OXFORD -- Andrew Fletcher and Gary Wunderlich are the Rebels standing closest to the end zone that No. 3 Alabama's final drive is heading toward. No. 11 Ole Miss leads, 23-17.
They're also the only blue jerseys not in the gang hanging off the legal edge of the sideline. The pair is mulling around behind the kicker’s net.
When the Rebels' Senquez Golson lands with an interception of Alabama's Blake Sims, Fletcher’s not even watching.
"Hey ... Did he get that? Did he get in?" Wunderlich asks, grabbing a fistful of Fletcher's jersey. Fletcher says nothing.
Minutes before, Bo Wallace found Jaylen Walton on a 10-yard touchdown pass, a play nobody in the stadium yet reconciles as the game-winner. Wunderlich’s PAT had doinked the goal post. But Alabama roughed the kicker. Rebels head coach Hugh Freeze swapped Wunderlich out for Fletcher, the team’s short-range field goal specialist. Fletcher’s kick never lifted, instead thumping off the hands of Alabama’s Tony Brown.
"I think he got it!" Wunderlich says of Golson's interception.
The missed PAT is now a footnote, except for poor Fletcher. For a man to stand and face the rest of his natural life as the goat of a would-be upset, watching as certainty moves clip by clip, Amari Cooper reception by T.J. Yeldon rush, the horror of the potential is still a greater trauma than you might ever know.
"As soon as he missed, I went looking for him," Wallace later says. "I said, ‘Hey, just be confident man, I’ve been in those situations.’ I’m the guy who throws the interception against A&M my sophomore year. I know what it’s like."
But Fletcher says nothing. When the review turns the ball back to Ole Miss, Wunderlich explodes the same way everyone else explodes, jumping and slapping at the pads of his teammates. Fletcher does not. You couldn’t call the look on his face relief. You couldn’t call it anything. This does not happen.
Fletcher cannot process joy. This moment is simply not of Ole Miss.
This is Ross. Ross is standing on a sidewalk across the street from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium a solid hour after the game. He's just standing around, smiling.
Ross's hat is a cone head, but "people think it's a shark fin. That's OK."
Ross is from Hattiesburg. Ross has been a Rebel fan longer than you've been alive, FYI.
"I think ... Right now ... I think that’s it’s amazing what can happen when every call doesn’t go Alabama’s way."
Alabama is now the second-most-penalized team in the SEC, but the grand mystique around the Tide's Illuminati puppetry of SEC officials remains. It's any number of years and any number of incidents, going back to any number of conspirators, depending on your source. Tonight it was two almost-delay-of-game penalties on the Alabama offense, undercut by timeouts and a missed facemask that would've negated an Alabama touchdown minutes before the half.
It was here in Oxford seven years ago that replay official Doyle Jackson overturned a fourth-and-23 miracle pass that'd set up the Rebels for a game-winning score against Alabama, as the inaugural Nick Saban Tide team that lost at home to Louisiana-Monroe escaped with yet another win over Ole Miss. In the pre-meme days of 2007, and for years after, "Doyle Jackson" became local slang for a bowel movement made in public, usually in a bar restroom during the lunch hour.
The facemask was an obvious, inarguable miss. When told by Alabama fans that Saban credited the Ole Miss crowd for forcing Bama to burn two timeouts and that the officiating crew didn't secretly compensate for Bama's delays of game, a Rebel fan dragging two empty coolers down South 9th Street responds with aplomb:
"Well isn't that goddamn convenient, that Nicky Saban thinks 60,000 people are louder than every week in Tuscaloosa? No sir, that's just a little too goddamn convenient. That's Alabama for you."
As Alabama players do interviews, an Ole Miss fan looks down from above and shouts "What goes around, comes around!"— Andrew Gribble (@Andrew_Gribble) October 4, 2014
A TV reporter hands Senquez Golson a cell phone so that he can watch the video footage of his interception.
Before this, his athletic career was most famous for two things: turning down a seven-figure deal to play for the Boston Red Sox ("I came down to the last minute, for real. I had a pen in my hand staring at all those zeros, y'all.") and being juked out of his skin by Trent Richardson in a 2011 Alabama blowout of Ole Miss.
"It's cool. You can ask. I made Top 10 Plays that year on SportsCenter!"
In some inevitable way, part of everything happening in Oxford owes a piece of incredulity to Golson for pulling that ball down. On a much more direct level, Golson atoned for Fletcher's and Wunderlich's busted kicks by getting his foot in bounds, by not signing that Red Sox contract, and by staying on the roster long enough to see what he first suspected might be possible.
"I'm telling you. From when I started until now ... we have the best front four in college football. This can be the best defense in college football. We can win a title."
And the thing keeping that "can be" from happening?
"Just now and the end of the season," Golson says.
These are not Ole Miss statements. They simply are not of Ole Miss.
The next day, the location of both goal posts is secured by both interested media and the university itself.
Buckner calls to give to the location of Post No. 1, immortalized by a tweet:
Buckner later wakes up to texts from Ole Miss athletic director Bjork, curious of the post's location.
"He was like, send me your class schedule for Monday, and we'll find a time to meet. And I'm like uhhh ..."
Buckner's roommates and co-conspirators have been fielding inquiries all morning and welcoming newspaper photographers. One local businessman offered to pay $1,000 for just a piece. Perhaps not coincidentally, Post No. 2 is sitting in the Sigma Chi fraternity house that Buckner and most of his friends belong to. The inhabitants of that frat house and this off-campus rental house are suddenly curious about how to conceal a goalpost from inquiring authorities, if need be.
Friends are coming by to see it. Friends of friends. Their parents. Someone's mother is in the kitchen with a camera.
"OK y'all, all the boys from Corinth, y'all get in here and smile!"
Later Sunday afternoon, the post officially becomes memorabilia, the distribution of which won't be controlled by the university:
A woman across the street is trimming bushes in her front yard. She gives interested parties directions to the house.
"Here for the goalpost?"
This is not the kind of street college kids populate. It's one of the city's affluent garden district-type neighborhoods.
"I'm OK with it for a weekend. Not like this happens every weekend," she says. "Or every year even. Hotty Toddy."