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Ole Miss fans invade BBVA Bowl

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Posted: Thursday, January 10, 2013 8:44 am

Kickoff times don't matter to Ole Miss fans. Droves of the Rebels' faithful were on hand in Birmingham last Saturday to witness their favorite team's return to postseason play.

Despite the game kicking off at noon, tailgaters were certainly not going to be denied the opportunity to recreate "The Grove" at Legion Field for the 2013 BBVA Compass Bowl.

While the parking lots officially opened at 8 a.m. there were several tents set up and RV parking spots occupied long before that time. Grills were going, coolers were opening at an alarming rate almost.

As I arrived at the "Old Gray Lady", I wanted to look around and check out the area where Ole Miss fans would populate. I didn't have to go far because Rebs fans were everywhere. With red solo cups in hand, an Ole Miss morning wouldn't be complete without a Hotty Toddy, I guess. 

The Rebels' opponent, Pittsburgh, had fans scattered among the thousands of Rebel faithful, but the Panthers made their third straight visit to Birmingham for this bowl game. Although, one fan was brave enough to sport a kilt with his Pitt jersey. 

The Panthers were just no match for the Rebels' crowd and neither was their football team.

Ole Miss fans racked up at least 75 percent of the crowd and their team put the Big East Panthers away early.

Bo Wallace was named the game's Most Valuable Player, and in the first quarter he looked like a star-studded veteran.

He completed 10-of-12 passing, including two touchdowns to give Ole Miss the edge early.

Of course, the first drive for Ole Miss began when the Rebels picked off Pitt quarterback Tino Sunseri, brother of Alabama defensive back Vinnie Sunseri.

Sunseri had not thrown an interception since the Panthers played Virginia Tech in September.

Although Wallace was also picked off twice in the second quarter with one leading to a touchdown, the Rebels never looked phased.

Just five plays after Pitt scored its first touchdown, Wallace hooked up with Vince Sanders for an 18-yard touchdown.

The game was never in doubt from there as Ole Miss took a 24-10 lead into halftime and held the ball in the third quarter for over 11 minutes, scoring another touchdown and holding Sunseri to zero passing yards in the quarter.

Sunseri needed 192 yards in the game to become the Panthers' second leading passer of all-time, but the Rebels were not ready to let Dan Marino fall to third place on the list.

Sunseri finished seven yards shy of the mark with 185 yards and two touchdowns.

His counterpart Wallace finished the day 22-of-32 for 151 yards and three scores. Pitt also sacked Wallace once to give them at least one sack in 36 of the Panthers' last 37 games.

Despite dreary conditions towards the end of the game, most of the Rebels' fans were present when the final horn sounded and the "Hotty Toddy" cheers ensued.

Ole Miss nearly single-handily broke the bowl game's attendance record, but the total of 59,135 fans easily set the game's record. It was the biggest crowd at Legion Field for a Football Bowl Subdivision game since Alabama played their final home game in 2003 against South Florida.

Ole Miss fans weren't finished, either. The cheers poured to the parking lot and the celebration continued.

Standing on the sidelines and hearing the loud roars of at least 40,000 Ole Miss fans was exciting. Almost like during kickoff at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. 

Even more exciting was seeing Legion Field full with fans.

Alabama and Auburn fans alike also attended the game and for the bowl to survive in Birmingham, the local support must continue.

If you missed this year's BBVA Compass Bowl, don't let another get by without seeing it. While Legion Field may be old and worn out with scoreboard advertisements for soft drinks placed on the boards in the 1980s, the building itself houses many memories of great football games and the BBVA Compass Bowl is trying to keep that tradition alive.

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