Ole Miss has been awfully close to a national title
As bad as some are painting the current NCAA investigation into Ole Miss football to be, the Rebels have stared in the face of plenty of misery over the last two seasons.
They haven’t needed the NCAA to take away, say, the possibility of College Football Playoff games. They have done their own damage to those hopes. Well, Auburn and Arkansas had a hand in it too.
Two plays have undoubtedly changed the course of where Ole Miss was headed in 2014 and 2015 – toward national championships.
Ranked No. 4 in the first release of the CFP rankings in 2014, Laquon Treadwell appeared to have crossed the goal line with a game-winning touchdown against No. 3 Auburn. Instead, Treadwell broke his leg on the play and a replay all but ended the season.
The touchdown that would have put Ole Miss ahead 38-35 with 90 seconds to play was ruled a fumble. The Rebels had lost the game, Treadwell and a shot to win it all.
With Treadwell writhing in pain in the end zone, a once-raucous, now-paralyzed crowd at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium stood silent. The rest of the season, outside a win against Mississippi State in the Egg Bowl, was about as damp. Ole Miss clobbered Presbyterian before losing 30-0 at Arkansas and 42-3 against TCU in the Peach Bowl.
A YEAR LATER, MORE HEARTBREAK
Fast forward one year. Ole Miss was uncommonly in charge of the SEC West. A second straight win over Alabama had set the table and had the Rebels in position to make their first trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game.
A broken leg didn’t derail things. This did.
College football NEVER disappoints. How did Arkansas pull off this 1st Down? https://t.co/VNr9K99O7r
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) November 8, 2015
Call it what you want. Anything short of calling it a miracle to describe a 12-yard blind lateral that your teammate came up with in traffic and ran 25 yards for a first down wouldn’t suffice. That’s about as miracle as miracle gets.
After the Razorbacks got into the end zone to pull within a point, quarterback Brandon Allen was tackled via facemask on a ruthless 2-point try. He ran it again a play later and scored to put a 1-point dagger into the Rebels’ hearts, again a home crowd brought to its knees in a game that looked sealed and ready to vault Ole Miss into the championship four.
The Rebels beat LSU and Mississippi State the next two weeks and demolished Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl.
They’ve finished No. 17 and No. 10 in the final AP rankings to close the last two seasons. Those campaigns turned out to be pretty satisfying for the hungry fan base, especially last season’s ending in New Orleans, but they will forever have a cloud. A broken leg and miraculous 4th-and-25 will always leave wonder about what might have been.