Such as tackling.
All of this took place on a glorious Saturday morning in Oxford, Miss., when, aside from the brutal 11 a.m. kickoff that left Ole Miss students in bed until halftime, it was hard to imagine wanting to be anywhere else. By shortly after 2 p.m., I wished I'd been anywhere else.
At least, that is, when I wasn't marveling over McCluster's utter domination of the Vols.
I've watched football games my entire life, and I've never seen a rushing performance in person that dominant.
Let's be honest, it's not like Tennessee's defense is awful. They'd gone almost two years without giving up 30 points to anyone. Tennessee only allowed one touchdown against Georgia, Alabama, and South Carolina, two to Florida, two to Auburn. Then came Dexter McCluster.
That squirrelly little back Dexter got four.
Anyway, come along for the journey through 18 observations from the game. That's a nice tip of the beaver pelt cap to Ole Miss' Archie Manning.
1. Let's get this out of the way early. At the NFL Combine come February, McCluster is going to run in the 4.3s. And someone on the NFL Network is going to say, "Wow, I didn't know he was that fast."
That analyst should be slapped in the face with a wet rag that has recently been dipped in carbolic acid.
McCluster is that fast. He made Tennessee defenders look like they were forced to play on roller skates all afternoon.
2. In fact, for one game at least. McCluster looked an awful lot like Tennessee Titan Chris Johnson.
That's what I kept thinking as this game progressed, if McCluster was just a couple of inches taller he'd be Johnson's clone. And you'll recall that Chris Johnson ran a 4.24, the fastest time in NFL Combine history.
You'll know Johnson's 40 time if you've seen any Tennessee Titans game for the past two years. That fact is, via sheer ubiquity and repetition, the "Tim Tebow and Riley Cooper are roommates" of NFL football telecasts.
Am I the only person who kept picturing guys named Dexter pumping their fists everywhere as this game was going on?
I mean, really, if you think about it, if I'd told you that the two most explosive football players in the SEC were going to be named Percy and Dexter in back-to-back years, would you have ever believed me?
Thomas the Tank Engine's friends, maybe, but guys who made you involuntarily hold your breath every time they touched the ball?
I don't think so.
3. How was Tennessee surprised by McCluster running the ball out of the wildcat formation?
I don't believe he ever handed off. And if he did, shouldn't you encourage that since whoever he handed it off to wouldn't be moving at the speed of light?
Yet, all afternoon, Tennessee's defense looked like McCluster had brought alchemy to football: presto, he can make gold out of thin air and score touchdowns simply by taking a direct snap.
Basically, i don't get the defensive panic that comes from the Wildcat. Effectively, that's just the single wing that Jim Thorpe used to run.
Somebody explain to me why this is so earth-shattering. Granted, a talented player has the ball in his hands, but how is it tougher to defend than a quarterback being under center with the tailback lined up behind him? Because then the defense has to take account of a bevy of options, right? Put simply, the quarterback could pass or hand off to a speedy back.
McCluster never passed all afternoon.
He just ran.
After a direct snap.
Meanwhile Jevan Snead, the man Steve Spurrier's sports information director thought was the best quarterback in the league, is standing off to the side of the formation doing nothing.
Clearly, this works at times, but how does it work all afternoon? At some point wouldn't you just have to say, okay, if McCluster attempts a pass, they're going to score. And commit every single player to the line of scrimmage at the snap?
4. Ole Miss is still trying to get rid of their No. 6 BenJarvus Green-Ellis jerseys.
My friend, Memphis radio show host Chris Vernon, came to Oxford with me and bought a jersey for $20.
This is funny on so many levels. Among them:
A.) How many Ole Miss fans end up with this jersey for Christmas because someone's Mom hasn't recently checked a roster?
B.) Do you think someone got fired at the Ole Miss athletic department for ordering 20,000 extra Green-Ellis jerseys? I'm picturing the Ole Miss head of merchandise looking at the inventory list and thinking, "What in God's name are we doing with all of these things?"
