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The Only Man in the Stands: Part One

By: Jack Fredericks

Jack’s ex-girlfriend gifted him exactly one season ticket to the Ole Miss Rebels 2022 football season. Six months later, she dumped him. In a panic-induced fury, Jack placed a sizable bet on the Rebels to win less than 8.5 games. Forced to haunt the stadium like a specter, Jack will attend every home game this year, secretly rooting for the Rebels to win exactly eight games. 

Part One: 2-0

I arrived on the Ole Miss campus two hours before game day. It takes about an hour to drive through the soybean fields spread out across the Mississippi Delta, to enter the low top hill country of Oxford, to fight through light traffic, and to park among a slew of lifted pickups. I forgot to buy a parking pass this year, so I spent thirty dollars to find space in an office park where two lonely fans split a six pack in anticipation of a blowout. 

Go Rebs, I said. 

Sure, they said. 

Central Arkansas. This is one of those games that fans attend out of a sense of obligation or boredom. Maybe we’ll notice a scheme we’d never picked up on. Maybe the quarterback play will be elevated. Please, Lord, don’t let us lose to an FCS team. I parked the car and walked alone across the freeway. I watched four frat boys knock over every cone they passed. I’d never seen young men so happy. They lost their wind as we climbed the hill to the grove and I passed them. I bet all four have girlfriends. 

The rain had stopped for the time being, but the grove proved muddy. I knew a few people who were tailgating for this game, so, after considerable effort, I found them. Ah, friends! How nice! It didn’t take long before one of them asked about my ex. 

What happened?

I don’t know. 

Are you doing okay? 


Do you want bourbon? 

We drank a nice brand of Kentucky bourbon over ice in a solo cup and watched App. State beat Texas A&M. We laughed. Ha ha ha ha. We picked the wrong time to enter the stadium. The rain started again and we ran quickly to an awning where ticket takers stood idle. I pulled up my ticket on my phone, which my ex had transferred to me weeks ago, before she blocked me. I hope the ticket works. Ha ha ha ha!

The ticket worked. I had to piss. I left my friends to stand in line for the bathroom in order to check out my one seat. My ex tried her hardest to find a good seat for me and she succeeded. A thoughtful gesture amid a whirlwind of selfish behavior. My seat is directly behind the end zone opposite the student section about eighteen rows up. When I first arrived, the rain slid off the metal bleachers and formed puddles at our feet. Half the stadium was empty. I took a seat near the stairs because I didn’t want to make the people next to me have to move. I figured with all the empty seats, nobody would mind. 

Do you mind?

There was a man sitting to my left and he frowned. 

I explained that I was trying to be polite. 

Your seat is down there. We have a bunch of people coming to sit in these seats. These seats are ours. 

Hotty Toddy, I said.

I moved past him and found my number emblazoned on the bleacher. The folks on both sides of my seat nodded. These would be my closest friends until December. The Rebels had already scored twice. We cheered. 

The Rebels looked strong against a good Troy team the week before last. Jaxson Dart played most of that game. He went 18/27 for 154 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Zach Evans and Quinshon Judkins carried the rock for a combined 34 times. We held Troy to 10 points. Good job, Rebs. 

Anyone who watches these Ole Miss play callers with regularity knows that they like to run the ball. This trend continued against Central Arkansas. The offensive line looked to be well in control of UCA the entire game. Judkins carried the ball 10 times for 104 yards. This helped to control the passing game, which struggled under Luke Altmyer, who started the game. Luke went 6/13 for 90 yards, 2 touchdowns, and 1 interception. If Altmyer is the guy Kiffin decides to go with, I can tell you right now I’m winning that wager. We’ll lose to everybody. He struggled to see open receivers with any sense of timing. Balls sailed past his receivers. Hit connected with Johnathan Mingo a couple times, because, well. Mingo is really good. Altmyer looked lost and ultimately found himself on the bench after a bad interception before the half. Dart looked much better, going 10/15 for 182 yards and 2 touchdowns. The ball just looks cleaner coming off that man’s hands. I don’t think we’ll see much of Altmyer against Georgia Tech. Side note: Mingo will be a beast. 

After Altmyer threw the interception and the first half ended, I left my seat. I had tried to make friends with the old folks around me. I high-fived someone after a defensive stop. I laughed when a fan made a joke about the UCA coach. But I also had trouble ignoring the fact that I couldn’t seem to stop thinking about my ex. What a nice gift this was. How thoughtful. I should have known things were going to end when she only bought me one ticket. I wonder if she blocked me on every platform. Ultimately, the crushing pressure of the seat led me to go in search of more friends. 

I found them about thirty rows behind me. They deliberately found seats that protected them from the rain. They clapped when Ole Miss scored. They asked me how I found single life. We remarked on the defense. 

The secondary seemed locked in. Otis Reese and Isheem Young recorded 5 and 4 tackles respectively. We’ll need that type of safety play against some of the more pass heavy SEC teams we face this year (looking at you, Bama). Troy Brown continued to lead the team with 5 total tackles, 4 of those solo. The Bears couldn’t get much going on offense and were forced to throw it whenever they had the ball (hence the good safety play). I would have liked to have seen a little more out of the corners and more pressure from the D-Line. Freshman DT Tywone Malone is huge and a major disruptor. He’s going to be a beast as he matures. 

My friends left halfway through the third quarter. I had purchased a box of under-salted popcorn and a Miller Lite for fifteen dollars, so I elected to stay. The rain paused for most of the third quarter and I quickly lost interest in the game. I spent the remainder of my time in the stands checking my Instagram story to see if my ex’s sister had viewed it. She hadn’t. Ha ha ha. I left. 

I walked alone back to my car while the Rebels continued to put up points in the fourth quarter. There isn’t much to learn about an SEC team in Week 2 when they play a bad FCS team. You’re supposed to blow them out. If the game is even remotely close, your coach is toast. 

Things I know about the Rebels: (1) the defense looks to be continuing its strong trends from last year; (2) Jaxson Dart will receive most of the playing time against GT (barring an injury); (3) Mingo will be targeted most often this season; and (4) the D-Line needs to get bigger, faster, and stronger. Things I don’t know: (1) if my ex will ever talk to me again. 

I listened to the rest of the game in the car on my way home. The Bears aren’t very good, but they did kick a field goal. I’m happy we won, but we can only win six more or I lose my wager. The Rebs should take care of Georgia Tech easily, but look out for a nice backdoor cover from the Yellow Jackets. This Ole Miss team is not sure-footed enough to blow out a real squad. 

Stay tuned for Part Two when Ole Miss plays Kentucky on Oct. 1!

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