OXFORD – In the ultimate act of trust, Brandon Bolden is willing to thrust his body into harm’s way. So is Enrique Davis.
Both say they believe their offensive line teammates have their backs against the fronts of the physical defenses in the SEC.
Bolden and Davis, both junior running backs, each surpassed 100 yards on the ground last week as Ole Miss snapped a three-game losing streak with a 43-21 win over Louisiana-Lafayette. It was the first time in 11 years that two Ole Miss backs had gained 100-plus yards in the same game.
More significantly, it was the first time since Kentucky that Ole Miss picked up meaningful rushing yards between the tackles.
“We can execute better,” Bolden says.
He hopes the improvement continues this week at Tennessee. Davis had 116 yards on 19 carries against ULL, his first action since the Fresno State game in Week 4 when he sustained a sprained knee ligament.
Bolden shouldered more responsibility in Davis’ absence. The Rebels posted strong rushing figures in losses to Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn, but much of it came from the freelance moves of quarterback Jeremiah Masoli or from speedy freshman Jeff Scott getting outside.
Bolden has started eight of nine games at tailback. He’s averaging 125 yards in non-conference games, 45.7 in SEC games.
Ole Miss is second in the SEC in rushing at 221.6 yards a game, 188.4 a game in SEC play, also second in the league.
Through it all, injuries and poor judgment have kept the Rebels from developing chemistry from guard to guard across the line.
Six different players have started at right guard, including Rishaw Johnson, a player coaches believe had All-SEC potential, who was dismissed for a team rules violation just prior to the trip to Tulane on Sept. 11.
Against La.-Lafayette, junior Alex Washington started at left guard, sophomore A.J. Hawkins at center and freshman Jared Duke at right guard, marking only the second time the Rebels had the same three players from guard to guard.
“For the most part, we had a hat on a hat, and everybody had their guy,” Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt said. “We created some ties, got some movement and some push for some running lanes. That was good.”
In addition to Duke, freshmen Patrick Junen and Evan Swindall have been starters. Junen made headlines as a walk-on rising to first team before being sidetracked by a sprained ankle.
Davis says he’s been impressed by the development of the interior of the line.
“Our line is going all out, giving a hundred percent and making great holes for us,” he said.
Still, Bolden and Davis showed a willingness to bounce plays outside away from targeted area of the defensive front.
“I’m getting the holes I need most of the time, but sometimes stuff happens,” Bolden said. “Then it turns into a bounce, and when a receiver gets a good block, that bounce can go a long way.”
Nutt is not opposed to the bounce, but he wants Bolden and Davis to make good decisions.
“Sometimes they bounced when they shouldn’t have bounced,” Nutt said. “Brandon has a knack and such quickness that he’s been able to do that, but he’s not going to be abel to do it against the Tennessees and LSUs of the world.”
Arkansas smothered the bounce, and Bolden finished with 11 yards on nine carries. Tennessee has been somewhat vulnerable to the run, giving up 185.4 yards a game in SEC play.
Bolden says the turnover on the interior does not affect that run game and that he and Davis have an entire week to build the trust factor.
“You have a whole week to find out if you have confidence in those guys. They go against our defensive line three days a week, and that gives them a taste of what is to come,” he said.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal