Pigskin Pursuit

An eight year odyssey across the backroads of America during the ultimate College Football roadtrip.

Tag: Ole Miss 2010 (page 1 of 2)

Ole Miss vs Auburn

After such a remarkable experience thus far in Oxford, the biggest lingering question in my mind was if the game atmosphere at Ole Miss could possibly live up to the impossible bar set thus far.

To borrow irritating corporate jargon, my “expectations were managed” all afternoon by Ole Miss faithful claiming that the highlight of the day would peak at tailgating in the Grove.Sadly, they lamented, the in stadium atmosphere at Vaught Hemingway Stadium was decidedly average, especially within the context of some of their other bellowing SEC brethren.

For the most part, I would have to agree.While it’s still certainly an SEC game on the field, the crowd noise and overall levels of enthusiasm were, for the most part, fairly average.While the Rebels gave their fans some excitement on the second play of the game, when running back Jeff Scott dashed away for an 83 yard touchdown, there was little to cheer about after the first quarter.The stands became visibly empty about midway through the third quarter, as folks presumably retreated back to the comfort of the Grove.

On the field vaunted Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was able to sit comfortably in the pocket and pick apart the Rebel defense all day, amassing 274 yards of offense on his own including two passing and one receiving touchdown. The Auburn attack lit up the box score with 572 yards of total offense, staking their claim to move up the BCS ladder. Jeff Scott was the lone bright spot for the Reb’s on the day scampering for 134 yards, and as a freshman, he’s certainly a player to keep an eye on in the future.

I spent all four quarters of the game parked next to Emmet and his father Bob, both long time diehard Ole Miss fans. I had purchased Emmet’s extra ticket after being connected with him through Casey at the tailgate, who had assured Emmet that while I wasn’t an Ole Miss alum I would be cheering loudly for the Rebels on this day. Perched 23 rows up on the 40 yard line, we had a perfect view of all the action. Both extremely knowledgeable and friendly Ole Miss fans, Emmet and his father schooled me on the finer points of the teams history, and continually pointed out the important playmakers on the field. Unlike some of their earlier departing brethren, Emmet and his father dedicatedly stayed all four quarters and I couldn’t have asked for a couple of more amiable seat mates.

Thank you again to Casey for finding me the ticket to the game. Thanks to Emmet and Bob for sharing that extra ticket with me, and sorry we couldn’t get loud enough to cheer the Reb’s on to victory.

 

Also thank you to Jay for passing on some additional recommendations for the weekend, and similarly it would be great to meet you out there next year along with your family.

 

Finally, a very special thank you to my colleague Elizabeth for providing such detailed and extensive recommendations for the entire weekend. All of your reco’s were spot on and made for such an incredible weekend. Hopefully we can cross paths in Oxford next year.

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The Grove…

The Grove gets its own post and for good reason. Considered the preeminent tailgating destination in the country, The Grove at Ole Miss is the Mecca of pregame revelry, and the yardstick by which all other tailgates are measured. Look on any list of the greatest traditions associated with College Football, and The Grove will surely be somewhere near the top. It’s simply a national treasure.

Occupying a central part of the Ole Miss campus, the Grove is a ten acre stretch of grass shaded by overhanging columns of magnificent Oaks, Elms and Magnolias. On gamedays the Grove draws upwards of 25,000 fans and the area is flooded with a sea of tents as far as the eyes can see. The mere mention of The Grove conjures up images of stunning coeds draped in sundresses and high heels sipping delicate cocktails among a horde of well mannered frat boys in blazers and khakis. I can assure you first hand that those rumors about the coeds are 100% true, and Ole Miss is more than deserved of its “scenic” reputation.

The splendor of tailgating in the Grove lies as much in what it lacks, than what it actually contains. Absent are cars, SUV’s and land yacht RV’s noisily billowing away. You won’t find any generators sputtering and rattling all morning, nor giant amplifiers blasting out irritatingly overplayed jock jams. Because of the trees, open flames aren’t permitted either, so absent is the pungent smoke of grilling amateurs scorching hot dogs and hockey puck burgers. It has a decidedly more relaxed and mannered feel to it.

(yes that is a goat at a tailgate)

 

Don’t let the more refined feel fool you however; Ole Miss fans elevate tailgating to an art form. While folks from all walks of life can enjoy the grove, elaborate spreads are the norm, and you’ll see everything from fine china and chandeliers, to barbecue buffets and well appointed bars. I’m told that some of the more renown tailgates are fully catered affairs, replete with butler service. Still, one of the most remarkable attributes of the Grove is that it remains completely free of charge to all comers, and spots are claimed on a first come first serve basis. There are no “tailgate passes” here to be purchased, and regardless of the size of your wallet or donation, everyone has an equal shot at getting some of the best real estate in the country on a fall Saturday.

You know a place like the Grove is dear to the hearts of Ole Miss when their players walk through it as part of a pre game ritual. The “Walk of Champions” is a tradition that occurs a couple hours before kickoff when fans line the brick walkway bisecting the Grove. The entire team marches down the walkway on their way to the stadium fenced in by a promenade of thousands of fans belting out “Hotty Toddy”.

