GAME # 22
Saturday, October 26, 2013

Idaho Vandals: 1-6
@ Mississippi Rebels: 4-3

Vaught-Hemingway Stadium
Oxford, Mississippi

Trip Dates 10/24/2013 – 10/27/2013
School University of Mississippi
Visiting Team Idaho Vandals
Pre-game Record: 1-6
Home Team Mississippi Rebels
Pre-game Record: 4-3
Game Time (ET) 7:30 PM Eastern
Weather 61 & Mostly Cloudy
Attendees Jarrett, Al, & Brett
Jarrett’s Pick Mississippi Rebels
(13 and 8 record)
Al’s Pick Mississippi Rebels (10 and 11 record)
Attendance 57,870
Capacity 60,580
Length of Game 3:06
Seat Location No seats, but we had much better than seats!
Miles Traveled 2,313
Photo Album Click here for the Ole Miss Photo Album

We have seen the Mecca of tailgating and it is located in Oxford, Mississippi.

Before I get ahead of myself, let’s go back to March 2012. It was in March of 2012 that Ross Bjork was hired as the new Athletic Director at The University of Mississippi (Ole Miss). The Quest first met Ross in 2011 during our trip to Western Kentucky University where he was the Athletic Director. So upon his hire at Ole Miss, we decided to move Ole Miss up on the list, as we had such a good experience at WKU. Additionally, Ole Miss is the one school that is discussed at all other locations we have visited when talking to local fans. Hurricane Sandy derailed those plans in 2012, but here we are in October 2013, headed to Oxford.

Dateline: Thursday, October 24, 2013

Yes, a Thursday. We slipped an extra day into this trip. To make a 6am flight from LaGuardia, I have got to get up obscenely early and Al even earlier as he had to drive what Halina calls a car to my house. And that is what I found myself doing on this day. But the excitement of this trip would have the adrenaline going for at least a few minutes before I realized, this is just way too early to be waking up. Going to bed, that’s a different story. I need a new strategy.

We arrived a LGA Terminal C quite groggy. Have I mentioned at all how much I love TSA PreCheck? Beth adds, “Yes, many, many times.” As an aside, it is amazing how much liberty we have sacrificed for the theater of security that turning back the clock to air travel in the year 2000 has me ecstatic. Political commentary over, although I have a feeling the NSA and/or FBI may be stopping by for a visit after that last line. We were met with a poor decision to go high end in Terminal C and we all missed McDonald’s breakfast settling for inedible stuff from some random place.

I should mention at this point that our Guester, Brett (who will forever be known as “The Target”) returns on this trip for his second trip this year. I think that requires another name with a little more status than Guester. But not much. If Brett wants full voting rights he needs to accomplish one simple task…convince my wife that flying lessons are a good idea. Easy! Al concurs that this is an impossibility and an effort to preserve the voting rights to the original two or until such a time that an additional Guester has put in their time, meaning 7 years plus going to some of the non-major schools. You can’t come to Oregon and Ole Miss and say you toughed it out. Please visit Northern Illinois in November for a night game.

Well our Guester, gets bumped up to economy comfort and has to sit next to Al. I remain back in cattle class. Our flight to Detroit is empty or as empty as flights go these days and I get a row (of 2 seats) to myself while Al and Brett are stuck next to each other. How did that work out for you guys? And yes, we were flying to Memphis through Detroit. There is no “cutting the corner” on this flight itinerary, but we wanted to get to Oxford as early as possible and this was the best option.

In case you missed the Oregon trip report, Brett has severe observational deficiencies. It is diagnosed and he is on medication for it. I think his meds are called glasses and hearing aids (cattle prodding would help). But he does not pass up an opportunity to demonstrate this as he could not locate Gate B2 (just turn your head right) failing to account for the even and odd sides to gates much like street addresses. Have you even had a five minute discussion on the odd and even nature of street addresses? You don’t want to.

We arrive at our connecting flight and to my dismay, it is a jet. Where did all the props go? Is it wrong to hope our flights are props so Al freaks out? I don’t think it’s nice of me, but it is funny.

