When was the last time the Ole Miss Rebels started a football season with a 3-0 record?
1989. That year, George H.W. Bush was president, Patrick Swayze starred in “Road House,” and the radio air waves were filled with the sounds of “Bubble Gum Pop” musicians Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. But the Doobie Brothers released a comeback album, for those who love classic rock and roll.
Oh well, talk about crosses to bear. But I digress. The Rebels can now say they’re undefeated and are certain to move up in the polls following Saturday’s 44-23 win over the Texas Longhorns in front of more than 101,000 fans at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium.
The Rebels, under the leadership of second-year head coach Hugh Freeze, all but redeemed themselves from last year’s 66-31 shelling by the Longhorns at Oxford. At one point, it appear as though the Longhorns were going to take full command of the game, when they scored 23 unanswered points in the second quarter to take a 23-17 lead at intermission.
Ole Miss used halftime to their full advantage, making the necessary adjustments to offset the Longhorns’ second period onslaught. When they came out, they made a statement, scoring 20 unanswered points and mustering 161 yards of total offense. Quarterback Bo Wallace ran for a touchdown, threw for another, and senior running back Jeff Scott returned a punt 73 yards, practically untouched for the final 50 yards, to give the Rebels a 37-23 lead.
Coming into the game, fans of both the Rebels and Longhorns were wondering how the “Horns would respond following a whirlwind week that was like a gridiron version of a soap opera.” That being when Texas head coach Mack Brown gave defensive coordinator Manny Diaz his walking papers following a loss to BYU the previous week. Enter stage right, Greg Robinson, who served as Brown’s defensive chief in 2004, the year they beat Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
If this were a football soap opera, it could be called “As the Mack Turns.” After all, the Rebels didn’t do the Texas “D” any favors as Scott had 164 yards on 19 carries and a touchdown. Ole Miss garnered more than 470 yards of offense, so one has to wonder if Brown did the right thing in pulling the rug from under Diaz so quickly. Not even Bevo, the live Longhorn mascot, could’ve helped the Longhorn defenders on this sultry night.
The Rebels added another touchdown in the final period, but the Longhorn faithful began heading for the exits so quickly, one would’ve thought Bevo broke free and was running amok. But they were leaving so they wouldn’t have to see something worse than being at a Justin Beiber concert, that being the less-than-stellar performance of the Longhorns’ football team.
After gaining more than 200 yards in the first half, Texas was held to less than 70 yards in the second half. Talk about the Rebel “D” putting the clamps on Case McCoy (the younger brother of former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy) and the rest of the Texas offensive arsenal. They played like a unit possessed, and with a mixture of veterans, as well as some of those heralded freshmen from the bountiful signing class from February. Among them include defensive lend Robert Nkemdiche, the nation’s No. 1 recruit who decided to join Ole Miss where his older brother, Denzel Nkemdiche, is a member of the Rebel squad. Freshman receiver LaQuon Treadwell and freshman tight end Evan Engram made key plays on offense. Engram caught a 17-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter to put the game away for the Rebels.
Gritty and determined are two of the best words that can describe the Rebels’ performance in front of a partisan Longhorn crowd.