COLUMN: Welcome to national relevancy, Ole Miss

Published 6:00 am Sunday, October 5, 2014

When Alabama brought its No. 2 ranking to Oxford in 2011, Ole Miss cornerback Senquez Golson, then a freshman, was known for his play — or rather, one play — for all the wrong reasons.

Golson tried to prevent Tide running back Trent Richardson from scoring yet another touchdown for Alabama. Richardson, sprinting down the sideline, gave Golson a move to the inside, Golson lost his footing like he’d just been crossed over at the Tad Pad, and Richardson might as well have walked into the end zone, adding further embarrassment to a 52-7 laugher that cemented the Rebels’ status as the cellar dweller in the Southeastern Conference.

The juke-and-go made SportsCenter’s infamous list of Not Top 10 plays.

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“My freshman year, I made Top 10,” Golson said. “It wasn’t for the right reasons.”

Golson got his revenge Saturday afternoon.

Now a senior, Golson showed his seasoned game when he preserved Ole Miss’ first win over Alabama since 2003 with an end-zone interception on the Tide’s last-ditch effort with 37 seconds remaining.

“This was my last time playing ‘Bama, and to go out the way I did, I’m going to live with it for a very long time,” Golson said.

In three years, Golson has gone from the bottom to the top. You could say the same thing for the entire Ole Miss program.

That year, Alabama went on to win its second national title in three years while Ole Miss made a coaching change after a 2-10 debacle under Houston Nutt.

Fast forward to Oct. 5, 2014, and Ole Miss is the team that has those kinds of aspirations.

Ole Miss entered the week at No. 11 in the Associated Press poll and could be in the top 5 by the time the new rankings are released today. Alabama was third, No. 2 Oregon lost to Arizona on Thursday, and No. 4 Oklahoma and No. 6 Texas A&M went down with the Tide on Saturday.

See where I’m going with this?

It’s the first week of October, and Ole Miss is in the running to land one of those four postseason spots. There’s a long way to go — the SEC West gauntlet continues next week with a trip to take on what will be an angry group of Aggies after the beatdown they took against Mississippi State — but the Rebels control their own destiny.

And make no mistake, Alabama has the most layers of talent Ole Miss will see from anybody this season.

Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, Arkansas and an improved Tennessee squad will all present their own challenges in the unforgiving SEC, but if you can beat Nick Saban’s laundry list of four- and five-star recruits, there aren’t many teams you can’t beat.

So Golson may want to see his pick land on the right side of SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays this time — “um, we’ll see,” he said — but the Rebels don’t have to worry about where they stand following a victory over a program everybody’s been aiming for for years.

Welcome to national relevancy, Ole Miss.