We arrive in Memphis and head out for Oxford, a 75 minute drive. Al notes this is the first trip other than Syracuse in recent years Jarrett has been accurate with the estimated drive time. I firmly believe everything is 2 hours on Quest trips, but when my kids ask, everything is 7 hours.

Arrival in Oxford
We arrive into Oxford and head directly to the Rib Cage for lunch as we are all really hungry from missing out on McD’s and the maple syrup infused McGriddles. Al and the owner of the Rib Cage have some sort of inappropriate twitter relationship (just kidding) so we knew about the place ahead of time and headed over for some good southern BBQ. You can’t go wrong with ribs and pulled pork. This is a bit of foreshadowing as I think every meal on this trip was meat based. A special thank you to Buck for treating us well while at the Rib Cage.

After lunch, we headed over to the condo we had rented for the weekend. One thing about Oxford is that hotel rooms are VERY tough to get. On every Quest trip, hotels are the toughest travel arrangement to be made, but nowhere did we have more of a problem than Oxford. So this year, we just rented a condo. We also thought we were going to have more guests, as last year six were planning on attending this game. But in any event, we scoped the place out, and each claimed a room. High card got room choice. I think Al won with a six. Al and Brett napped.

Then it was off to campus.

We had an appointment for a tour of the school and athletic facilities. So we all met up at the athletics office which was the official starting point of our tour.

It was here that we first met in person, the fantastic Katherine. A special thank you to Katherine on the Ole Miss Athletic Director’s staff for locating our condo, and all the other things she did to make our visit to Ole Miss the fantastic experience that it was. It was greatly appreciated and if you are ever in NY, please allow us to return the favor.

We then embarked on a tour given by Andrew, who was a most excellent ambassador for the school. I do not believe he left a stone unturned in our tour. We saw the baseball stadium, basketball facilities, indoor football facility (Manning Center), locker rooms, meeting rooms, Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, etc. He even showed us Saturday’s game plan and the script of the first 20 offensive plays (see picture in the War Room). Just kidding, Ross! We asked but he said no. With no offense intended to our previous tour guides, it was a most excellent adventure!

We then embarked on our own (this would be because someone who shall remain nameless, Crimens, overslept nap time) to see a few things and to make the usual donation to the local economy. I have to say that we certainly did some damage on this trip. You can see on our rankings page that this was the second most expensive trip to date. Why? An expensive flight, condo vs. a hotel, an extra day, good food, and more souvenirs than typical.

We shopped at the stadium shop and the campus bookstore, which had a fake Starbucks in it, so Al gave to the cause there as well. We then wandered a little bit around campus. We were advised to see the “before” status of the Grove and take some pictures, which we did.

Pre-trip research indicated that City Grocery was a must for any visit to Oxford. Al, in a surprising proactive effort, made a reservation before we even left NY. As an aside, I make fun of Al and Target (and myself) a lot in these trip reports. So, I must give credit where it is due, as Al did a lot of pre-trip work on this trip. So now I know that he is capable and will be expecting it in the future. Why does this sound like marriage? Al concurs here, and will take a more pro-active position in the future on making sure everyone enjoys themselves.

Back to the point…Not withstanding Brett/Target’s difficulty understanding the concept of the Central time zone, it was time to go back to the condo to shower and get ready for dinner.

As I said, dinner was at City Grocery. I will now go into a previous trip report character… “The” food critic.

I opted for the shrimp meatballs to start. This was not the best choice. The meatballs were bland and lacked any kind of seasoning whatsoever. My main course was the duck breast special that also lacked flavor. It is very tough to achieve a duck breast lacking flavor, but in this pursuit City Grocery was highly successful. For dessert, I chose the chocolate bacon bread pudding. Again, it was missing a lot of flavor but was not too bad. The best part of the meal was the bread. It had a nice amount of heat and was the most flavorful thing that I ate. In whole, it was a disappointing meal, given all the raves our pre trip research had revealed. I will say that I was the minority opinion of the group, but as I am the one who writes the food review column for the Del Boca Vista Phase III newsletter, my opinion is the only one that matters in matters of the stomach. Plus my stomach is the largest so I win. I will end on a more positive note; the wine list was very well put together with a nice range of choices. The Malbec that we had was fantastic. In fact, I think we had 5, which is why I don’t remember how many we drank.

