Cheers, 2020 Ole Miss. You provided us with drunken entertainment until the very end
The 2020 version of Ole Miss was tequila.
Lane Kiffin’s team was a celebration of wild, drunken unscripted football from start to finish. A night of tequila is often twofold. It can get out of hand. It doesn’t necessarily mean falling asleep on your neighbor’s lawn, but that’s certainly not out of the question. It doesn’t necessarily mean turning your shirt into a bandana and belting out karaoke until 3 a.m., but that’s certainly not out of the question, either.
Ole Miss football in 2020 was throwing clipboards into the sky. It was gadget plays with extremely talented skill players. It was allowing enough points to make any game must-see TV until the clock hit zero.
Sure, sometimes you woke up with a nasty hangover. Or rather, a 5-interception game. That happens. Tequila, or rather, Ole Miss, is all gas, no brakes.
Need a missed extra point to make things interesting? You got it! Want us to start throwing passes to our electric backup quarterback John Rhys Plumlee? Serve it up! Looking for the most entertaining mediocre football team that this world has ever seen? No problem!
Saturday’s Outback Bowl victory against Indiana was a fitting close to Ole Miss’ weekly bender of a season. It had all the ingredients you’d expect in a diabolical concoction.
Shoot, perhaps the only thing that wasn’t par for the course for Ole Miss was the fact that the worst Power 5 defense in America actually showed up and closed things out. Consider that the equivalent to a tequila-fueled night in which your buddy actually remembers to close out his tab and not leave his wallet in the Uber.
Then again, we at least got to the point in the night (or sunny day in Tampa) when we didn’t know what was going to happen. All bets are off when you start dancing in public, or rather, you shank an extra point to make it a 6-point game instead of a 7-point game. How did we get there, though? Oh, it was fittingly Ole Miss.
With 75% of Ole Miss’ offensive production out for the Outback Bowl and facing the defensive-minded Tom Allen, AKA the national coach of the year who stymied Justin Fields, it was a rare rough go offensively for Matt Corral and Co. The chunk plays weren’t there without the likes of Jerrion Ealy, Elijah Moore, Kenny Yeboah and Braylon Sanders.
So what did Kiffin and Jeff Lebby do? They turned to John Rhys Plumlee. No, not as the change-of-pace quarterback. As the receiver.
Never mind the fact that Plumlee had never played receiver before getting in some limited work there in 2020. At first, it looked like the guy who tries breakdancing for the first time (and fails) thanks to a little tequila kicking in. On Saturday, Plumlee was wide open on a deep out on the right sideline, and he let a dime go in and out of his hands.
But by day’s end, Plumlee was anything but that guy. On a slant at midfield, Corral found Plumlee and he still caught it despite an obvious pass interference call. On the very next play, Plumlee darted out of the backfield and up the seam, where he turned his body and caught a pass in stride that went for 44 yards to set up Ole Miss’ go-ahead touchdown.
— Sideline CFB (@SidelineCFB) January 2, 2021
Those are the moments that keep us coming back for tequila. I mean, Ole Miss.
Roughly half the time, it makes us feel invincible. You don’t watch Ole Miss if you’re hoping for a relaxing 3.5 hours. You don’t drink tequila if you’re looking for a relaxing night in.
You take the good with the bad. The bad is when roughly 3 guys can’t tackle Kayshon Boutte and instead of leaving LSU with a win in the pouring rain, Ole Miss wakes up feeling like it just got hit by a truck. The bad is facing a well-prepared Arkansas defense and forcing throws all the way through interception No. 6, which is like your post-tequila shots buddy who gets rejected by the waitress 6 different times.
You never knew how 60 minutes with 2020 Ole Miss was going to end. Maybe it’s a missed extra point in overtime that leads to a game-winning score like the Kentucky game. Perhaps it’s a botched replay of an apparent fumble recovery for a touchdown that leads to a loss like the Auburn game (Corral’s half-baked Hail Mary attempt at the end of that game was like the guy who passes out at the bar before the night is over).
Or there was what happened on Saturday afternoon in Tampa. Kiffin’s team overcame all sorts of depth issues and beat a legitimate top-15 team for the first time. Go figure that the team that’s most like tequila actually had a pleasant ending.
Who knows what the future Ole Miss teams will look like. It’ll be hard not to be a watered down version of this 2020 squad, which had 5 games decided by 1 score and 8 of them come finish within 2 scores. The 2021 team might be a bit easier for Ole Miss fans to stomach, especially if Saturday’s defensive performance was a sign of things to come and not just the product of playing a backup quarterback with a banged up shoulder. With Corral, Ealy and Plumlee set to return, the romp that is the Ole Miss offense isn’t going anywhere.
But it feels only fitting that as we close to books on Kiffin’s first year in Oxford that we should raise a glass to his team for the entertainment it provided.
Cheers to you, 2020 Ole Miss. Once the hangover subsides, I hope my memories of you aren’t fuzzy.