Risks, rewards with QB Masoli

By PARRISH ALFORD / NEMS Daily Journal

OXFORD – Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has seen transfer quarterback Jeremiah Masoli make a lot of plays early this season.
He’s seen the former Oregon star take some unnecessary risks that weren’t rewarded as well.
Given the state of an offensive line inexperienced on the interior and facing the prospect of a fourth different starter at right guard in four games, Masoli’s running ability has been important, but the feeling that he has to make all the plays by himself is something Nutt wants Masoli to avoid.
“I saw him make a lot of plays, but I also saw him force a couple,” Nutt said. “You have to watch that with him. After (watching the) film, he’ll know he doesn’t have to do that. We’ll score enough.”
The Rebels only scored twice last week in a 28-14 loss to Vanderbilt to drop to 0-2 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on the season.
Masoli became the first Ole Miss quarterback since Archie Manning to rush for more than 100 yards and pass for more than 100 yards in the same game.
He also threw two interceptions, one returned for a touchdown to give the Commodores a 14-0 lead in the second quarter.
In two seasons as Oregon’s starter, Masoli threw just 11 interceptions, five two years ago and six last year. No Ole Miss starting quarterback since Josh Nelson in 1995 has thrown as few as six interceptions in a season. Masoli has thrown four in three games at Ole Miss and is on pace to throw 16 this season.
Masoli also fumbled on a reverse with a receiver open downfield.
“That was big. I really can’t explain what happened. I just didn’t catch it, and it would have been a big play for us,” he said.
Masoli called his play “sub-par.”
Best foe yet?
• The Rebels step out of SEC play this week, but they’ll face a high-quality opponent, Nutt said, when Fresno State visits for a 6:30 p.m., CSS televised game.
“Fresno State is probably the best team we’ve played so far,” he said. “They play awfully hard, and they do a good job both offensively and defensively.”
Fresno State ranks No. 2 or No. 3 in the WAC in scoring offense, rushing defense, pass-efficiency defense, total defense and scoring defense. The Bulldogs lead the nation in sacks with 10 through two games.
Fresno State coach Pat Hill said the school will be playing its 28th road game against a BCS conference opponent. It has played BCS foes at home six times. Ole Miss will visit Fresno next year.
Injury update
• Running back Jeff Scott and defensive end Cameron Whigham, both freshmen, are expected to practice and play this week. Scott has been dealing with a foot injury, Whigham with an ankle injury.
The status of offensive lineman Josh Tatum (ankle) is unclear.
Changes on O-line
• Coaches often like to bring offensive linemen along slowly, but Nutt no longer feels that’s in his best interests.
That being said, redshirt freshman Emmanuel McCray and true freshmen Jared Duke and Patrick Junen will have a busy week of practice.
“Those guys will get good looks inside at the guards this week,” Nutt said. “We feel like we can get better production, and we have to give those guys a chance.”
Duke (6-6, 325), a Rivals.com three-star prospect last season, was behind Michael Brown on the two-deep roster at right guard last week.
Junen (6-8, 300) is a walk-on from Huntsville, Ala.
McCray was part of the 2009 class, along with Brown and Logan Clair, who are all in the mix to play at right guard. All three were three-star prospects. McCray has spent most of his time at tackle, where he’s second to Bradley Sowell on the left side.
Monday, Nutt said it was too early to speculate on a starter.
No chemistry issues
• Senior free safety Fon Ingram would like to see more “fight” from the Rebels, but said there are no chemistry issues among his teammates.
“I’m not upset with them, I’m just trying to motivate them,” he said.
“We have to have total focus and effort in practice. The only thing we can do is get better. We need more killer instincts on this team,” Ingram said.
Players believe they’re just a couple of plays away from wins in their two losses, and they don’t blame any sort of Jacksonville State “hangover” to the slow play that has followed.
The loss to the Division I-AA Gamecocks generated national attention.
“We put that game away the Sunday after it was over,” said junior Alex Washington, who has started all three games at left guard. “Our morale is not down. We know we’re just a couple of plays off from our record being very different.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or parrish.alford@djournal.com