Rebels Rebound

FRESNO, Calif. -- Needless to say, as hard as wins have been for the Ole Miss football team to come by, Rebel Coach Houston Nutt was elated with the Rebs' 38-28 victory over Fresno State.

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"I'm very proud of our team to come this far and get the win," said Nutt. "It took offense, defense and special teams and it took finishing. That was a good team we played tonight. Coach (Pat) Hill's team always play hard and do an excellent job. It was also a tough environment to play in.

"I thought Randall Mackey did an excellent job, handling the game, managing it and showing some escapability. He made plays when we needed them the most. Our offensive line was also good most of the night – they created some running room for us and that was important. It is good to have Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis back – it is what we anticipated at the beginning of the year. For most of this year we have been trying to find the right chemistry and didn't have a run game or a passing game. I hope we can build on this. Everyone was on point and that's what we have to have."

Nutt reiterated how important it was to have Mackey in the saddle at quarterback.

"It was huge. He can stay in the pocket until the last second and then take of if he has to or throw under duress with accuracy," Nutt said. "He threw some real nice balls tonight. He needed an opportunity and he made the most of it. We told him we were not going to jerk him out of the game if he made a mistake. Just relax and do the best you can, and he did it."

Houston Nutt
US Presswire

The turning point in the game was the 15-play, 88-yard drive in the fourth quarter that gave the Rebels a 35-28 lead after a successful two-point conversion.

"That was a character drive. We had to have it, it was critical," Nutt said. "We made several big plays to keep that drive going and it was the difference in the game. A three-and-out there and the results of this game could have been much different as explosive as Fresno is."

Defensively, the Rebels buckled up tight in the fourth quarter, not allowing a Fresno score.

"Ty (Nix) did a great job mixing up his calls and keeping them off balance. He had some real good rhythm tonight, and in the first half, even when Fresno was hot, we got a couple of turnovers that were huge for us. We continue to get turnovers," said Nutt.

The negative on the night was 10 penalties for 107 yards.

"We still have to clean those up. We are still making too many and we know better," he stated.

How big a win was it?

"Man, this one was very big for us. We need the confidence and I can't imagine how negative thing would have gotten had we lost," Nut closed. "You guys know what you would have written. It would be bad, no question about it."

Scott carries the load:

Sophomore running back Jeff Scott topped 100 yards rushing for the second time this year and for the third time in his career Saturday against Fresno State.

Scott carried 24 times for a career-high 138 yards. His longest rush was a 69-yard burst for the first of his two touchdowns to lead an Ole Miss offense that carved out 430 total yards of offense, including 216 on the ground.

"We really needed this win for our confidence," Scott said. "We needed the boost because Alabama is next. My offensive line did a helluva job blocking things up. I just read things and hit it."

Jeff Scott
Associated Press

Scott, with his team trailing by one with 8:56 to go in the game, scored a decisive, 12-yard touchdown on third-and-9. Ole Miss never trailed again.

"I told the coaches to give me the ball and I would get it in the end zone," he said. "I knew my (offensive line) would give me the edge, and I could do the rest."

The 12-yard score capped a 15-play, 88-yard drive, which took well over six minutes off the clock. Scott said the drive was easily the best Ole Miss has engineered this season.

"We haven't clicked like that since last year when we had (Jeremiah) Masoli," he said. "(Randall) Mackey did a great job. I told him before the game that I believed in him and that he was going to lead us to victory, and he did."

Sawyer does it again:

Safety Charles Sawyer is now leading the SEC in interceptions following his fourth of the year against Fresno.

"We were playing cover one, I rolled over, Wesley (Pendleton) deflected the pass and I made a play on it," said Sawyer. "We had a good fourth quarter. The fourth quarter is our quarter. We needed this one a lot. It'll give us a lot of energy. It helps to be able to say ‘We can still do this – we can still win.' We played as a team tonight.

Mackey steps up:

Mackey got his shot and made the most of it, throwing for 214 yards and a touchdown on 8 of 18 passing and no interceptions.

"Coach is always talking about needing a leader on offense and that's what I tried to do tonight," Mackey said. "I just wanted to keep the ball moving, get first downs and put points up.

"I was real comfortable. You can't be nervous because 10 other people are counting on you. All I had to do was go out there and get in a good rhythm. My o-line did a real good job; I only got sacked once. The backs did a great job protecting me, too."

Randall Mackey
US Presswire

Mackey also had 35 rushing yards on five carries.

"I was able to just sit in there and make my reads and throw the ball like I know I can," he said. "We can build on this game. It's a very good win for us. We've been fighting so hard and coming up short. This one is nice, real nice."

Random Notes:

* The youth movement continued for the Rebels against Fresno State. As promised by the coaches for much of the season, some younger players got more chances to strut their stuff.

* The Rebels got an offensive spark midway through the first quarter after two three-and-outs on a crossing route, a delayed drag over the middle to Ja-Mes Logan good for 46 yards to the Bulldog 21. Brandon Bolden scored on the next play to get the Rebs on the board.

* After four games, wide receiver Melvin Harris finally surfaced this season with a touchdown reception in the first quarter. The scene was 3rd-and-7 from the Bulldog 24. Mackey threw a long fade to the pylon and Harris, drawing man coverage, used his 6-6 frame to get the ball and fall into the end zone. The TD pass was set up by a 43-yard pass to Nick Brassell.

* The defense struggled in the first quarter, giving up 2 scores and 135 yards, but in the second frame, LB Ralph Williams forced a fumble on the Fresno 24, Aaron Garbutt covered it and 3 plays later, Bolden weaved through the Fresno defense for a 12-yard score. . . . . On Fresno's next possession, the D got another turnover on Charles Sawyer's interception at the Reb 30. . . . Late in the second quarter, Fresno was 2nd-and-goal from the Reb 4 and Williams came up with another big play – a sack for an 11-yard loss. Fresno subsequently missed a chip shot field goal.

* Early in third quarter, the Rebs looked to be behind the eight ball on a drive, down 21-20, but then Mackey was hit late out of bounds, breathing new life into the drive. Scott promptly went 69 yards for a score on a power right run. Huge penalty for the Bulldogs.

* As the game wore on, the missed (blocked) PAT after the Rebs' second TD loomed larger and larger. . . .

* Perhaps the best drive of the year for the Rebels was midway through the fourth quarter. 88 yards on 13 plays, Scott scoring from 13 out and then Donte Moncrief snagging the two-point conversion from Mackey to make up for the blocked PAT earlier and give the Rebs a 35-28 lead. Ja_Mes Logan had two critical catches on the drive.

* The "sealer" was a bubble screen to Donte Moncrief that he ran for 57 yards to the Fresno five late in the game. Beautiful call and beautiful execution by Mackey-to-Moncrief.

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