Notebook: On the Rebound

At the end of the first quarter in Saturday's homecoming matchup with UAB, it appeared the offensive frustrations which had plagued Ole Miss this season were still prevalent.

The Rebels held an unimpressive 7-0 lead at the time, while an offense still lacking in rhythm managed minimal gains against a leaky Blazer defense.

However, 41 points and 501 yards of total offense later, Ole Miss (4-2, 1-2) exited Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in much better position with a meeting against SEC West foe Arkansas on deck.

"I just feel like we can really take off now," Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt said of his offense moving forward. "Our running game has gotten a little better. They've got more confidence. I was just talking to (senior right tackle) John Jerry. You can just tell there's a new sense of attitude and we feel we can go now."

Saturday's contest marked the first ever meeting between Ole Miss and UAB, whose program is in its 19th year of existence. The Rebels will next face UAB on September 8, 2012 at legendary Legion Field in Birmingham.

In the midst of a three-game homestand, Ole Miss has now won 12 of its last 13 homecoming contests.

Snead Shows Signs:

No matter how you slice it, 2009 has certainly had its struggles for junior quarterback Jevan Snead.

Entering Saturday, Snead was completing just over 48 percent of his passes, with an equal amount of touchdowns (9) as interceptions. Though he'd totaled 868 yards through the air on the year, the Stephenville, Texas native had endured one of his worst performances to date a week prior, as Snead completed only 11-of-34 tries for 140 yards and four interceptions against No. 2 Alabama.

But in the team's 48-13 win over UAB, Snead was calm and collected. A mixture of short completions early built confidence, with Snead finishing the game with 240 yards passing and three touchdowns. Better yet, the junior was successful on 15-of-22 attempts and failed to turn the ball over.

"It's night and day," Snead said when comparing his performances in the last two games. "To come out and get a quality win and to play offense the way we know we can is a great feeling. I got into a rhythm tonight. I threw some good balls early and it relaxed me and took some of the strain off me. It was fun to get in a groove. It was fun to see everyone doing their jobs at the same time. I think we can take off now. I think all we needed was a game like this and we can build on it and play offense the way we did last year. We played our kind of football."

With his three touchdown tosses, Snead has now logged multiple scores in 10 of his last 12 games, with three-plus scores in six contests. The 6-foot-3, 215 pounder also boasts 10 career 200-yard passing games.

"When he starts hitting passes and is in a rhythm, Jevan gets that confidence," Nutt said. "We've all seen it. We saw it last year. He can do it. We just need everybody to help him. It takes 11 guys, not just him. I thought our receivers played much better. Shay Hodge was very into it and focused. Dexter is always Dexter. Lionel Breaux made a beautiful catch and run for a touchdown. That's going to help. Hopefully we can take off after today."

Great Scott:

It's no secret, but over 16 seasons of head coaching experience, Nutt has become known as a strong proponent of the running game.

Nutt fielded the top rushing offense in the SEC over his 10 years in Fayetteville, and followed in his debut season at Ole Miss with the conference's second-ranked ground attack with an average of 186.5 yards per game.

However, through five contests, the Rebels hadn't performed to the standards expected of a Nutt-coached team. The group sat seventh in the conference in rushing (182.8), while totaling only six touchdowns.

In need of a spark, Nutt called on true freshman Rodney Scott, who held limited playing experience so far this season. But using every bit of his 5-foot-8, 195 pound frame against the Blazers, the Cross City, Fla. native responded, leading the team in rushing with 57 yards and two touchdowns on nine carries.

"I feel pretty good about my performance," he said. "The offense played really well, but it started up front with the offensive line. They were opening up a lot of holes and I was hitting them."

With the team lacking a true home run threat at the position, Scott's performance Saturday could mean increased touches for the bruising back moving forward.

Putting his deadly combination of power and speed on display in the win, Scott recorded an impressive 25-yard touchdown scamper late in the second quarter, proving his mettle for an offense still in need of big-play capability.

"Rodney Scott gave us a lift," Nutt said. "He gives us a real energy and hits the hole with some authority and quickness. So he probably earned a few more carries tonight. That's not to say we don't still believe in Brandon (Bolden) and Cordera (Eason), though."

Paying Dividends:

In Ole Miss' season opener at Memphis, kickoff return duties were held by running backs Brandon Bolden and Cordera Eason. Though talented and capable, neither struck fear in opposing teams with their speed, as each are between-the-tackle workhorses who rely on tough running styles for yardage.

Enter freshman wide receiver Jesse Grandy.

For the second-consecutive game, the lanky lightning rod from Pine Bluff, Ark. held return duties for kickoffs. And this time, after an impressive showing a week prior versus the Crimson Tide, Grandy made magic.

On the opening kickoff, Grandy broke free for an 88-yard score and 7-0 Ole Miss lead. The big-gainer set the tone for a game dominated by Ole Miss, while Grandy finished the day with two returns and 114 yards.

"It was just determination," he said of the score. "I saw a hole and just hit it hard. I felt I had to get there. I actually thought I was about to get tackled by someone behind me."

"He came in this summer at 157 pounds, and I never thought he could play this first year," Nutt added. "But he's tough, and he's put on about 15 pounds. He's so electrifying. He can make a guy miss. He can stop and start on a dime. He's so fluid. He has beautiful hands, natural hands. He can kick return, punt return, reverse, catch the ball, he is a true weapon, and he's only going to get better. Through our strength program and when we start feeding him, he's going to be great. And we need him right now."


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