Al opines…Al had a salad which was average, and the lamb special which was surprisingly tasty considering his rarity of eating lamb, and didn’t result in him getting sick, which he typically does after almost every meal. He agrees that the wine was very good as was the chocolate lava cake.

Dinner would not be complete without a line from Target…”Wow, that ice cream is cold”. No comment needed.

I should also mention that Al found us some exceptional Ole Miss tour guides for all the other stuff as well, namely “going out”. Al is displaying more of that ambition that is going to get him in trouble for raised expectations again.

Thursday Night / Friday Morning
Crimens and Mary Adams did join us for dinner and then showed us around the night scene in Oxford. Keeping in mind the massive amount of wine and drinks that were about to be consumed, some of Thursday night is a blur, but here are the highlights at least to the best of my recollection.

First stop was Frank & Marlee’s. We were there long enough that many games of pool were played including games with Mary Adams and against a certain member of the football team. He was NOT drinking, Ross. Seriously. And besides, he had an absolutely MONSTER game on Saturday, so perhaps it should be the rule to go out Thursday nights. Rumor has it this place does dueling pianos. That would have been cool, but would have required us to walk down a flight of stairs. Way too much to handle at this point in the evening. In actuality, it was not being performed on this night; otherwise I would have found a way.

Next stop was The Library. As in…”Oh Mom, I was at The Library last night”. It was here that Brett rode a mechanical bull for the first time, and quite possibly the last. I told you that a lot of alcohol was involved. Yes, we have it on video. What we don’t have on video is the girl who lost her top from grinding on multiple people before getting thrown out, or a video of the two large girls riding the bull prior to Brett (but we have pictures of this), or the girls who called Al a slut as we were leaving.

Other random discoveries from Thursday night/ Friday morning:
• Bars in Oxford close at 1am (usually 12 on non game weekends). Wow that is early! You really need to go out early here.
• Brett has designs on joining the Quest so he has been assigned a task that upon completion he will get editing privileges and then can make his own comments.
• Brett has name issues as Crimens name was a persistent problem for him.
• Crimens was going to protect him all night but that lasted five minutes before she turned on him too, mainly because he kept calling her Crummins. But Beth, that is when I stepped in and rescued him from all the abuse. And they all lived happily ever after.

Then we got ripped off by a cabbie going back to the condo.

Friday Breakfast
I have no idea what could have possessed Al to make a breakfast plan to meet Crimens at 9am (actually I have a small idea), but he did. Of course, not one of us set an alarm, and my rooster son was in NY, so we were late. I do not get many chances to sleep until I wake up and I very much look forward to that on these trips. Of course I still normally awake at 7am, but after a ridiculously early wakeup on Thursday and then drinking and staying out late Thursday night, a day sleeping in would have been nice.

But Big Bad Breakfast was worth getting out of bed for. BBB is owned by the same folks as City Grocery, but in my mind is world’s apart. I had a breakfast skillet that may be one of the best breakfast’s I have had. I know where all the flavor from last night’s dinner went. It was in this skillet. Awesome!

During breakfast, it came out that Target was looking for a coat check at The Library the previous night. Good luck with that! But better than that, the quote of the trip…”Maybe tonight I will drink less so I remember more”. Other things learned about Target at breakfast…a) he REALLY needs hearing aids and b) the obsession with sausage is not just an Oregon thing. Ok, it is all out of my system. No more jokes at Target’s expense until I get Al or myself a few times. Maybe if I keep using Target, Beth will not realize I mean Brett.

It was here that we said goodbye to Crimens she was leaving Oxford to be in a wedding, despite our insistence that she skip it. What kind of friend gets married on a football weekend, when as Crimens put it, “We have a bye next week!” I agree, what kind of friend does that, especially when playing LSU so that in the future when you go to LSU games, he can’t go because it’s his anniversary and it’s not like he lives in Florida or anything.

