Needed: A Victory

I know there've been other times like this. I've been around this thing too long for it not to have been this way at some point.

But does Ole Miss need a football victory in the worst way or what? And this is a program that's gone 8-1 in its last nine games. But everybody associated with it needs a win, maybe even a whipping of Vanderbilt.

That'll likely be a tall order. When has playing Vandy and beating the Commodores handily not been?

It must have been like this 40 seasons ago when the Rebels were picked by most to win the SEC. After beating Memphis (State), they lost at Kentucky 10-9 the next week, and I'm sure every drug store round table for a week was upset at Coach Vaught; every telephone party line from the Tennessee state line to the Mississippi Sound sounded off; every Sunday School class the next morning had more discussion about saving the season than souls.

Then the Rebels lost the next week to Alabama 33-32 in a game still talked about. It was the first night college football game ever played on TV. Everybody seemed to at least appreciate the shootout that was that game. But the highly-ranked Rebs of the preseason were now 1-2.

So the fact that there was even a game last Thursday night in Columbia was Ole Miss' fault. And Alabama's. Blame it on the Rebels and Crimson Tide of '69. Those two teams introduced the nation to night-time, prime-time college football.

Ole Miss had trouble with that first one and also the most recent one. But the Rebels almost won them both.

If internet message boards had been around back then, a 1-2 Rebel team picked to do so well nationally would have probably been kicked around, discussed, and dissected like this one has – at least by many fans. And it won't end this time until Ole Miss wins against Vandy and maybe even wins big.

(Lord help us if the Rebels lose.)

I don't mean to necessarily make any parallels to the team from 40 years ago and what might happen the rest of this year. I do know there is a reunion of that team at some home game coming up.

But they got it together then, and the hope for this year's team is to do so as well. There was no SEC championship game back then, but the Rebels got on a roll and beat a bunch of good teams – Georgia, Tennessee, LSU among them, and wound up in the Sugar Bowl.

A different era for sure, and a different mindset. And the only people to vent to were the ones you came in contact with daily, unlike today when message boards have become the sounding boards that never were in those days.

There weren't weekly press conferences for coaches until later, and that was started as media coverage grew, to get something in the newspapers the next day or on the local TV sports segments that night.

Now there are Sunday teleconferences with coaches the day after the game (provided the game is on Saturday – so far the Rebs have had one of those in three games). There are weekly Monday press conferences with coaches and players, daily post-practice press gatherings, postgame press conferences and player interviews right after a game – win or lose.

And almost daily there are phone interviews for a player or a coach from USA Today or the Atlanta Journal-Constitution or any number of media outlets across the country.

Somebody at some point is going to say something that isn't going to go over well with some fans - maybe a lot of fans. That's especially true after a loss.

Our profession is a large part of that expanding culture of sports. We pound away at a given team and ask them question after question and sometimes ask it a different way that day or the next to try to get something new, some new angle. And then we put the words out there for you.

If September has been an unusual month not so routine for the football program and those involved, it has been for us, too. We need a routine, but so do you. It will be good to get to some Saturday football and roll on from here.

So now Vanderbilt awaits. The Rebels have lost two in a row and three of the last four to the Commodores, their one permanent opponent from the SEC East.

That's a disturbing trend, but if last year's close loss in Oxford taught us anything, it's that the winner of the turnover battle does usually win a football game.

After their 1-2 start 40 years ago, the Rebels played a ranked Georgia team. Archie got hurt but came back in the third quarter to lead Ole Miss to a 25-17 victory. Manning says Vince Dooley still reminds him of the moment in the third quarter when the Rebel junior signal-caller trotted out of the locker room to the cheers of Ole Miss fans, as if it was almost staged or something.

But it wasn't, and the Rebels had their leader back. The Rebels of '69 got their swagger back that day, too, and put it together the rest of the season, save a setback on the road at Houston.

This year's Rebel squad has a lot of getting better to do. But it also can recall just a game ago an eight-game winning streak that dated to last October.

This team, these coaches and players, know what it takes. They even know what to say, too. But they have to talk about things a lot, and every once in a while what they say might not sound all that good to the masses.

But it will after a win. All concerned hope that comes Saturday night in Nashville.


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