This is written on Sunday morning. I feel fine; my TV remote control batteries are dead.
Valiantly, they lasted until the ends of Mississippi State’s arduous victory over Arkansas and Ole Miss’s traumatic defeat to Auburn.
At our house, we flipped the channels back and forth so often it sometimes became confusing.We were watching two compelling dramas at once. No matter how hard we tried, we missed big plays. In most cases we caught the replays. (Amazing — isn’t it? — how often the two games, simultaneously, were on TV commercials.)
This stunning Mississippi football season has brought this writer much joy and entertainment and at least one realization. That is, sometimes, it is better to be at home than in a stadium. You see, for 44 years I covered Mississippi college football on an almost daily basis. For 44 years, I was in a press box every Saturday and sometimes on Thursday night. For 44 years — except for the old Jackson doubleheaders — I saw one game and one game only.
This year, when given the choice of seeing one nationally significant Mississippi game or another, I have instead chosen to see both, usually in the comfort of home. As much as I would love to write about this season, in person, on a daily basis, I must tell you that sitting in my recliner, flipping the channels, is not all bad.
Part of me still wants to be in a press box with my comrades, drinking coffee, trying to discern a storyline and then, in a caffeine-fueled adrenaline rush, knocking out 700 words that somehow make sense in 15 minutes or fewer.
But part of me is quite content with the recliner and the remote control and writing my comments 140-or-fewer characters at a time on Twitter — or not.
And still I find myself trying to figure out what my storyline would be. At Starkville, Saturday night, there were so many choices: Quarterback Dak Prescott, playing on one good leg, and willing State past Arkansas. Running back Josh Robinson fighting for all 174 of his all-purpose yards in still another heroic performance. State’s underrated defense bending but not breaking and preserving an 11th consecutive win for the Dogs. Or, the luckless Razorbacks coming so close once again.
At Oxford, oh my heavens: The play, the second most excruciating play in Ole Miss football history, with LaQuon Treadwell, fumbling inches from the goal line, while his leg is simultaneously mangled. What a great player! But, oh, what a devastating injury and defeat. You could write 700 words on the one play, as has been written hundreds upon hundreds of times in the last 55 years about Billy Cannon’s famous punt return against the Rebels. But you also could have written, poignantly, about Bo Wallace’s remarkable effort or Auburn’s penchant for winning these kinds of games over and over and over.
My late comrade, Orley Hood, always said that the most compelling stories are usually in the losers’ locker rooms. That was definitely the case at Vaught-Hemingway Saturday night. So the State and Ole Miss seasons have suddenly headed in different directions, Ole Miss with back-to-back excruciating SEC losses; State with an 11-game winning streak and its No. 1 ranking. This week? The remote control, with new batteries, will get a break. State plays Tennessee-Martin; Ole Miss plays Presbyterian. Both deserve these bought victories after the stretches they have played through.
State will use it as a warm-up for the Nov. 15 showdown with Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Dak will need both legs for that one. (Were I Dan Mullen, I might just rest him this week.) Ole Miss has Presbyterian and then an open date before a dangerous road trip to Arkansas. I’ve said all season long, this Arkansas team is going to win a big game at some point. The Razorbacks are too good not to do that.
We are steadily building toward the Egg Bowl at Oxford on Nov. 29. Anybody who says Ole Miss has nothing left to play for doesn’t comprehend the significance of that game.
Rick Cleveland is executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame and Museum and can be reached at email@example.com.