Published on January 12th, 2015 | by TLV News0
2014: Year of the Rebel
Baseball, Football Exceed Expectations for Ole Miss
Omaha. Goal Posts. Egg Bowl.
2014 was good to them Rebels. Over a span of twelve months the highs far outweighed the lows and within the passion for our Alma Mater we were able to proudly display our allegiance to a family with a small cursive script stitched on our clothing above our hearts. We are Ole Miss. Looking back, it was one of the better years for the two most popular sports in Oxford, if not the best.
In his 14th year as Head Skipper, Mike Bianco took a team unranked in the preseason and turned them into Ole Miss legends. In fact, the only poll that had Ole Miss on its radar was Collegiate Baseball. They had the Rebels at No. 30 prior to the beginning of the season.
Preseason rankings are for the fans and media, many would argue. The Rebels finished their 2014 season with a record of 48-21, won the SEC Western Division, ranked No. 4, and reached the semifinals of the College World Series in Omaha. It was the first appearance for Ole Miss since 1972.
Bianco understood how special the 2014 Ole Miss team was. After losing to Virginia in the semifinals, he explained the emotion behind the year coming to an end.
“So I sit here sad that it ends, but more importantly sad because these 35 guys that wore the uniforms this year for Ole Miss, just great representatives for the university and we’ll go down as the best team that ever played at Ole Miss and we won’t ever be together again, and that’s what makes it sad,” Bianco said in June of 2014.
Bianco took over a mediocre Ole Miss program in 2001. In his 14 years, he has built the program into one of the nation’s elite, citing 12 NCAA Tournament invites, one SEC Tournament Championship and one SEC Conference Title.
Attendance figures in Oxford have proved true to the support Bianco has gained. From 1,900 a game average in 2001 (58,000 total) to just under 8,000 a game in 2014 (271,920), the eyes and ears are there on any given Spring weekend. The city of Oxford may have made construction of Oxford-University Stadium possible, but Bianco painted it.
Ole Miss opens its 2015 season in Oxford on February 13 against William and Mary.
#Goalposts & #Failstate
Year three of “the journey” failed to disappoint. After two years Hugh Freeze returned the Rebels to the postseason with finishes at 7-6 and 8-5, Ole Miss was poised to take the next step. And they did.
The Rebels started off the 2014 season with seven straight victories, (first since 1962) and knocked off two teams ranked at No.1 during the season. A devastating injury to Laquon Treadwell and heartbreaking loss to Auburn rattled the team to its core. They regrouped and upset their rival Mississippi State in dominating fashion to close out the year and earn a berth in one of the Big Six New Year’s Bowls.
Highs and Lows
There is seldom a more high than hosting College GameDay, knocking off No. 1 Alabama and being rewarded with a No. 3 national ranking. That all happened within 24 hours on one glorious October Saturday in Oxford.
The fourth quarter comeback win over Alabama proved to be the arrival game for Ole Miss: a validation of the program’s status and wake up call to the rest of the SEC. While Ole Miss may not be a College Football Playoff team in 2014, it is a program that is not only competing – but winning.
“And again for us, in three years to have gone to three consecutive bowls games, and this year being a New Year’s Six Bowl, I think, is validation enough that we’re on the right track and we were very, very competitive,” Freeze said.
The lows were costly. Two last second losses to Auburn and LSU and blowout defeats by TCU and Arkansas. Injuries plagued the Rebels in the final six games of the season, as they finished 2-4 down the stretch. Muscled in those losses was a monumental win over Mississippi State, giving Hugh Freeze his second Egg Bowl victory in three years.
While we cannot confirm, sources at isdanmullentiredyet.com say that Dan Mullen still hasn’t slept since that Saturday afternoon in Oxford.
This article was originally printed in The Local Voice #220 (published January 8, 2015).
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