Brilliant in Defeat

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Senior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli accounted for 425 of Ole Miss' 512 yards of total offense Saturday. No matter. He was frustrated postgame. The Rebels fell for the fourth time this season, a 38-24 loss to Arkansas.

Jeremiah Masoli watched from his hotel room as Auburn quarterback Cam Newton terrorized Arkansas' defense a week ago.

Newton, also a dual-threat quarterback, managed 328 yards of total offense, including 188 yards rushing and four total touchdowns in a 65-43 win.

Masoli, an effective passer but better rusher, was eager for his shot at the Razorbacks. Masoli entered Saturday's meeting between Ole Miss and Arkansas as the team's second-leading rusher. He had completed 56 percent of his passes for 933 yards and seven touchdowns.

On a soggy day inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Masoli mirrored Newton, displaying his own brilliance with little help around him. He accounted for most of his team's offense in a losing, 38-24 effort.

"I expect a lot from this bunch, but just because of their inexperience, which isn't an excuse, there's some things I have to shoulder myself," Masoli said.

Masoli completed 21 of 36 passes for 327 yards, tying a career-high with three touchdowns. Saturday was the fourth-straight game Masoli has thrown a touchdown pass, and his third multi-touchdown passing game of the season.

He also led the team in rushing, carrying 15 times for 98 yards.

"400 yards of total offense for me?," he said, as if surprised by his 425 yards of total offense, the second-most in program history for a single player.

Masoli, the engine of the Ole Miss offense, had his best game to date. Masoli led Ole Miss as it compiled 512 yards of total offense. He even registered a punt of 45 yards.

Always involved.
Jeremiah Masoli

"It was a tough day today," Masoli said. "You have to give Arkansas a lot of credit. They had a good game plan against us; kind of stopped us in the first half. We didn't give up. I'm proud of my guys for fighting until the end."

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt was asked during his postgame press conference of where this team would be without the former Oregon quarterback. Nutt, knowing full well the value of Masoli for a struggling team, didn't know how to put his thoughts into words.

"Don't ask me that," he said jokingly, showing signs of a coach frustrated by where his team stands midway through the season. "That'd be tough."

Masoli kept Ole Miss in the game, even when the Razorbacks jumped ahead 24-3. He kept making plays behind another makeshift offensive line, finding running lanes and completing passes to receivers mostly out of the pocket.

In his only season at Ole Miss, Masoli has become easily the Rebels' most important player. He's almost always involved with each and every play of any offensive series. Drives usually start and end with him – a tall order for a player who arrived in August.

"You know, Coach Nutt and the whole Ole Miss family, I'm just thankful," he said. "I've really been enjoying myself, really taking everything in. Every stadium I get to play in now, I really just soak it in. From Alabama to Arkansas, I would have never imagined this. I'm blessed for it."

He's the team leader, too. When Ole Miss headed to the locker room twice due to inclement weather, Masoli was the keynote speaker. He kept spirits high in the face of what seemed an inevitable loss from the start.

"We had great expectations going into this season," Masoli said. "Now I feel like we're almost at a point where we don't have nothing to lose. We're out there going hard. We just need to win this next game."

Twice Ole Miss was within seven points of tying the score. And twice a much-maligned defense surrendered touchdown runs to Arkansas running back Knile Davis. Masoli was helpless on the sidelines. He couldn't do anything.

Well, except lead his offense. And he did. With five seconds remaining in the game, his team down 14, he attempted a throw into the end zone that fell incomplete. He was competing, refusing to accept another loss.

"He's a guy that just wants to win," junior running back Brandon Bolden said. "He'll do anything it takes to win."

He exited the bowels of Frank Broyles Field, eye black still fresh and his bag slung across his shoulder. For all he had done, the chunks of yards and points he had gained, Ole Miss failed to win. It was another frustrating game for a spiraling season.

He couldn't hide his frustration.

"It's very frustrating," he said. "That's one word that describes today. We left so many yards out there. We had 500 yards of total offense, but only scored 24 points. There's something wrong somewhere, where we're not executing to get the ball in the end zone. That's what we need to do."

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