Ole Miss Football: It’s Bama Week And It’s Like It’s 1969

TUSCALOOSA, AL - SEPTEMBER 19: Robert Foster /

Ole Miss fans are accustomed to disappointments. One of my greatest occurred this past Saturday September 16th as my 87-year-old father, Sam Shute passed away in The State Veteran’s Home In Jackson, Mississippi.

I was blessed to have been with him Friday and that day to say my goodbyes. He was a gentle kind spirit who served his country in the Army and never said an unkind word about anyone. He was also a Ole Miss football fan. You are probably wondering what does this have to do with the fact that this week Ole Miss is playing number-one ranked Alabama in Tuscaloosa.

For me, it has much to do about my father. You see, my father was a quiet guy who didn’t talk a lot.  Therefore, we never really had serious father-son conversations. I loved him for who he was and respected him for being a great husband and father who worked hard to take care of us. Now back to the Alabama game.

The Game Of The Century

Ole Miss Rebels Football
Ole Miss Rebels Football /

Ole Miss Rebels Football

In October of 1969 I was twelve years old and not really a football fan. Of course, my dad was a big fan having played high school football in Greenwood, Mississippi in the late 40’s. He was a Ole Miss fan because of watching Charlie Connerly quarterback the Rebels to many victories under then head coach Johnny Vaught.

On October 4th, 1969 Ole Miss was playing Alabama in Birmingham in the first nationally televised night game. Color televisions were the new thing back then like High Def is today.  One of our neighbors was out-of-town that fall weekend and told my father that if he wanted to he could come over and watch the game on his new Curtis Mathes color television. My dad asked me if I wanted to go over with him and watch the game. However, not really being a college football fan, I reluctantly said OK.

We settled in for the game with popcorn,  Hershey’s Kisses and Coca-Cola in the small bottles (My Dad loved that combo).  For those who remembered the game, it was announced by Chris Schenkel and Bud Wilkinson. They were college football’s ‘game day’ guys in those days. So I sat on the couch wondering how long this was going to last.

Archie Who?

Enter a junior quarterback from Drew, Mississippi, Archie Manning.  He was a red-headed freckle faced kid who looked more like Huckleberry Finn than a college football player.  The game kicked off.  On the other side was Alabama Head Coach Paul Bear Bryant, quarterback Scott Hunter and running back Johnny Musso. Of course, I began to notice how talented Archie Manning was.  He was running and passing all over the field. Chris Schenkel called him “a thoroughbred.”

Of course, as the game went on there was lead change after lead change and I found myself standing up next to my father yelling at the tv “Go Archie, Go!” That night Archie Manning set a SEC record with 540 yards of total offense, a record that stood for over forty years until it was broken by Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel. Although we lost the game 33-32, I was hooked.

That 1969 team led by Archie Manning beat four top 10 teams that year including a 38-0 victory over #3 Tennessee and a 27-22 Sugar Bowl victory over #2 Arkansas. Archie Manning was my childhood idol and hero and still is to this day. Now back to my father. That night was the night that my father and I bonded and found something in common that we both loved.

Connections And Coincidences

Last weekend as I sat at the VA and looked at his almost lifeless eyes, I thought about that night and smiled. Of course, we made a connection that night which lasted for the rest of his life and will for the rest of mine. This weekend we are playing Alabama and by coincidence, I am going to Tuscaloosa for the game.

Next: Keys To A Win Over Bama!

The game is at night, on national television and by the way, it features another young star Ole Miss quarterback named Shea Patterson.  Could he break Archie’s record this Saturday? Of course, it would be an amazing feat with the NFL-like defense which Alabama football has. Regardless, as the cool night will come to an end, I will think of my Dad and jumping up and down watching Archie Manning amaze the college football world. Thanks for the memories Daddy. I’ll cheer “Go Shea Go” and think of you.