By Hannah Johnson, Mary Kate Hale and Emily Reib
Ole Miss freshmen Caden Costa and Brandon Buckhaulter are excited to play their first home game Saturday night as the campus game day experience returns to Oxford.
Costa, a place-kicker from Mandeville, Louisiana, said the game day experience, which was on hold for a year because of COVID-19, played a huge role in his decision to commit to Ole Miss.
“I love the excitement football brings throughout the university,” he said.
Football and tailgating have always brought Ole Miss enthusiasts together. Buckhaulter, a wide receiver, grew up in Flowood, Mississippi, and has been accustomed to Ole Miss tradition.
“Everyone here treats football players as family,” he said, “and I love it.”
In Costa’s debut Monday against Louisville, he hit three field goals and four PATs. That performance in Atlanta earned him SEC Co-Freshman of the Week honors.
“It felt awesome to play my first college game, and to perform that way made it even
better,” Costa said.
Fans are excited to see how the team follows its big win against Louisville. Among them is former Ole Miss kicker Jack Propst.
“I’m excited to watch a team full of guys that I already know at a personal level reach the same goals we were shooting for when we were teammates,” he said. “As far as the Grove, I’m just excited to experience Ole Miss the way the world knows it.”
Without capacity regulations, the team is expecting a packed stadium. Costa understands the importance of having fans in the stands.
“It’s exciting to be a part of what they’re cheering for,” he said.
Saturday night’s contest will be the first normal home game since 2019. With the return of crowds comes the return of tailgating and other traditions, such as the Walk of Champions.
The team’s walk along the famous sidewalk through the Grove plays a pivotal role in a traditional Ole Miss game day, and it is highly anticipated by players and fans alike, especially Buckhaulter.
“I get to witness my first ever Walk of Champions,” he said, “and I’m looking forward to seeing thousands of fans.”
This same goes for Costa.
“I’m extremely excited for the Walk of Champions and seeing the Ole Miss game day in
person,” he said, “as I haven’t been to a game before.”