In one devastating moment on Saturday night, Mississippi lost a hard-fought game against Auburn, any realistic shot at a spot in the College Football Playoffs and arguably its best offensive player.
Now the Rebels (7-2, 4-2 Southeastern Conference, No. 4 CFP) — which fell to No. 12 in the most recent AP poll after a 35-31 loss to Auburn — must try to regroup after two straight losses to LSU and the Tigers.
"I'm a senior, so I'm going to do everything in my power to get my team ready for the next game," said Ole Miss linebacker Serderius Bryant. "We just have to keep going. I went from 2-10 to where we are now. I need them to keep going with me and make my senior year a great year."
Bouncing back probably won't be an easy task.
Expectations skyrocketed after the program's best start to a season in more than half a century. The fall has been swift and harsh.
The Ole Miss offense will now be without sophomore receiver Laquon Treadwell, who suffered a broken left fibula and dislocated ankle in the final minutes of the Auburn loss. Treadwell was running for the go-ahead touchdown when he was tackled from behind and fumbled at the 1-yard line.
His left leg bent awkwardly after the tackle and a hushed Vaught-Hemingway Stadium watched in stunned silence — processing the injury and the essentially game-ending fumble — as Treadwell was loaded onto a cart and taken away. He had surgery on Saturday night and is out for the season.
Treadwell's injury came one week after starting linebacker Denzel Nkemdiche was lost for the season with a broken leg. The two injuries highlighted how rough the SEC can be on team health — the Rebels' game against Auburn was the fourth against a nationally ranked opponent in five weeks.
"It is part of the game, and it stinks to see (because of) how much work we put in," Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram said. "Especially guys like Laquon (Treadwell) and Denzel (Nkemdiche), but we love each other and will fight for each other the rest of the season. In one play it could be gone."
Ole Miss hosts Presbyterian, a team that plays at the Football Championship Subdivision level, on Saturday. Then the Rebels have an off week before a road game against Arkansas and the Egg Bowl against No. 1 Mississippi State.
While the Rebels' dream season was crushed on Saturday night, rival Mississippi State's lives on. Now the biggest remaining goal for Ole Miss might be to try and play spoiler against its bitter in-state rival on Nov. 29.
"Our character trait this week was adversity. We're staring it in the face a bit and that's life," Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. "Sometimes that's the way it goes. We have to be brothers right now as we stand together and get through a challenging time."
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