Auburn washing out ‘taste’

FAYETTEVILLE -- Bruce Pearl's Auburn Tigers have developed into the top story in the SEC. The Tigers (16-1, 4-0 SEC), who advanced to No. 17 in The Associated Press Top 25 on Monday, extended the nation's longest winning streak to 14 games by rallying for a 76-68 victory at Mississippi State on Saturday. Auburn trailed by as many as 12 points and rebounded from a 35-24 deficit at halftime to claim its second SEC road victory after a 94-84 decision at Tennessee in its conference opener. Pearl, in his fourth season, is trying to keep his team from getting caught up in the hype of the winning streak, Auburn's longest since 2000. "For me, it's just we've got Alabama on Wednesday," Pearl said on Saturday in Starkville, Miss. "We've got to get better to be able to win this league. We have 14 games left. We could win them all, we could lose them all. Where we are right now is fine ... but we're taking them one at a time. Don't get too high, don't get too low." Pearl said last year's club didn't finish possessions or games with enough toughness and "as a result we won 18 games instead of 22 and didn't make the postseason. We had to sit and suck on that all year, all offseason, and it didn't taste very well." The Tigers returned seven players from last season, a high under Pearl, and the veterans have made a stronger commitment to team play, Pearl said. "Their will to win is greater and their sacrifice is greater," he said. "They're holding each other accountable. Like, you can coach them hard and they, for the most part, listen. And they can get after each other without being sensitive." Pearl referenced the SEC's "It just means more" slogan when talking about having two buses of fans traveling to Starkville for the road game. "I admire and marvel at SEC football and the camaraderie of the visiting team and the home team and the tailgating traditions," he said. "It just means more. "Why not in basketball? It made for a better crowd. We should travel. Kentucky travels. When Continue Reading

The night ‘The Barn’ burned at Auburn

The pillar of smoke seemed to come out of nowhere, slowly creeping its way into the dimly-lit sky behind the southeast corner of Jordan-Hare Stadium.Twenty years ago LSU's football team claimed a 19-15 victory at Auburn, but those in attendance and watching on TV may not remember much about the game itself. A ball of flames just 40 yards away demanded plenty of attention."It was a tough loss for us against LSU, but it was an interesting night," said former Auburn coach Terry Bowden. "It's one you never forget for weird reasons."On Sept. 21, 1996, Bowden's Tigers were riding high. Ranked 15th in the nation entering Week 4, junior quarterback Dameyune Craig led Auburn past UAB, Fresno State and Ole Miss by a combined score of 138-28. LSU, coached by Gerry DiNardo, was 1-0 and ranked 21st after edging Houston 35-34 in its season opener two weeks prior.During the early and scoreless stages of the first quarter, the smoke appeared and rapidly grew larger and darker, causing concern and fear for many of the 85,214 people in attendance. Fans on the corner walkway and adjacent upper deck had the best view in the house. The old Auburn Sports Arena was up in flames."I'm trying to do play-by-play and I've got producers talking in my ear from Bristol," said announcer Ron Franklin, who was calling the game on ESPN. "They're getting all these phone calls because our camera angles made it look like the stadium was on fire. It made for an unusually quiet Auburn crowd for a time, I do remember that. Very, very quiet."On the ground, Jason Brown was making his structure fire debut as a pump operator with the Auburn Fire Department. To this day, he calls it the biggest fire he's worked in 22 years on the job."I can remember one of the battalion chiefs walking up to the front of the building," said Brown, now a lieutenant with the AFD. "At this point it had not broken through the roof yet. He opens these two big double doors and it was like an inferno. The fire was just circling on the Continue Reading

An Egg Bowl Thanksgiving: how Mississippi State fans are celebrating in the Junction

STARKVILLE — This year's Egg Bowl is on Thanksgiving, forcing a change of plans for many families planning on attending this year's game at Davis Wade Stadium.Annie Costabile caught up with those in the Junction to find out how you tailgate Thanksgiving-style and get ready for the big game. More: Egg Bowl: Ole Miss vs. No. 14 Mississippi State live updates   Continue Reading

