Everyone in Red and Blue needed this one. And they needed it not to be close.
It wasn't. A fourth-quarter breather was welcomed relief.
Few could have seen it coming like it turned out. The line was something like Ole Miss by less than a touchdown – four or five points. At halftime, that looked to be about right, with Ole Miss up 21-14.
After Tennessee pulled to within four on a third-quarter field goal, Dexter McCluster and his teammates went back to work.
There's a short list somewhere of the most exciting plays in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium history. You know, the ones that are really, really etched in your memory.
Deuce McAllister's opening kickoff return for a touchdown against Arkansas in 1999. Matt Grier's interception of a Rex Grossman pass returned for a touchdown against Florida in 2002. Travis Johnson's interception of a Matt Mauck pass early in the LSU game in 2003 that he took to the house for points. And those are all fairly recent.
There are others, but you get the picture. And you have some that immediately come to mind.
Dexter's 71-yard run on the Rebs' first offensive play of the fourth quarter to give Ole Miss a 35-17 lead is now on that list.
Has there been a more electrifying play ever in that stadium? Is it at the top of the list now?
Debatable for sure.
And it was immediately after Glen Waddle's public address announcement and video board recognition of Eli Manning and brother Cooper, who were watching the action.
That brief span was just one of those moments. It'll be talked about for years.
Dexter's 282 rushing yards in this game and 324 all-purpose yards were both Rebel single game records. No opposing player in a game with Tennessee involved had ever rushed for as many yards against a Volunteer defense. UT football is well into its second century.
Dexter, with four touchdowns, played with a purpose, alright.
"I wish you could have heard him talk to our team last night," Coach Houston Nutt said in his postgame remarks.
Well, at least we got to see him play.
It had been a tough week. All of you know that. Sometimes we Ole Miss people can't get out of our own way, just keep stumbling and shuffling and wading through it all. Until a day like Saturday comes along.
And winning does so cure all.
Before Saturday, it had been a nice season record-wise at 6-3 but still a difficult one, with so much hype and anticipation since leaving Dallas 10 months ago.
Saturday was about getting it back right.
There are a lot of opinions on a lot of hot-button topics when it comes to Ole Miss. Some were touched upon last week, and a lot of feelings were hurt. There was some anger.
I'm convinced of one thing. When the game itself becomes the most important thing to more Ole Miss fans and students, then Ole Miss stands a better chance of accomplishing what everybody truly wants.
The Grove is great, the Square is terrific, songs and cheers are an important part of college football, uniform styles and the color fans should wear are topics of conversation.
But they are secondary to everything about the game itself. They are important, but not the most important.
Ole Miss 42, Tennessee 17 showed what can happen when everything clicks and everything goes right and everybody pulls toward victory.
What matters most is what happens between those lines. Saturday proved that more than any day around here in a long, long time.
Up next: 60 minutes (at least) of football vs. old rival LSU.
What else really matters more?
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