 

“Are you Ready?

 

HELL YES! DAMN RIGHT!
Hotty toddy gosh-a-mighty
Who the hell are we? (HEY!)
Flim Flam, Bim Bam
Ole Miss, by Damn!”

After soaking in the Grove, I joined my friends from Taylor Grocery the night before (Regan, Allison, Jonathan, Gretchen, Nathan, Andy) in an area called the “Circle” which is adjacent to the Grove, and equally magnificent in tree canopied splendor. The “Circle” occupies the space directly in front of the iconic Lyceum at Ole Miss, a famous backdrop for one of the more notable civil rights struggles in the early 1960’s.

The cast from the night before had staked out this spot after dinner on Friday (tailgaters set up their tents the night before on a first come first served basis), and this morning they carried in a full tailgating spread to kick off the festivities for the afternoon. I almost felt ashamed showing up with a mere 12 pack of Coors Light. In addition to the familiar faces, I also was also introduced to another friend Casey and his wife along with their young son and we spent a good part of the afternoon chatting away. Casey was just as welcoming as the rest of the gang, and went way beyond the call of duty when he helped hook me up with a ticket to the game.

 

Have I mentioned just how amazing this entire group of Ole Miss fans were? I felt like family the entire weekend. As a northerner, it’s difficult to comprehend how folks can be so overwhelmingly kind to a stranger, and I can only hope to somehow repay them one day.

Clearly, my overall experience in the Grove was a phenomenal one. It is hands down the most breathtaking tailgating atmosphere one could ever encounter (and second place isn’t even close) In the end, however, it’s the people that make it so unique and special, and I was blessed to have met a handful of new friends that made my entire Ole Miss weekend such a memorable one.

 

Special thanks again to Regan, Allison, Jonathan, Gretchen, Nathan, Andy and Casey for all of your incredible hospitality.

 

http://www.olemisssports.com/gameday/tailgating.html

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Big Bad Breakfast Decisions…

Sunday morning I was presented with two highly acclaimed breakfast haunts in Oxford and, sadly, only enough appetite for one. The choice would come down to a newer upstart called “Big Bad Breakfast” versus an established square favorite; “Bottletree Bakery”.

One of them was literally named “Big Bad Breakfast”, featured a glut of artery hardening hearty breakfast choices, and smoked all of their own ham and bacon on-premise.

 

Did I mention they smoke all of their own ham and bacon on premise in the Big Bad Smokehouse?

 

The other location specialized in delicate pastries, dainty baked goods, and I’m sure a handful of “cute” accoutrements. I was assured by more than a few beaming locals that Bottletree Bakery was “Oprah’s Favorite”.

 

Given my general repulsion to all things Oprah, I’ll give you two guesses which one I decided upon. The first one doesn’t count.

 

Bypassing the hour long wait for a table, I straddled an open stool at the counter only moments after walking in the door to Big Bad Breakfast, drawing a few audible groans from the anxious families behind me. While the outside is a non descript beige box within a line of mini mall store fronts, the interior of Big Bad has all the usual appointments of a standard breakfast diner.

After some deliberation on the menu, I settled for one of their famous breakfast sandwiches topped with the house smoked Ham. Not wanting to miss out on the other white meat – bacon – I added in a side of their in-house Tabasco Brown Sugar cured bacon, and a couple more eggs for good measure.

I salute any place with such extensive dedication to home made meats and offerings, and it’s not often you run across a place that smokes their own protein. Both the ham and bacon were markedly different than their mass produced brethren, offering a sweeter profile with a biting, tangy finish. The sandwich was a full sized affair, and paired with the potatoes, eggs and bacon left my appetite more than satiated for a long car ride home. A great way to start the morning.

 

Now let’s just hope Oprah doesn’t find the place…

 

http://citygroceryonline.com/restaurant.php?bbb

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City Grocery

While decidedly more upscale than my usual sawdust floored eateries, City Grocery was another of the places that came highly recommended from handfuls of different Ole Miss regulars. Reputed to serve inspired Southern cuisine, I felt a relaxing meal at City Grocery was in order after a demanding day of tailgating at the Grove. Shortly after some post game tailgating, I marched over to bustling yet picturesque Oxford Square and quickly settled into a bar stool avoiding the hour long wait for a table.

While I gave the menu an obligatory glance, in reality my decision had already been settled hours ago.The shrimp and grits, I was assured from more than a handful of people, was the only option on the menu.I have come to have some affinity for grits from my time in the South.While most northerners are quick to dismiss grits as bland, tasteless gruel, the beauty of grits lies in the way they are prepared.They take on the subtle flavors of their ingredients, and form a wonderfully creamy, warm and satisfying dish.

City Grocery’s grits, specifically, were spicy cheese grits decked with smoked bacon, lemon juice and garlic. Paired with a handful of large gulf shrimp, it was an indulgent and filling dish that had just the right amount of “kick” to send me reaching for my Abita Amber every couple of forkfuls. I finished the meal off with a homemade apple pie that capped the evening off with a sweet finish.

http://www.citygroceryonline.com/

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