all. Then it's on to SEC play against the Gamecocks, who defeated the Rebels 31-24 last season in Oxford.

If they get past USC and win at Vanderbilt, the weekend of Oct. 10 will be like none ever seen here in the past – maybe LSU weekend in 2003 would compare.

But that can wait. There's a lot of work to be done between now and then – starting tonight with the Lions.

Heat, flu, floods, Lions, Gamecocks, and Commodores. The much-anticipated season of '09 continues.


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