It’s time for colleges to dump Old South nicknames and mascots

Every day it seems like a new one is coming down. The “President” hates it. I love it. “Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments,” Trump tweeted on Thursday. “You can’t change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson — who’s next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also the beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!” But to that, I say, as a former history major myself, what has a monument in the image of someone who was hateful every taught anyone? There is no beauty in racism. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo has stated that Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee will be removed from the City University of New York Hall of Great Americans. “Eventually, someone is going to have to make a decision, and if that’s the local lawmaker, so be it. But we have to be able to have that conversation without all of the hatred and the violence. And if they choose to take those statues down, fine,” said Gen. Robert E. Lee’s great-great grandson Robert E. Lee V to CNN. “In a public place, if it is offensive and people are taking issue with it, let’s move it. Let’s put it somewhere where historically it fits with the area around it so you can have people come to see it, who want to understand that history and that individual,” said Bertram Hayes-Davis, great-great grandson of Jefferson Davis to CNN. Birmingham Mayor William Bell decided to board up a Confederate monument in Linn Park since he can’t legally bring it down because of a state statute. Monuments are also coming down in Baltimore, as Mayor Catherine E. Pugh had four of them removed in the middle of the night. But should these same actions be taken Continue Reading

The rise of NY Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr.

TEMPLE, Texas — Margaret Sauls Jones, the paternal grandmother of Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr., drives her black F-150 pickup down Heritage Ave., searching for a copy of Dunbar High’s 1965 yearbook. She stops in at four classmates’ houses, inquiring about the annual’s whereabouts. Each time, she slides back behind the wheel empty-handed, staring out through a windshield with three cracks in it, smoke from her cigarette swirling. She details Junior’s genealogy as she steers, noting his mix of African-American and Caucasian blood, with a drop of Cherokee. She tells about her childhood as a sharecropper’s daughter: the sack she needed to fill with cotton by noon; the segregated schools she attended; and how she’d sleep, in a slip, out in the moonlit yards on hot nights. She pulls up to the property where she was raised. “That was my hardest time, pickin’ the cotton,” she says. “If you didn’t get the amount they told us to pick, they put those stalks on you.” She steps out of the truck. Three horses graze behind an electric fence nearby; a panting Rottweiler is chained to a doghouse next to a row of lawnmowers. She refers to Beckham Jr. as “Scooter,” reflecting on his runs through a field of bluebonnets across town, recalling a recent family reunion when he visited with LSU teammate Jarvis Landry. She walks past a 1985 Chevy Caprice. A sticker in the window reads: “For Airbag Test, Keep Tailgating.” She cranes her head inside the house, calling her mother’s name, Georgia Lee. Once a cook at the Kyle Hotel, Lee is 91. She lives in a space surrounded with family photos and dotted with a Dallas Cowboys pillow. She maneuvers her way into the hallway with the help of a caretaker and walker. Lee listens to Jones’ talk with the caretaker about her great grandson’s gifts, most notably the greatest catch many ever saw. “Oh, yeah, I’m Continue Reading

SEE IT: No. 11 Mississippi rallies to stun No. 3 Alabama as RB Kenyan Drake suffers awful leg injury

OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Brushing aside a carnival-like atmosphere and Alabama’s potent defense, Mississippi quarterback Bo Wallace bounced around in the pocket and threw one perfect pass after another, willing the Rebels downfield in the fourth quarter. Two touchdown passes and one stunning comeback later, No. 11 Mississippi had a 23-17 victory over No. 3 Alabama on Saturday and asserted itself as a true contender in the Southeastern Conference Western Division. “We worked hard for this moment,” said Ole Miss receiver Laquon Treadwell, who caught a touchdown pass. “And as (the final seconds) happened, I thought ‘This isn’t the end of it all. It’s just the beginning.”’ Wallace threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns, including a go-ahead 10-yarder to Jaylen Walton with 2:54 remaining. It capped a methodical, nearly flawless fourth quarter for the Rebels (5-0, 2-0 SEC), who have won five games to start the season for the first time since 1962 and ended a 10-game losing streak against the Tide. When it was over, drinks flew into the air and students rushed the field in disbelief, celebrating what may be the biggest win for Ole Miss in a generation. It also capped a stunning day for the Magnolia State — No. 12 Mississippi State beat No. 6 Texas A&M 48-31 earlier Saturday in Starkville. The Rebels trailed 17-10 midway through the fourth quarter, with a brutally efficient Alabama offense controlling the tempo. But Ole Miss pulled even on Wallace’s 34-yard touchdown pass to Vince Sanders with 5:29 remaining. On the ensuing kickoff, Alabama’s Christion Jones fumbled and Ole Miss’ Kalio Moore recovered, giving the Rebels great field position at the Alabama 31. Channing Ward forced the fumble. A few plays later, Wallace found Walton in the end zone for the lead. Alabama (4-1, 1-1) still had a chance to win, driving the field quickly in the Continue Reading

It’s hard to beat Cajuns baseball fans

NOTE: This story was originally published Feb. 18, 2016. When Lance Harvell walked into M.L. "Tigue" Moore Field to open the college baseball season earlier this year  it was a homecoming of sorts.Harvell spent two years as a volunteer assistant baseball coach for the Cajuns before moving to Sam Houston State in 2014, and he knows well how Cajuns baseball fans can rattle visiting players and coaches."They've already been hitting me up on Twitter," Harvell laughed at the time, as he prepared to board the team bus for Lafayette. "It'll be good seeing a bunch of our old friends, but I don't expect anything but for them to give me a hard time."Now, The Cajuns will take on SHSU in the first round of the NCAA Regional in Lafayette Friday.The fans create a home-field advantage for the Cajuns at The Tigue that is extraordinary, Harvell said."Sometimes when you'd go on the road, you'd realize just how good we had it at home," he said. "They're smart baseball fans; they pay attention."But what really sets The Tigue apart, Harvell said, is the unconditional support of the fan base."In other venues, when the team isn't playing well, the fans can get frustrated and get quiet," Harvell said. "They're just the opposite. They get louder. They let you know they're gonna be right there with you."Longtime Cajuns fan Garland "Chico" Rodriguez puts it this way: "We're in it every pitch, Every call. Every at bat. We feel like we're part of the team...The players know we have their backs, no matter what."Yep, there's something special happening at The Tigue, and the rest of the college baseball world is taking notice.In its annual rankings, website put the UL baseball stadium among the Top 20 NCAA baseball experiences in 2015."When it comes to college baseball, it’s hard to beat the overall fan experience for a Ragin’ Cajuns game," the website says. "The Tigue features a passionate fan base that Continue Reading

Cajuns fans may be the best in baseball

It was a long tournament weekend for Cajuns fans, some of whom had been tailgating since Thursday. They outlasted multiple rain delays and scorching heat. But they are a hardy bunch.At times during Game 6 on Monday afternoon, The Tigue was eerily quiet. Maybe it was the heat, which reached the low 90s but felt like 100. Maybe it was because some fans couldn’t get out of work to attend the game. But it didn’t help that the Cajuns struggled early, falling to a 6-0 to the Arizona Wildcats before losing 6-3 and forcing a Game 7.Fans rallied Monday night. They were loud and proud as they belted out "Centerfield" during the seventh-inning stretch. They sang players' walk-up songs, despite the fact that there was no music.That game — the last before the old Tigue undergoes a multi-million dollar renovation — didn't finish the way the team or the fans would have liked. The Cajuns' season ended with a 3-1 loss to the Wildcats.No matter the outcome, Lafayette made an impression over the weekend on visitors from Arizona, as well as Sam Houston State and Princeton.ESPN reporter Pedro Gomez, whose son is a pitcher for the Wildcats, tweeted about his experience:Scott Bradley, Princeton's head baseball coach, was excited to have his team play at The Tigue. And despite his team's two-and-out performance, he said, the experience didn't disappoint.“I’ve played in a lot of places — Baton Rouge, South Carolina, Arkansas,” Bradley said. “This is a special place. That’s as fun a baseball environment as I’ve ever been in.”That environment hasn't escaped the NCAA, which on May 20 ranked UL among the top five baseball fan bases in the country.Jerry Price, who writes for the official blog for Princeton athletics, summed it up like this:"TigerBlog has been to a lot of college sporting events. He's been to a ton of big-time college basketball venues and to quaint, historic and tradition-laden stops all throughout the Continue Reading

Superbowl! Best tailgating cities in America for NFL football fans to grill, fry and celebrate

The term refers to partying in a parking lot, but college and NFL football fans across the country treat tailgating as over-the-top celebrations with enviable food. "We want to dispel the notion that it's a college kegger party," says Paula Dillon, a Chicago Bears season-ticket holder who, with her husband, John, has been tailgating outside of Soldier Field for close to two decades. Despite their allegiance to the Bears, the Dillons plan menus that reference the visiting team, like barbecue when the Kansas City Chiefs come to town.Slideshow: America's Best Tailgating Cities Cooking food influenced by the opposition is common practice, but stadium-goers also prepare their own regional tailgate foods among the ubiquitous hot dogs, burgers and grilled steaks. Patriots fans take pride in bringing New England seafood; Mexican food dominates at Chargers games in San Diego; and Southern tailgaters, like those on Duke University's campus in Durham, NC favor fried chicken, deviled eggs and hush puppies. The recurring theme across tailgating scenes nationwide: devotion-not just to football teams, but also to the pregame tradition. Loyal fans like to make the case that their city pioneered tailgating: "We have some unscientific evidence that it was invented here," says Aaron Popkey, a Green Bay Packers spokesman.50 Best Bars in America Perhaps the strongest arguments come from the students of the University of Mississippi. Ole Miss calls its dedicated tailgating grounds The Grove; fans serve fried chicken on silver platters, and it's not uncommon to see students tailgating in their Sunday best: dresses and high heels, suits and ties. Alumni even talk about the venue in spiritual terms: "You've probably heard it called 'the holy grail of tailgating' or 'the Mecca of tailgating' or some other religious metaphor that, in truth, is not overblown," says alum Matt Eichelberger. MORE from Food & Wine Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

2018 Tennessee schedule out of sorts. Here’s a remedy.

The University of Tennessee football team released its 2018 football schedule last week, and the lineup of games looked about as easy as scoring from the 1-yard line at The Swamp.I mean, seriously. Starting off the season with West Virginia?A four game-stretch against Florida, Georgia, Auburn and Alabama? Did Butch Jones not offer the schedule maker's kid a scholarship or something?The Florida and Alabama games are home games and sandwich the road games at Georgia and Auburn that have a bye week in between.And when that span is all over, the Vols will head to South Carolina and head coach Will Muschamp – whom Jones has never defeated.The Fulmer Curse might have ended when Tennessee hired former coach Phillip Fulmer as a special adviser in June, but this brutal schedule seems to be the product of some kind of residual Dooley voodoo.Jokes aside, this will not be a record-prediction article. Rather, a look at what a perfect Tennessee schedule should look like, using the 2018 schedule dates. Here we go: The Vols would welcome Army for a 7 p.m. kickoff on Sept. 1.Tennessee, 29 times out of 30, wins this game. But the four-quarter effort will be there from Army, and that's what you want in an opener – an opponent who'll get your team ready for the season. As for the fans, being able to show Southern hospitality to the Army fan base would make for a more profound tailgating and gameday experience.The second game, a home game on Sept. 8, would be against either UCLA or Notre Dame. Personally, I have really enjoyed watching Tennessee tango with UCLA and Notre Dame in the past. Those two programs need to be on the schedule more. I wouldn't mind seeing Boise State in this slot, either. Next come consecutive SEC road games at Missouri and Vanderbilt, respectively, on Sept. 15 and 22. Tennessee needs to work its way into SEC play. Not start out with Florida, per usual.Speaking of which, the Gators come to Tennessee for a night game on Continue Reading