Campus Part II
We returned to campus to see all the other parts of campus we missed yesterday. The University of Mississippi has a very nice campus. We walked and walked. Saw a cemetery and Grant was not buried in it. We figured since Robert E. Lee was in West Point, Grant would be here. But no such luck.

After walking a bit more, it was lunch at the Student Union, more “before” pictures of The Grove, and then once we had seen all of campus, we headed to downtown Oxford. On the way, we got Al’s astute observation that this is a very “pretty” campus but small {type 58008 in a calculator and invert}. Can I say this? Additionally, according to the CDC, Mississippi has the highest percentage of obese people in the nation. I can add that they do not live in Oxford.

We moseyed around the town square which was quite nice. There were many small shops selling interesting things and it was nice to walk around…for 10 minutes. As Beth can attest, I get bored easily, especially when shopping (see it’s not you). We were essentially killing time until the homecoming parade started and led to Square Jam.

Square Jam
The homecoming parade came and went. I am not very much into that sort of thing so…the only thing that came into my head was the parade scene from Animal House. It didn’t happen that way.

Shortly after the parade ended, Square Jam started. Square Jam, which began last year, was an idea to take the basketball team to the people of Oxford. The Athletic Department set up a basketball court and stands on one of the streets that surround the town square and courthouse and holds a basketball exhibition. The men’s and women’s teams came out and did a three point shooting contest, dance contest, played knockout (with invited fans from the stands) and had a dunk contest. Afterwards, they signed autographs. It was a nicely executed event.

Afterwards it was onto hanging out at the Rib Cage with Mary Adams and her friends. Mary Adams was not able to join us at breakfast as she has some kind of responsible job teaching or something. But instead of breakfast skillets she got to eat leaves that taste like apples. Leafeater! Yeah, I’d have called in sick on that one. But at the Rib Cage, on a Friday night, Mary Adams uttered the quote of the Quest…”I have a bruise on my inner thigh and I have no idea how I got it.” No further comment.

Friday Night, 9pm, Oxford, MS
We left the Rib Cage with barely enough time to get back to The Grove to witness something that is utterly amazing. All the “before” pictures of The Grove was leading to this single instance in time (repeated 6-7 times per year) where at 9pm on Friday night a horn sounds and people come running and cars coming racing all in an effort to claim a patch of grass that will become tomorrow’s tailgate. This is what tailgating is all about. This is the passion that is college football. This is what no other sport has or can attempt to match.

Imagine having the desire to sit on a patch of grass for 8 hours or more on a Friday, to hold your spot so that at 9pm Friday night you can begin to set up for the next day. Beth notes, “I can’t even imagine, although maybe for a really good sale on pocketbooks.” You are not allowed any tailgate paraphernalia prior to that horn. This means that if you want your spot, you must sit there, directly on the grass, without a chair. We spoke to 70 year old women that camp out 8 hours or more, for their spot, regularly. This is passion (or as Beth says insanity). And it is not passion for a football game or even a football team. This is passion for a community, for a sense of belonging, to be part of something. And the something that they are a part of is the single greatest tailgating event that Al and I have witnessed. Beth wipes away the tears.

At 9pm, cars that had been holding just outside the gates of the University up and down the side streets are allowed in to unload all their gear and set up tents. The big setup would not be until tomorrow, but the backbone and structure, and the claiming of your spot happens at 9pm. Cars towing u-hauls filled with tents and chairs come in. People pushing dollies and home made rigs come streaming in. Some local police offered us the good advice to “stand aside” after the horn goes off. Very good advice indeed.

Within about 15 minutes The Grove is transformed. The idyllic quad is now tent city. And the kicker is that it is organized. Emergency lanes painted onto the grass are honored. People follow the rules. People are nice to each other. Within 30 minutes The Grove is unrecognizable from a mere 30 minutes ago. It is unbelievable to think how quickly this happens. We were there at an empty Grove at 8:55pm and by 9:30pm we were walking through tree to tree tents, and the people were gone.

