By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
ARLINGTON, Texas – That national stage that catapulted Jevan Snead’s college career a year ago will now bring it under serious review after the sequel.
The junior Ole Miss quarterback threw three interceptions, no touchdowns, was sacked twice and fumbled in Saturday’s ATamp&T Cotton Bowl. The Rebels ultimately defeated No. 21 Oklahoma State 21-7 in spite of quarterback play, not because of it.
Offensive coordinator Kent Austin said he believes Snead’s day would have been much different had he gotten a few more completions earlier, especially the one to Jesse Grandy in the first quarter when Grandy was behind the secondary for a sure touchdown.
Said Snead: “Obviously I’m disappointed in the way I played. I know I can play much better.”
So ineffective was Snead that he was benched for performance for the first time this year.
Oklahoma native Nathan Stanley got in the game against his in-state school, the team for which he grew up cheering. He didn’t move the team any better, but on a day of handoffs, Stanley’s was the biggest. His second-quarter give to Dexter McCluster was a touchdown 86 yards later, giving the Rebels a 7-0 lead that stood until Oklahoma State scored with 7 minutes, 13 seconds left in the third quarter.
Snead did not attribute his play to a vicious hit he took on his second pick, when he never saw the safety coming for the block. “It rung my bell, but I knew I could play,” he said.
Stanley had that deer-in-headlights look you get when you’re seeing meaningful playing action for the first time, which he was.
He’s looked good on the field this year, but it’s all been mop-up duty.
Snead, who finishes the season with 20 touchdown passes and 20 interceptions, says he hasn’t decided whether he will return for his senior season or cast his lot as an early draft entrant.
Either way it appears he’ll have a battle on his hands. There was absolutely no question who would be the Rebels’ starting quarterback in 2009.
If the Cotton Bowl showed nothing else it at least showed that Nutt will take Snead out of the game for reasons other than injury, a state of mind not previously shown by the coaching staff.
That’s the reason Stanley was not prepared for what he saw in the game Saturday.
Assuming that Snead returns, there are things he needs to work on, and he has a better chance for improvement in an environment with a staff that knows him, at some level understands him and will continue to invest in him. If he starts slowly in an NFL camp, he may dig himself a hole from which he can’t recover.
What happens next?
Moving forward, the quarterback position at Ole Miss may not be up in the air, necessarily. Snead’s 26 college starts and 18 wins are pretty impressive figures that mean a lot under center.
There are physical skills that can’t be denied, and there have been big games this year – Tennessee and LSU – when Snead has managed the game well.
He may again be the Rebels’ best option in 2010, but an offensive coordinator known for creativity in Canada and a head coach who likes to run need to put their heads together and find a way to help Snead regain the consistency he showed in 2008.
If Snead is to bounce back, something has to happen mentally to help him respond better to adversity.
Austin believes Snead still gives the Rebels the best chance to win.
Perhaps that’s true, but something has to change. Reluctant to give backups time this year, there needs to be a change-of-pace guy next season, maybe freshman Raymond Cotton or signee Randall Mackey who might bring a dual threat to the Wild Rebel. Sometimes two quarterbacks are better than one.
Whether Snead goes or stays is to be determined. A challenge awaits, regardless.
Parrish Alford (parrish.alford@ djournal.com) blogs daily about Ole Miss athletics at NEMS360.com