In a few years, all these Green-Ellis Ole Miss jerseys are going to be showing up on fundraising commercials for impoverished African orphans.
C. Did they offer the overflow to Green-Ellis for a dollar each? For some reason I'm picturing Brent Schaeffer driving a 1989 Chevy Silverado with the back seat pulled out to fit extra boxes of his Ole Miss jerseys.
5. Why did Houston Nutt take the ball out of McCluster's hands at the end of the first half?
He went to Snead for three straight passes. One pass hit a UT defender in the helmet, one was dropped in the end zone, and the third was short-hopped to McCluster.
I was praying that Houston Nutt would go away from McCluster. Like, you know, he's done for an awful lot of big games this season.
For instance, how did Dexter only get the ball six times against Alabama?
6. How can Ole Miss ban the chanting of "The South Will Rise Again," but allow that Hotty Toddy guy on the JumboTron?
If you haven't ever been to Ole Miss, they have a man in a garish red and blue outfit that has Hotty Toddy written on the lapels. I'd say it's uncomfortable to watch this video, but that does a disservice to the word uncomfortable. It actually makes you feel like you have a tic in your hair and you can't find it. Or like when a person with an eyepatch lifts the eyepatch.
You can't un-see what you just saw.
Even now, just writing about this, makes me uncomfortable. Like every time they show Georgia's Joe Cox on the sideline with his helmet off.
I ask again, Ole Miss fans, how do you stand for this?
7. Why did Eli and all his friends, including his brother, dress the same for the game?
Just because you're an NFL quarterback doesn't mean you can show up at the tailgate in matching outfits with other men. Somebody has to change clothes, right?
Now, credit where credit is due, Eli shopped in Square Books just before my book signing. (Which is also where I spotted the shirt, pictured right, not on Eli.) Of course, he didn't come to the signing, but he was shopping in one of the best bookstores in the South. That shows he has good judgment.
Even still, change clothes.
Unless, that is, you all wear BenJarvus Green-Ellis jerseys.
8. Things I found myself thinking in between McCluster first downs: Do you think Nu'Keese Richardson is watching from jail?
(FYI, after the game, I learned that Nu'Keese had been released from jail by gametime. Nonetheless, these are still questions worth pondering.)
And if he had been, would he have gotten to choose the television station? Or does the fact that he's a football player have no status in jail and did he have to sit and watch Judge Judy?
Also, does he get back the air pistol from the robbery?
No, because it's evidence, right?
But what happens if the charges got dropped, would he get it back?
Further, what are the odds that someone in the Knoxville police force who isn't a UT fan has mocked a UT fan, by using the air pistol as a prop?
9. Midway through the fourth quarter, Verno and I started debating whether the two of us could touch, not tackle, just touch, Dexter McCluster if he got the ball at the 10-yard line and we were both lined up to try and keep him from scoring.
I'm offering this challenge up as gold to the Ole Miss athletic department.
The man who made the Colonel Reb Is Crying song and me, trying to get a hand on McCluster with him starting at the 10-yard-line and the two of us between him and the goal line.
Just one hand.
This video could be golden.
10. The boots and dresses combination is everywhere now.
I feel about the boots and dresses combo at tailgates like old men feel about thongs. Basically, like I wish I'd been single when this was popular.
Seriously, old men's love affair with thongs is really underdiscussed. Probably because I'm the only person who will write about it. But I've had five conversations where men older than 50 have told me that when they were growing up women didn't wear thongs.
In the past three months.
That's a lot of conversations with old men about women's underwear.
You're cringing right now, but bring it up with an older man. I guarantee you he comes clean about how pissed he is that he missed the thong era.
11. If you doubt McCluster's speed, watch the 71-yard run. In particular the part of the play where he ran diagonally across the field and no one could catch him.
