While driving from Fresno to San Francisco, a few notes and observations from the Rebels' 38-28 win over Fresno State. …
In what was not a very well-kept secret, Randall Mackey made his first start at quarterback and proved to be effective more than flashy.
He didn't greatly impact the run game, but his threat of the run impacted the run game. Mackey himself gained just 35 yards on five attempts, one of them a 28-yard scramble. There were very few called runs, though I expect that to increase.
Mackey is clearly the choice at quarterback right now, not because Zack Stoudt has played poorly, but because Mackey gives the threat of a big play. Ole Miss is not threatening anyone with its offensive line. Mackey's ability takes pressure off the line and helps create plays for other playmakers.
Brandon Bolden looked as good as he's looked since 2010. It was clear that Nutt was limiting Bolden's touches in an effort to keep him healthy.
Bolden carried just six times for 43 yards but scored touchdowns on runs of 21 and 12 yards, the latter being the most impressive. Bolden ran right, then reversed his field, broke two tackles while running sideways, got the corner and got to the end zone. It was a touchdown of individual effort that you can get against Fresno State, not Alabama. Run blocking was better but must continue to improve.
Donte Moncrief continues to impress. He's physical, dependable and as a true freshman is the go-to receiver. Moncrief did not get into the end zone, but his big-gainer on a screen pass set up a chip-shot field goal that gave the Rebels breathing room at the end, and his two-point conversion catch on a fade – after a false start by center Aaron Hawkins – were huge plays in the game.
Wesley Pendleton has been the Rebels' best cover corner this year but was victimized by Fresno quarterback Derek Carr, and his deep threat, speedy receiver Jalen Saunders.
Eventually Pendleton was pulled in favor of freshman Nick Brassell, another move that underscores the impact this class is having.
I've seen Pendleton play much better, and I believe he'll recover and play well again. There was quite a bit of jawing going on last night between Pendleton and Saunders, and Saunders had more to talk about.
Defensive line is a concern. We knew going in this was going to be a finesse group, not a physical group. They didn't get mashed by Fresno, but they were unable to get off blocks and make plays.
A depth chart move of note, Kentrell Lockett started ahead of Gerald Rivers at defensive end, and Lockett played the majority of the game. He finished with two tackles and a pressure. It was against Fresno last season that Lockett tore up his knee.
Charles Sawyer's second-quarter interception was his fourth of the year and ties him for the SEC lead with two other players, this from a secondary that picked off just six passes all of last season.
At the end of the day the Fresno State win doesn't change the big picture of Ole Miss football, but it would have been a nasty picture indeed had the Rebels lost.
A 2-3 record through five games isn't impressive, but 1-4 going into an off week with two weeks to brood about a lot and then play Alabama … Well, that would have been a lot worse.
Fresno State isn't Bama, but if the Rebels can maintain the level they showed at Fresno and take it up a notch they can find a few other wins on the schedule.