Sugar bowl trip
By Savannah Woods
As I prepare for an exciting and anticipated Sugar Bowl appearance for the Ole Miss Rebels, I can’t help but reflect on the 2016 Sugar Bowl victory and how far we’ve come to this today.
Thinking back to that bowl, each fan had a different experience, different story, and different memory associated with the 10-3 team that defeated Oklahoma State. We remember Chad Kelly, the Confetti, the top players heading to the Draft, the Trophy Ceremony and the thrill of victory. My journey began as a radiant freshman enrolled at the University of Mississippi in the fall of 2015. I had landed a job working for Ole Miss Football as a student videographer where I would learn and manage. films of coaches and players. It was perfect for me! I had become a die-hard Ole Miss fan, had old ties to the program, and was ready to jump into the chaos of SEC football as a student videographer.
After beating Alabama, a heartbreaking loss to Arkansas, and pretty much everything in between, there was a moment of pure joy as the team were selected to play at the 2016 Sugar Bowl. I remember of what it was to celebrate with my coworkers after all the hard work paid off and we landed a much wanted bowl. At the time, the freshmen couldn’t travel with the squad for away games, but the long hours we put into every practice, scrum, and home game this season were worth it. sadness. The Ole Miss Rebels were heading to the Sugar Bowl. These four years in the Ole Miss Football program have been a unique and special time in my life that I will cherish forever. (To this day, my Sugar Bowl ring is still one of my most treasured possessions.) But now move on to this 2021 season, and I’m an Ole Miss fan planning my trip to New Orleans.
I spent a lot of time thinking about the 2016 game while thinking about this one. While there may be some differences, I can’t help but notice some commonalities between the two teams and the journey to Bowl 6 in this new year.
1. NFL Draft Prospects Return For Sugar Bowl
In 2015, there were players like wide receiver Laquon Treadwell and left tackle Laremy Tunsil who returned to play one last game with their teammates and help secure a Sugar Bowl victory. This year it’s our quarterback Matt Corral, defensive lineman Sam Williams and others who spring to mind to help do the same. These players didn’t jump or drop the team and the fans, but instead they trained, prepared, and aimed to end the season strong.
2.10+ winning season
While the 2015 football team did not get the 10th win before the Sugar Bowl game, Lane Kiffin and Hugh Freeze managed to score 10 wins as the Rebels’ head coach. Leading up to this historic season, the 2015 season was one of the most successful in recent years. It was the first win in a bowl game since Freeze took us to the Music City Bowl in 2013. This season was also our first out of 10 win since 2003, when Ole Miss won the Cotton Bowl under the guidance of head coach David Cutcliffe and quarterback Eli Manning.
This year we have the chance to go past a 10-game winning season with this game and the opportunity to make the history of the program. I believe if a team can do it, it’s the dynamic offense from Lane Kiffin and Jeff Lebby that comes down the field together one last time.
3. Notable incoming recruiting classes
It was no surprise to anyone when after a 10-3 season and a Sugar Bowl victory, our 2016 incoming class was impressive in Ole Miss football history. Recruits like DK Metcalf, AJ Brown, Greg Little, Benito Jones and Shea Patterson were just a few people to make up the dominant class recruited by Hugh Freeze. That year he had 12 four-star recruits and three five-star recruits. Ole Miss ranked # 3 in the SEC and # 5 in the country.
Likewise, this Ole Miss 2021 coaching staff is heading in the right direction. After the first day of the early signing period, Kiffin was ranked No. 11 in the SEC and No. 25 in the country for the 2022 recruiting class. Kiffin has signed 16 new additions to the Ole Miss football family. A few of the new names that we’ll have to get used to hearing in the coming years are 3-star Larry Simmons, 4-star Taylor Groves, and 3-star Cam East. With another Sugar Bowl appearance and the chance to win, this signing class will get even better after National Signing Day on February 2, 2022.
Regardless of how different the similarities or where you are this New Years from where you were in 2016, fans can agree on one thing: there is something special about About Ole Miss playing in the Sugar Bowl. It’s an intangible feeling. They are the butterflies of anticipation. It’s the culture, the city, the people, the music, the nostalgia for the Sugar Bowls of the past and the hope that we will return victorious in the future. It’s a trip… a trip I’m happy to be back on.