Let me repeat, he ran at a diagonal and everyone else was running straight ahead and they couldn't catch him.
"That's Tecmo Bo," Verno said, sitting next to me.
And he was right.
I halfway expected for McCluster to let people catch up to him and then start running in circles backwards to regain his speed before he passed them again.
12. You know how you can tell that your team got whipped? You find yourself searching for flags in the backfield after plays more than 10 times in a game.
On each of McCluster's four touchdown runs, I spent the final couple of seconds of the run, once I was sure he was going to score, looking for a penalty flag.
Is there anything more self-defeating than looking for a flag on the field after your team got gouged? The only other equivalent I can think of is when you have a really bad dream and you wake up, and then realize that you dreamed everything.
That's exactly what seeing the penalty flag lying on the field is like.
And I never got that feeling on Saturday.
Nope, it was real life and it was a nightmare.
13. If I was Ole Miss's chancellor, I'd solve, "the South will rise again" controversy, by saying, "Okay, we're not all that different no matter what color our skin is." Then I'd pivot to a new, common, enemy: "What if we burn Hotty Toddy man at midfield. We'll give every race a lit torch, and once we roast him, we'll all be purified."
I think this might work.
14. If you're Tennessee's Ed Orgeron, do you take a perverse bit of pleasure in this game?
After all, you brought in the recruits who dominated your new team. And even if you'd won, no one was going to give you any credit for the victory. It's kind of like getting dumped but then having your girlfriend end up marrying the President.
Yeah, you lost, but you used to sleep with the First Lady.
Anyway, it's a good thing that Coach O. didn't talk to the media this week. That would have been a huge distraction.
15. Did you know that Ole Miss is now barring Colonel Reb from entering the stadium?
Yep, last week for the first time ever, they refused him entrance to the student section.
This thing is going to turn into yet another battle.
A reader wrote me and asked whether there's any correlation between these battles and the upcoming release of the movie, The Blind Side. I'm not ready to go that far yet, but fighting this battle in conjunction with the movie release is kind of odd.
Almost like Ole Miss's chancellor is angling for the fawning New Yorker piece.
16. This is the most yards rushing that Tennessee has ever given up to anyone.
In his post-game, Lane Kiffin said something like, "That's a really good player."
But is he better than Herschel Walker, Bo Jackson, Shaun Alexander, Darren McFadden, and countless other backs that the Vol defense has lined up against in the SEC?
Vandy never held any of those guys to 1.7 yards a carry.
It's always tough to lose, but it's ominous when you get routed because of one player. Especially when that one player doubles the number of rushing touchdowns he's had all season against your team.
17. And now it's time for post-game quotes from your team that make you wonder why you care so much. This is a new weekly feature, feel free to send in your nominations.
This week's winnner is Tennessee defensive end Chris Walker.
"It was a big challenge to cover him [McCluster]. We had to know where he was at all times and he lines up at wide receiver and he lines up at tailback, so it was really hard to adjust to that."
So he lines up at two places? And that's really hard?
Walker makes it sound like someone asked him to perform open heart surgery using a mouthpiece as a scalpel.
Instead of, you know, tackle someone who is going to be running with the football.
And, really, how many times did McCluster get the ball more than five yards from the line of scrimmage?
18. Ole Miss fans like to brag that they may lose a game, but they've never lost a party.
By 2 p.m. Saturday, the party hadn't even started yet and they'd already won a game. Beneath the towering oaks of The Grove, the Hotty Toddy cheer, sans Hotty Toddy man, was rising high into the sky. And somewhere, all 28 people named Dexter in America, were smiling.
Meanwhile, I had to ride home with Chris Vernon.
"Clay," Verno said, "consider this, if you or I was Monte Kiffin's son, we'd be the head coach of Tennessee right now too."
You're damn right it was a long ride back to Nashville.
As I made the drive, my phone kept pinging with text messages. The best was this.
Amen to that.