Last Friday night, Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram was at the team hotel, just waiting, as he and the Rebels were mere hours from taking on Alabama, the third-ranked team in the country.
“It was actually pretty hard to get some sleep,” Engram said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “My nerves were starting to click up. Little butterflies started to hit the stomach. But it was an exciting feeling. Preparation is something (that is really important in big games like this). So I got some rest, watched a good movie and there was a lot of excitement around the hotel. Guys were already getting a little fidgety, ready to go. it was cool.”
The movie Engram watched? The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
“It was pretty random, but it wasn’t that bad,” Engram said. “It was pretty funny. It helped me kind of calm the nerves a little bit.”
Indeed, if Engram was nervous Saturday, it was hard to tell. The 6-3 sophomore, caught three passes for a team-high 71 yards, including a 50-yard catch that set up a touchdown that brought Ole Miss to within 14-10 midway through the third quarter.
“The seam was open, so I kind of stayed vertical, and I think me and (quarterback) Bo (Wallace) both saw it pre-snap where the safeties were,” Engram recalled. “We pretty much knew where the ball was going. I just had to make a play. I’m glad I did.”
Without that catch, it’s possible Ole Miss doesn’t come back and win. The Rebels trailed 14-3 at halftime, this after Alabama’s Cyrus Jones returned a fumble for a touchdown – albeit controversially – in the final minute of the second quarter. Jones appeared to grab the face mask of the ball-carrier, but no penalty was called.
Ole Miss fans were livid.
In the second half, however, the Rebels played determined football. Wallace threw three touchdowns – 14 yards to Laquon Treadwell, 34 yards to Vince sanders and 10 yards to Jaylen Walton – to lead Ole Miss to a stunning 23-17 win.
Two of those touchdowns came in the final six minutes of the game, and an interception in the end zone by Senquez Golson off Blake Sims with 37 seconds to go sent Oxford into delirium.
Alabama, which scored just three points in the second half, admitted after the game that the crowd noise got to them.
“After the game, every fan I ran into, I thanked them just for their excitement they brought to the game, the atmosphere they created,” Engram said. “They definitely played a part in the win. A lot of people don’t really give credit to the fans. But just how loud we were on Saturday and the excitement and the craziness that was surrounding us definitely helped us get the W.”
No. 3 Ole Miss (5-0, 2-0) plays No. 14 Texas A&M (5-1, 2-1) in College Station this Saturday at 9 p.m. ET.