Grandy's big return sparks stagnant Ole Miss

OXFORD — Jesse Grandy needed just 13 seconds to stop Ole Miss’ freefall.

That’s how long it took the freshman to catch the opening kickoff, slip through a seam, hurdle his own blocker and race 88 yards for the opening score in the Rebels’ 48-13 win over Alabama-Birmingham.

The return sparked Ole Miss, which had gone five quarters without a touchdown.

“He’s so electrifying,” coach Houston Nutt said. “He can make people miss. He can start and stop on a dime. He’s so fluid. He’s a true weapon and he’s only going to get better.”

Following Grandy’s example, the Ole Miss offense turned in its best performance of the season against the Blazers.

The Rebels (4-2), who hover just two spots out the Top 25, were never threatened, eventually scoring on six consecutive drives during a span that included the second and third quarters. Quarterback Jevan Snead completed 15 of 22 passes for 240 yards and three touchdowns and Ole Miss finished with 508 total yards.

“That’s the Jevan we know,” Nutt said.

While Snead’s return to form was the main storyline, the play of Grandy and a few other freshman was a strong subplot.

Grandy’s run — a display of raw speed punctuated with the athletic leap over a fallen teammate — made all the highlight shows.

“I thought that run was beautiful and set the tempo for us,” Nutt said. “He came in this summer and weighed 157 pounds. I never thought he could play his first year, but he’s tough and put on about 15 pounds. He can kick return, punt return, reverse and catch the ball.”

Grandy corrected his coach.

“No, I wasn’t 157. I was 147 when I got here in the summer,” Grandy said. “Right now, I’m around 160 because I’m eating everything they put in front of me. The main thing is for me to keep my speed and determination. That’s what I can bring to this team.”

Running back Rodney Scott also spurred the Rebels’ offensive renaissance. He had a pair of touchdowns and led Rebels rushers with 57 yards.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Nathan Stanley, handling fourth quarter duties, finished 6-of-9 for 95 yards and a touchdown.

And freshman Tyler Campbell, with seven punts inside the 20-yard line in four games, left the Blazers on its own 1-yard line, helping set up a touchdown for a 14-0 lead after an exchange of possessions.

“It just changes the momentum,” Nutt said of the punt. “It changes the game. We got good field position and scored after that.”

Campbell, who boomed a 71-yard punt the previous week against Alabama, wasn’t sure which was the best play.

“I’m not sure what’s more exciting,” Campbell said, “to hit a long one against Alabama or to drop it on the 1 tonight. The crowd really gets fired up about either one. It’s my job to flip the field position and I was happy to get that done tonight.”

The timely performances of the younger Rebels clearly took the pressure off veterans who had struggled with high expectations in preseason and inconsistency through five games.

“It’s night and day,” Snead said. “I think all we needed was a game like this and we can build on it. Tonight we got some consistency and it feels great. I think we can take off now.”

The Rebels hope the win will set up a repeat of last year’s strong 6-0 finish after a 3-4 start. Ole Miss hosts four of the next five contests, beginning with Arkansas on Saturday.

“There’s nothing like winning and that’s a good dose of medicine we needed,” Nutt said.

The Associated Press