This is the single greatest single concentration of tailgating not in a parking lot that we have seen. And it’s awesome!

Late Night Food
After witnessing the events at The Grove, we needed food. The problem with a town where the bars close at 1am is that food options get scarce at 10:30pm. SnackBar was closed. So we went to Jinsi Sushi which was across the parking lot. We got real lucky SnackBar was closed as the food at Jinsi was quite good. I was a bit hesitant to get sushi in Oxford and that was a big mistake. I ordered a beef bowl but we did share a spicy tuna roll and upon eating it realized that I should have gone for the sushi for dinner. It was very good. But the downside of being sick on game day gnawed at me.

Game day
With a 6:30pm local time kick off, Saturday morning was a lazy sleep late kind of morning. Of course Haley called me at 8am, so much for that. Thanks Hales, I still love you. So it was College Game Day in bed. There was no moving the car to get breakfast, so we had chips that were lying around the condo and the delicious homemade salsa that our hosts had freshly made and dropped off for us. Eventually we got our act together and headed out for some tailgating.

I will sum up Saturday by saying that Grove tailgating is Legen…wait for it…dary! We were invited to the tailgate of the owners whose condo we were staying in. They are an older couple with a daughter who recently graduated from Ole Miss who have been doing this for quite some time including coming to every home game from Chicago for a period of time. That’s a nine hour drive. Now that is dedication or just love of a good time. Once again we were kindly introduced to them via Katherine.

We bounced from tailgate to tailgate taking in the entire atmosphere of the Grove. I do not think we have met friendlier people anywhere. Nor have we seen the level of sophistication of tailgating. This is not your beer and hero tailgate. This is custom made drinks, fine food, and elegant attire. Our tailgate hosts had two coolers made up of local concoctions that were quite good. The food was some of the best tailgate food that we have had anywhere. Ole Miss fans know their football too. Needless to say, we had red solo cups in our hands, filled, at all times.

There are really no words to describe just how fantastically awesome tailgating in The Grove is. We were also told that it was half empty as compared to recent games Ole Miss had against Texas A&M and LSU. I can only imagine what that scene looked like. I will also give props to the fans as it was all very organized and we did not witness a single incident, which is very strange when large quantities of alcohol and tight spaces are involved.

We were able to witness the team coming off buses at the entrance to The Grove (Walk of Champions) and walking through The Grove on the way into the stadium. The cheerleaders were there and many fans congregated to watch. Time was moving very fast and we wanted to ensure we went into the stadium early to take full advantage of the unprecedented access that we had. So it was a pit stop at the Hotty Toddy Potty, a very clean trailer bathroom with actual real toilets and real running water.

Before our tale heads into the stadium, I need to make mention here of the scenery and talent at Ole Miss. All the rumors that you have heard are true. This is a family publication, so I will leave it at that. But if you look at the rankings page, you will see that Ole Miss is #1 (as of Nov 2013), by a wide margin. I will also say that there are a large collection of photos that did not make it into the site photo album. You fill in the blanks.

Pre Game
We entered Vaught Hemingway Stadium and went down to the field to take it all in. It was early but there was a little more buzz than when we were there two days prior. The teams were on the field doing the usual stretching and warm ups. We were close enough to see that Bo Wallace cut himself shaving that morning. Just kidding, but I liked the line. Al wants it made clear that he didn’t look at Bo that closely, not that there is anything wrong with that.

After taking this all in for a while, we headed up to the Club Level behind the end zone to get some food before kickoff. We knew there were not going to be any opportunities to eat once the game started so we needed to fuel up. Club Level was quite crowded and serving some solid food. Also, some very good views of the stadium which was now beginning to fill. We had a nice conversation with a woman who went to both FSU and Ole Miss and her husband. She is only an Ole Miss fan, and now we can understand why.

After fueling up, that’s what us fat people call eating; we headed back down to the field to take in the pre-game festivities. The band played, the National Anthem was sung, and the teams streamed onto the field. Al almost got run over because he stood on the “other” side of the media rope. Great video below.

