Ole Miss clobbered Georgia and beat Texas A&M on the road. Mississippi State knocked off the Aggies when they were No. 4 in the country. Southern Miss came back from a 25-point deficit on the road to defeat Kentucky. Mississippi football teams might not have had the seasons they envisioned, but they have had their moments.

Rick Cleveland
Rick Cleveland Credit: Melanie Thortis

You ask me, none of those previously mentioned victories ranks as the crowning achievement of this Mississippi football season. For that, we go back to Sept. 17 in Oxford. Here’s what happened that day:

Ole Miss scored 43 points against Alabama. No, the Rebels didn’t win (48-43), but they scored 43 points against one of the greatest college defenses these eyes have ever seen. The Rebels came ever so close to defeating the best team in the country.

Arkansas scored 30 points in a 19-point loss to the Crimson Tide. Nobody else has scored more than 14.

Alabama gives up 12.2 points per game. Ole Miss got 43 against Bama.

The Tide gives up 259 yards per game. Ole Miss gained 522.

Bama gives up 191 yards passing per game. Ole Miss threw for 421.

I talked to three NFL scouts last week and all said they have never seen a better collection of speed and talent on defense than Alabama’s

“It’s not just that,” one said. “They are not only the best athletes. They are the best coached athletes. They are so disciplined. They just don’t make mistakes. They cover every gap.”

I watched State-Alabama on TV Saturday. When State had the ball, it often seemed as if Alabama had 14 or 15 defenders on the field. It was like that Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook famously mouthed into national TV cameras in that semi-final game last year: “They’re freaking everywhere!”

It does seem that way.

And Ole Miss scored 43 points against them. Amazing.

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Rick Cleveland, a native of Hattiesburg and resident of Jackson, has been Mississippi Today’s sports columnist since 2016. A graduate of the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s in journalism, Rick has worked for the Monroe (La.) News Star World, Jackson Daily News and Clarion Ledger. He was sports editor of Hattiesburg American, executive director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame. His work as a syndicated columnist and celebrated sports writer has appeared in numerous magazines, periodicals and newspapers.
Rick has been recognized 13 times as Mississippi Sports Writer of the Year, and is recipient of multiple awards and honors for his reporting and writing.