OXFORD – Following a disappointing SEC loss at Auburn last week, Ole Miss got back on track against the northern region of Arizona. Next weekend the Rebels will see if they have the mettle for the entire state of Tennessee.
With a temporary overhaul of their offensive line, the Rebels amassed 425 yards and 38 points in a 38-14 win over Big Sky Conference member Northern Arizona before a crowd of 38,184 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Saturday.
The Rebels need one win in their final three games – beginning with Tennessee next Saturday at 11 a.m. on CBS – to earn a bowl bid.
Starting tackles Bradley Sowell and John Jerry did not play against the Lumberjacks (5-4) because of academic suspension for missing classes in the spring. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said he had hoped to enforce the suspension earlier in the season against Southeastern Louisiana, but widespread flu would did not allow that.
With the starters out, left guard Reid Neely moved out to tackle, and sophomore Alex Washington started at left guard. Freshman Bobby Massie went the distance at right tackle.
Nutt said Sowell and Jerry will be back this week.
“Reid’s a smart kid, and we can really play him anywhere, so we were able to move him out there to the edge. Massey played a great game, a very good job,” Nutt said. “We had to make these moves in a short amount of practice time.”
There was a greater effort to involve more receivers, most notably junior Markeith Summers, who had three catches for 25 yards.
Tailback Brandon Bolden emerged with his best game since a 105-yard effort against Southeastern Louisiana, gaining 85 yards on 10 attempts. Bolden scored on a 45-yard run in the second quarter, his first touchdown since the season opener at Memphis.
While the ball was spread around more, some regular names showed up big too. Wide receiver Shay Hodge had a career-high 169 yards on seven catches and touchdowns covering 6 and 65 yards.
Quarterback Jevan Snead played three quarters and did not throw an interception for the fourth time in nine games. Snead was 16-for-28 for 235 yards, two scores and added two rushing touchdowns.
Ole Miss (6-3) led 31-14 at the half. The only scoring of the second half was Snead’s long pass to Hodge.
“We called it and figured they’d bail on it, that it would be a jump ball for Shay,” Snead said. “The corner squatted there at the sticks, and I was able to put it out there for him.”
“It felt good to get past the defense with a long pass. That’s something that needs to happen,” Hodge said.
The game was a return to Oxford of former Ole Miss quarterback Michael Herrick, a team member in 2006 and 2007 before deciding to transfer.
Herrick was able to get the ball to open receivers, efficiently guiding the Northern Arizona spread offense on two 80-yard scoring drives in the first half. He was less effective in the final two quarters, and Herrick’s worst pass of the game was his first, a screen pass picked off by defensive end Marcus Tillman. The Rebels covered 15 yards in five plays, and Snead passed to Hodge from the 6.
Herrick finished 20-for-31 for 233 yards, one interception and no touchdowns.
The Lumberjacks tied the game at 7 and at 14 on runs of 5 and 3 yards.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal