Throughout an Ole Miss season filled with disappointment, last weekend’s late loss to SEC bottom dweller Arkansas was just another punch to the gut. The result dropped Ole Miss to last in the SEC West, and it came on the heels of a season-ending injury to Shea Patterson.
Recruiting is certainly difficult for a school rocked by scandal. It’s even harder for a school that has won just a single conference game against Vanderbilt (who are winless in conference play). On top of that, the Rebels’ search for a real head coach continues as current head coach Matt Luke’s imperfections come to light.
With this season officially labelled a disaster on most, if not all, fronts, it may be time to look for positives as the Rebels hope to end 2017 on a high note. A bright spot this season, senior linebacker DeMarquis Gates has been one of the Rebel defense’s most impressive pieces.
“Our mood is very positive,” Gates said. “We’re just trying to keep our heads up. You always want to play the next play. We’ve all heard it before so that’s all we’re trying to do: keep a positive mindset, keep working, have mental toughness, it’ll all play out.”
Entering the end of his collegiate career, Gates is not preoccupied with this year’s losses. Obviously, he says, the team wants to win games and play good football, but Gates’ attitude is extremely relaxed and undyingly positive. Even after a heartbreaking comeback loss, his outlook remains the same.
“It’s a game,” he said. “It’s football. You’re either going to win or lose. One team is going to come out with a loss so you just have to take the bull by the horns and keep going. Wait for the next game.”
Salvaging a shred of optimism this year is made even harder by Ole Miss’ injury crisis. The Rebels lost, among countless others, their starting quarterback for the second consecutive year.
Every football season is going to have injuries, and this season, while exceptionally harsh, is no exception. The way those injuries are handled, however, can set the tone for the remainder of a team’s season. For junior center Sean Rawlings, who is scheduled to return to the field after both a foot injury and a concussion, focusing on the positives is once again key.
“I’m going to change colors tomorrow,” Rawlings said. “So I’ll be contact tomorrow. I feel like a quarterback in this green jersey. So I’m glad to be putting the red jersey on tomorrow.”
While he was impressed with the job guard Jordan Sims did covering at center for him, Rawlings said he is ready to get back on the field as the leader of the Rebels’ offensive line.
Healing, focusing, and playing the game are all that Ole Miss can hope for in the coming weeks. The season may be over but these players’ careers are not. Week in and week out, Gates and Rawlings’ teammates count on them to lead on and off the field. And it seems as if these players understand that; they are focusing on what they can control, and not worrying about what they cannot.