I ran into the
Jinx laughed so hard he almost choked on his collard greens. "Hasn't Detroit been through enough?" he said. "Besides, I love it down here. Even the vegetables can give you a heart attack." Then he pointed his fork at me. "You cover college football," he said, "you know exactly why I'm here. I'm completing the set."
Of course, Jinx would reference
"Aren't you being a little hard on the Rebels?" I asked Jinx. "After all, you nailed them the week after they beat Florida last year. They lost to South Carolina at home. Remember?" He fingered a piece of cornbread and sniffed. "I remember," he said, "but can you comprehend the achievement that is knocking out an entire set of regional cover boys in one month? I reminded Jinx that we had a fourth regional cover (Penn State), but he held up a paw at the mention of the Nittany Lions. "I don't go after
Jinx waddled to the register and paid his check. Then he turned to me. "You want a ride to the stadium?" As I considered his offer, scenes from every
Five hours later, I stood on the field at Williams-Brice Stadium. The scoreboard read 16-10
Ole Miss quarterback
Jinx has loved kickers since 1993, when he inspired
"The biggest play in the game was the punter making that tackle," South Carolina defensive coordinator
Still, Jinx wasn't the only metaphysical force at work Thursday. Though it doesn't get much press outside the Palmetto State, the Chicken Curse is a formidable hex. It has tripped up the Gamecocks on so many occasions that South Carolina faithful -- much like Chicago Cubs fans -- simply assume the worst at all times. It's just easier that way. More than 74,000 puckered as one with 9:47 remaining when two Gamecocks safeties got their signals crossed and allowed Snead to hit
But South Carolina's defense kept giving Snead happy feet, and the Gamecocks snuffed
Not when Jinx is pulling the strings. He was in his element Thursday, picking on a team that rode a wave of nine-month-old hype. Johnson, South Carolina's defensive coordinator, said last year's Rebels had top-five talent, but this team is different after losing offensive tackle
"Those kids last year at Ole Miss, I'm not sure they knew how good they were," Johnson said. "That was one of the best football teams I've ever coached against in the SEC. This year, you lose a first-rounder on both fronts and a few little things like that, and I'm not sure they're hitting on all eight cylinders like they were last year.
"But they're still a really good football team. They'll show back up. It just looked like they were out of sync or something."
Jinx can do that to a team. He feasts on the insecurities of coaches and players who aren't prepared for the spotlight. On Thursday, that spotlight exposed all of the Rebels' flaws. They'll tumble from No. 4 to the bottom of the top 25, and they'll be heavy underdogs when SEC West heavy Alabama visits Oxford in two weeks. The pressure is off. The hype is gone. "I'm glad it's gone so we can go back to work and win some ball games," Ole Miss offensive tackle
As I walked to the press box elevator, I heard a familiar voice. "I told you I would get them," Jinx bellowed. He wore a South Carolina visor. "Gift from the Head Ball Coach," he said. "I love that guy."
I asked Jinx if he would return home to celebrate his systematic dismantling of the teams