Published October 21, 2010 - 11:30am
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Just a few weeks before the 2010 season kicked off, the Rebels thought they found their secret weapon. Their key to the top of the SEC West – Jeremiah Masoli. Due to his recent background and being dismissed from the Oregon football team, Masoli made the transfer to grad school at Ole Miss to become their quarterback with hopes of starting in his only year of eligibility.
Their hopes were nearly crushed when the NCAA ruled that Masoli would be ineligible to play less than two weeks before kickoff, only to reverse the decision the following week.
Lesson learned: Appeal NCAA decisions. Sometimes, they will change their mind.
The Rebels opened their season by shocking the entire SEC (and the reporters on every major sports network, and everyone in the country), but not in a good way.
The Rebels lost their home opener to Division I-AA Jacksonville State 49-48 in overtime thanks to a two-point conversion.
Translation: In the SEC, this is a great start for season suicide.
Masoli made his debut as a Rebel at the end of the first quarter. The Rebels began the game with gusto, scoring on five of six possessions in the first half. The Gamecocks then stepped up. They had no turnovers through the duration of the game and began closing in on the Rebels 34-32 with less than a minute left.
A two-point conversion sent the game into overtime and the rest is history – a history that still haunts the Rebels six weeks later.
Lesson learned: Never underestimate the little guy…and look out for two-point conversions.
So after the embarrassment the poor Rebels had to endure in week one, they travel to the Big Easy to face the Tulane Green Wave, in hopes of getting back on track. After all, they had won ten straight games against Tulane before this, so it should be a breeze.
Masoli started out great with 70-yard touchdown pass in the first half. Kentrell Lockett got his first quarterback sack of the season, Jason Jones recovered a fumble and Markeith Summers earned his first 100-yard game.
The Rebels leave the Superdome with a 27-13 win over the Green Wave and have an overall good game, despite looking slightly sloppy at times on offense.
Lesson learned: Masoli’s getting the hang of it, and the defense is improving, keep polishing.
1-1. It’s not the first time they’ve held this record, so there may still be hope. Especially by easing into the SEC with Vanderbilt, who is usually elected to finish last in the SEC. Right? Wrong. Ole Miss falls to Vandy 28-14, once again in front of the Rebel faithful. Masoli finished the game with 104 yards rushing and 190 yards passing, but that wasn’t enough apparently for Vanderbilt, who made good use of forcing turnovers on the Rebels.
Lesson learned: Again with the little guy…and hold on to the football.
Now the Rebels meet the Fresno State Bulldogs for the first time in Oxford. They finally hold their own and please their home crowd with a 55-38 victory over previously undefeated Fresno State.
Welcome to the SEC.
Brandon Bolden had a career-best 228-yard game with 19 carries and two touchdowns, one being a 71-yard touchdown run. With his outstanding performance and the Bulldogs enduring five sacks, a turnover a blocked field goal attempt, the Rebels prevailed, both defensively and offensively. The Rebels had 425 yards rushing, the most since 1977.
Lesson learned: Run. And get the ball to Bolden.
Back to the SEC at home. So far, not so good this year in the conference, so a shot at Kentucky will hopefully keep their SEC hopes alive.
Jeremiah Masoli was only average in this game. Aside from judging good field position throughout the game, he completed only 9 of 17 passes for 90 yards. But the Ole Miss defense stepped up their game and held the Wildcats 42-35, despite their touchdown in the opening drive of the game.
Three of the Ole Miss touchdowns were the product of Kentucky turnovers. The Rebels did cause panic by losing their lead from 42-20 to 42-35 nearing the end of the fourth quarter but managed to hold it for the duration.
Lesson learned: Complete more passes and don’t slack off towards the end.
Finally, the Rebels close out the first half of their season by playing the defending National Champions, Alabama.
Surprisingly, Ole Miss performed well in this game, despite losing to the Crimson Tide 23-10. The Rebel defense was outstanding, holding the Tide to virtually one touchdown (aside from the one that resulted from a penalty) and only field goals.
Penalties were a vice for the Rebels in this game. They racked up 12 penalties in this game alone, as the least penalized team in the SEC.
Masoli completed 18 of 40 passes, but most were the fault of the receiving end, who really could have helped turn this game around for the Rebels.
The fact that they were able to hold Alabama to only 23 points, considering the way they had previously played in the season, was impressive and showed that the Rebels are climbing to their potential and still may have some hope for a bowl berth.
Lesson learned: Catch the ball and play by the rules.
So, I think it’s safe to say that if the Rebels continue to improve as they gradually have over the last three games, their bowl game hopes may not be out of the question.