The Game
Ole Miss won 59-14. It was 14-0 Rebels, six offensive plays in. Do you need any more commentary on the game? If so, you are not going to get that here. Go to espn.com (sponsorship please).

But here are some places we watched the game from:
• Ole Miss sideline 20 yard line, on the field
• Ole Miss sideline numerous places behind the players bench
• On-field, outdoor, luxury field box
• End zone in front of Ole Miss student section, on the field
• Opposite end zone, on the field
• Behind the Rebel bench, on the field
• In the huddle (kidding, but we were pretty darn close and probably could have snuck in there)

At halftime we were invited to the Athletic Director’s suite on the 50 yard line, so we watched the second half from there. I did not see much of the 2H, but had some great football conversations with our host, Ross. I love talking college football and loved the opportunity to do it with our host, who provided some great insight and a unique perspective. On a number of occasions during the conversation, Al told me we were clearly in the wrong professional field. Al subsequently submitted his resume to Ole Miss and is waiting on a response.

Before the final gun, we went down to the field with Ross and his son to watch the final few minutes. It was a great experience to be field level, on the home side of the field, after such a dominant win. After the game we watched all the post game activity from the center of the field. We even stopped in for Coach Freeze’s post game press conference. No questions from Al this time. What could you possibly ask after an experience like this?

We lingered for quite some time, just soaking it all up, but eventually we had to head back to the condo.

Back at the condo, a late dinner consisted of a 75 minute wait for Papa John’s while watching some more college football on TV. Brett did not make it; he passed out.

Travel Home
Our way home consisted of an 8:20am flight from Memphis, so it was another very early wake up call. Memphis to Pittsburgh had us on a 1 seat and 2 seat configuration plane, but it was a jet so no worries from Al. We successfully changed planes in Pittsburgh for the connection to LGA. No travel events to note, which is always a good thing.

Thank You
A very special thank you to Ross Bjork, Katherine Thornton, and all those in the Mississippi Athletic Department (too many to mention) who made our trip the wonderful experience that it was. You went above and beyond the call of duty and it was much appreciated by all three of us. You have a nice thing going at Ole Miss and things certainly appear headed in a great direction, at least as far as football and basketball (both men’s and women’s) are concerned. I will admit that I know little about the rest of the athletic program. Hopefully we run into a few of you at the Barclay’s Basketball Classic here in NYC in a few weeks, or during future recruiting visits to NYC. As always, if you ever are in NYC or need a few hands in NYC during an event, don’t ever hesitate to reach out to us.

Thank You#2
Also a very special thank you to our local hosts, who even though one of you overslept the tour of campus we were supposed to get, did show us a very good time in Oxford. When you move to NYC or if y’all are ever in NYC, please don’t hesitate to allow us to return the favor.

In conclusion, let me just say that Ole Miss must be on every college fan’s bucket list for a variety of reasons. In fact, Al is already trying to figure out how we can stop back in Oxford when we go to Starkville (I know, we said it out loud), even if there is no football. This is a Quest first. As further evidence, Target is trying to figure out how he can go to all Quest games. We did explain that not all trips are like this one, but he does not care. The possibility of this exists and he wants in.

In addition, Oxford as a whole was one of the few cities visited that comments about “possibilities of living there” actually came up in a positive way. It’s a great place, so if you ever have the chance to visit on a football weekend, don’t pass it up. And if you need a tour guide, you can twist our arms to accompany you!

Ole Miss finished the season at 7-5. I am sure they had higher hopes, but there were no losses that were bad with the exception of a bitter loss to Mississippi State in overtime. The four other losses were to Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M, and Missouri. That is life in the SEC. The Rebels would beat Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl.

Idaho finished the year at 1-11, with the only win coming against Temple. But they did score 14 points on the national champion, Florida State Seminoles. The Vandals gave up 80.

Bonus Video: Ole Miss coming onto the field and other random events:

Photo Gallery
For our Ole Miss photo album, Please click here. You can view as a collage or run as a slideshow. There are comments to explain what is in the photo but most are self explanatory. Thanks to Google, I can no longer embed the slide show with comments.