Ole Miss losing to Jacksonville State in double overtime was shocking to say the least. Fans can debate for hours on the reasons Ole Miss let this game slip through their fingertips, but there is a more pressing matter at hand for the Rebels. Where does the team go from here?
I understand that losing to a football championship subdivision team is NOT the way you want to start your season, but I still believe Ole Miss can have a winning record and play for a third consecutive bowl game. One of the first things Houston Nutt needs to do in order to make that happen is name Jeremiah Masoli the starter for Saturday's game versus Tulane, and perhaps for the rest of the season.
What about Nathan Stanley, the guy who started against Jacksonville State and played pretty well? This is not a knock on him and his three touchdown effort against the Gamecocks, but the adversity Ole Miss is facing right now is something he's not prepared to deal with.
However, Ole Miss does have a quarterback who has been in this situation before, and that QB is Jeremiah Masoli. Fans can look back to last year and remember the debacle that was the Oregon-Boise State game. A potent offense was completely shut down by the Broncos, and then the offense's best player in LeGarrette Blount got suspended for the season after his infamous knockout of Boise State linebacker Byron Hout.
Then Jeremiah Masoli stepped up and lead Oregon to a 10-2 record winning them the Pac-10 championship in the process. Despite the enormous pressure surrounding him and the team, Masoli along with his teammates took a bad situation and turned it into something better than anyone imagined.
The Rebels need Masoli's leadership during this critical time so that the offense can do what an offense is supposed to do, score points. All those talented young Rebel offensive players as well as the veterans need a calming presence like Masoli's to help them regain their confidence and play up to their potential, as the schedule will only get harder with trips to defending national champion Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and UT looming, plus home dates with Auburn and arch rival Mississippi State.
The Rebels have young and talented wide receivers that will benefit from a veteran quarterback plus a deep and experienced backfield of Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis. A veteran and mobile quarterback like Masoli will greatly help the offensive line, as some of the starters struggled against the Gamecocks.
Having a presence like Masoli on the offense will also inspire the defense to play better. A unit that got roasted in last Saturday's game needs a dose of confidence to help them stand up to some amazing offenses they will face in the coming weeks. Jeremiah Masoli's one of those players that seems to make everyone around him better, so hopefully that will inspire the defense to make stops so that the offense can get the ball back and score points that will win games.
Last but not least, Masoli is the quarterback you want on your team when the game is on the line. He gave the Rebels the opportunity to win in overtime as he led Ole Miss on touchdown drives in both overtime possessions. When he was at Oregon, Masoli played his best football in the big games that helped Oregon clinch a Pac-10 title such as Arizona when he passed and ran for three touchdown each, against USC in which he passed for 222 yards and a touchdown to complement 164 yards of rushing and a touchdown, and against Oregon's bitter rival Oregon State he had a six yard fourth-down run in which he ran over a would-be tackler so that the Ducks would keep possession to win the game.
Saturday's game versus Tulane will be critical for the Rebels if they want to challenge for a third bowl berth and possibly contend in the SEC West. Houston Nutt needs to have the boys fired up to win this game because a loss could send them into a tailspin that they may not get out of.
One step Nutt can take to ensure his team rebounds with a victory is naming Jeremiah Masoli the starting quarterback. Nathan Stanley will be a good quarterback in time, but the best thing for him to do is defer to the experienced quarterback and learn from him so that the offense won't drop off next season.
This is a big week for Houston Nutt as he tries to get the Rebels back on the winning track, so that they can still contend for a bowl berth and possibly more. How his team responds on Saturday following Saturday's debacle will determine the course of the season. This is hopefully my first article as an Ole Miss featured columnist so I hope the Rebel nation likes it!!
Until next time,