Trust and Chemistry

Senior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli made the first start of his Ole Miss career Saturday against Tulane, accounting for 308 of the team's 371 yards of total offense.

It was an impressive showing for the former Oregon quarterback, who is participating in his only season as a Rebel.

Sophomore Nathan Stanley drew the start against Jacksonville State in Ole Miss' season opener, but was limited in practice last week with soreness in his throwing shoulder.

Masoli completed 14 of his 20 passing attempts for 281 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

Jeremiah Masoli

He also carried nine times for 33 yards, and recorded the team's first touchdown on a 1-yard rush in the first quarter.

Most impressive, however, were the big plays he created at critical moments in an up-and-down game for the Ole Miss offense.

Masoli found wide receiver Markeith Summers for a 70-yard touchdown with just over a minute before halftime, then found Summers again in the fourth quarter for a 61-yard completion to set up a 29-yard field goal by kicker Bryson Rose.

Rose's make was the final score of the game, a 27-13 Ole Miss win.

"I think right before one of those plays, he was just telling me to throw it up," Masoli said Tuesday.

"That's some of the things you look for in a receiver, a guy that wants the ball and actually comes to the quarterback and tells him that, ‘Just throw it up to me and I'm going to get it for you.'

"That's how you build trust."

But Summers isn't alone. Masoli said he's grown more and more comfortable with his receiving corps since his arrival in early August, having built a rapport in practice that they're taking to the field each Saturday.

"Guys have definitely started to pick it up," he said. "They knew I could run, obviously, but being out there on the field and doing it is another thing."

The past two months have been a whirlwind for Masoli. He was initially denied clearance by the NCAA, before an appeals committee overturned the ruling and declared him eligible to play immediately for the 2010 season.

He was thrust into Ole Miss' offensive playbook, a crash-course in preparation for the season. Not only that, Masoli had to adjust to unfamiliar surroundings. Here was a California native making a move to the Deep South, attempting to familiarize himself to a small-town atmosphere and new teammates.

"One of the first things (Ole Miss head) Coach (Houston) Nutt told me was that I was going to fit in well with these guys," he said.

Jeremiah Masoli

"I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I can fit in anywhere.' But here it just happened so much faster."

These days his life has slowed down, inched back to normal. Ole Miss meets Vanderbilt to open its conference slate at 11:30 a.m. Saturday.

"They're a stout bunch," Masoli said of the Commodores. "They've got a bunch of good players all around there and they play well together. It seems like they're on the same page all the time, not too many mental breakdowns. It's going to be a tough challenge for us."

Participating in arguably the toughest conference in American was a drawing point of Masoli's to Ole Miss. These types of matchups were what he looked forward to. Now he gets his chance. And, suffice it to say, he's looking forward to it.

"That's what we were talking about today, all around the locker room and stuff like that. This is the SEC opener. It got my blood pumping a little bit," Masoli said. "This is one of the reasons I came to Ole Miss, to play in the SEC, and Vanderbilt is no letdown at all. They're a good team."

His debut inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium ended in shocking fashion. Ole Miss relinquished a 31-10 halftime lead, and eventually fell to Jacksonville State in double overtime. He's hoping his second appearance ends on a more positive note.

"I think (the Jacksonville State loss) will always be there," he said. "As long as we live, just one of those types of things that we'll all regret that that would happen. But as far as this season, we're focused on our next game, and that's Vanderbilt. We're not really worried with what happened at Jacksonville State or Tulane.

"We're just focused on this SEC opener."

Thompson eager for more opportunities:

Carlos Thompson is every bit of his listed 6-foot-5 height. Actually, he might be taller, mirroring a young Kentrell Lockett as he goes about his true freshman season in an Ole Miss uniform.

Even still, Thompson is undersized. He's lanky as Lockett was, weighing in at 229 pounds. It's an improvement, however, considering he arrived in Oxford at a whopping 216 pounds.

Carlos Thompson

"I want to get no bigger than 260 as a pass rusher," Thompson said. "That's a good weight for me to be physical and be where I need to be."

Thompson, who hails from Hollandale, probably figured he'd redshirt in 2010. Ole Miss, while inexperienced at defensive end, had some depth. This season would be a learning year, one where he could attentively observe from the sidelines.

Not so much. Thompson made his Ole Miss debut at Tulane over the weekend. And while he failed to register a tackle, he was pleased with his performance.

"It was pretty good, just being able to get into the game for the first in the SEC," he said.

"It's a lot faster. When I first got in, I had to learn to adjust. But once I adjusted, I did pretty well. It's just a matter of the game speed, coming from a 2A school to the SEC, which is one of the best conferences in football. It's all about adjustments."

With Ole Miss struggling to field a consistent pass rush, Thompson will likely be tried moving forward. He did damage off the edge as a four-star recruit out of high school, when he recorded 71 total tackles, 38 quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and 15 sacks.

The Rebels open Southeastern Conference play Saturday against Vanderbilt.

"I have a chance to get in there and see time," Thompson said. "I could get a lot of playing time, you know, with the pass rush and helping them put pressure on the quarterback. It just depends on how I do in practice this week."

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