Ole Miss at Fresno State Oct. 1
A critical game for this year’s Rebels, who will need to go 4-0 or 3-1 in the non-conference for their best chance at six wins and a bowl bid.
When the WAC Bulldogs, long successful under head coach Pat Hill, visited Oxford last year it was thought the Ole Miss secondary would have trouble with Fresno passing game.
That proved true, but Fresno’s success in the air was more than offset by its inability to match the Rebels’ physicality as Ole Miss won 55-38.
Brandon Bolden’s 228 rushing yards marked the sixth-best single-game effort in school history, and the Rebels’ 425 yards as a team were their most since 1977.
Ole Miss had four plays of more than 50 yards, one of them a 71-yard touchdown run by Bolden.
If there’s anything about the 2010 season that new offensive coordinator David Lee will want to replicate it will be the Fresno game.
The Bulldogs went on to allow 158.6 rushing yards a game, fourth in the WAC but 66th in the nation.
Fresno finished No. 59 nationally in total defense, 83 in scoring defense and 110 in turnover margin.
This year the Bulldogs return only 10 starters with quarterback Ryan Colburn among the lost. Colburn took advantage of soft coverage against Ole Miss last year and hit 32 of 42 attempts for 390 yards and four touchdowns. Three of those touchdowns came from mid-third quarter on when it was already a 41-10 game. Colburn’s accuracy, though, cut that deficit to 10 at 48-38 with 3:20 to play.
Among the returnees are receivers Jalen Saunders and Rashad Evans, who had 30 and 39 catches respectively. Saunders averaged 15.4 yards a catch.
Fresno also returns a thousand-yard rusher in scatback Robbie Rouse, who ran for 1,129 yards and eight touchdowns a year ago.
Rouse was held to 22 yards against Ole Miss. Fresno had two 100-yard receivers in the game, but neither Jamel Hamler nor Matt Lindsay are back.
There will be a new quarterback, but Hill believes Derek Carr, younger brother of former Fresno star David Carr, is more than capable. Carr appeared in five games two years ago but was behind Colburn in the race last year and redshirted.
Fresno was 8-5 last year, but Ole Miss wasn’t its only blowout loss. Hawaii handled the Bulldogs 49-27, and they lost 51-0 to Boise then 40-17 to Northern Illinois in the Humanitarian Bowl.