In one play, Marquis Haynes went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. He went from hero to goat in the snap of a finger.
Arkansas had just scored in overtime, matching the touchdown from Ole Miss. Rather than kick the extra point to tie the game, the Razorbacks were going for two to win it. Arkansas quarterback Brandon Allen faked a handoff to the running back and rolled out to the right, looking to pass.
Haynes wasn’t fooled. The sophomore defensive end made a bee line toward Allen and took him down 10 yards behind the original line of scrimmage. The game was over. The Rebels had won. But the celebration was short-lived because a yellow flag was thrown in the direction of Haynes. When he made the tackle, he unintentionally grasped Allen’s facemask.
“That was a freak play where the quarterback really should be just throwing it up because a sack does him no good,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said. “And for some reason, he ducks his head there and the facemask goes right into Marquis’ hand.”
The Razorbacks got another try at the two-point conversion, a yard-and-a-half closer, and Allen ran it in for the game-winning score.
Haynes was devastated. He could barely walk off the field after the game.
“I just walked with him and hugged him,” Freeze said. “I told him I loved him and appreciated the effort that he gave in competing. Sometimes the best teaching that we have is through disappointment, and it’s not fun. It’s not enjoyable. But if handled the right way, I think that’s one of the best lessons that you learn from the game of football. How do you manage and handle those?”
Before that play -- the sack that was supposed to win Ole Miss the game -- Haynes was having another solid performance, typical of what he has been doing since he first arrived on campus. Haynes had five tackles, a sack, a forced fumble and two quarterback hurries against Arkansas.
But the two plays everybody remembers from that game were the crazy lateral on 4th-and-25 that Haynes nearly knocked down before it ever got to Alex Collins and the game-winning two-point conversion that was made possible by Haynes’ facemask the play before.
“He really took that hard, as a young man does sometimes,” Ole Miss defensive line coach Chris Kiffin said. “And he felt like the whole thing was his fault. But I explained to him that clearly there were many more plays to win that game instead of just that second-to-last play.”
The next day wasn’t any easier. Haynes had to rewatch those two plays, the facemask penalty in particular, with his teammates and coaches in the film room.
However, everybody kept telling him the same thing: “Marquis, snap out of it, you’re a great player” or “We wouldn’t have been in that situation if we didn’t have all the good things that you did for us.” His football family stood by his side. They had his back.
“You always want to point out the positives and move to the next team,” teammate and fellow defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche said. “It doesn't matter, good game, bad game, we always build guys up and keep positivity around each other and keep each other humble. We treat each other like brothers.
“We don't treat each other by class or who you are. We treat each other like humans, how humans are supposed to treat each other. ... We've all risen as a team and keep going forward.”
It’s been almost two weeks since that overtime loss to Arkansas. The Rebels were off last weekend, giving the players time to recover and prepare for this Saturday’s bout with LSU. It allowed time for Haynes to put that last game behind him. If anything, he says he’ll use it as motivation for the rest of the season.
“I’m just going to keep doing what I have been doing,” Haynes said. “Playing the ballgames like I usually do, full speed and using my strength. I just want to keep progressing forward.”
Ole Miss is going to need him, too. At 6-foot-3, 220 pounds, Haynes might not be the biggest defensive end in the SEC, but he still leads the Rebels with 12 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. His coaches say he’s had as good a season as anybody on the defensive side of the ball.
“He’s a guy that he’s going to produce on Saturday,” Kiffin said. “He’s going to make a play that’s going to spark the team, that’s going to spark the stadium at some point.
“He’s still learning. He’s undersized to play defensive end, so sometimes he gets worked off the ball a little bit. But then all of a sudden, he’s going to make the huge play, the big sack or the caused fumble that could potentially change the game and get everybody off their seat. He’s an unbelievable athlete, and he’s just the next great Landshark around here.”