By Parrish Alford/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – In a spring football game noted as much by those who did not play as those who did, Barry Brunetti stood out.
The great unknown is where he’ll stand for the 2011 season.
Throughout the spring Brunetti was a factor in the quarterback race but no more so than Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium when he threw two touchdown passes in the annual Red-Blue intrasquad scrimmage that ended in a 17-17 tie.
Bunetti’s status for the 2011 season, however, is up in the air until the NCAA rules on his request for a waiver of its one-year residency requirement for transfers. He played last season as a freshman at West Virginia.
If he does not receive the waiver, Brunetti will take a redshirt year and not lose a season of eligibility.
“The first two weeks I thought about it a lot, and that was affecting me on the field. As the spring went on I kind of forgot about it. I’m not going to worry about it. If I am I am, if I”m not I’m not,” he said.
The Ole Miss quarterback race has had a little bit of everything this spring, an early leader in Randall Mackey, a junior college All-American two years ago, the late push of junior college transfer Zack Stoudt and the drama of the departure of the veteran, Nathan Stanley.
The show belonged to Brunetti and Mackey on Saturday. Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt confirmed earlier in the week that Stanley, a fourth-year junior, was leaving the program and on Friday said that Stoudt would miss the Grove Bowl, suspended because of an academic issue.
Nutt said the Rebels got a lot accomplished in a tough and physical spring training. Naming a starting quarterback was not one of those accomplishments.
“I think the race will be wide open, but very, very soon after those first 10 days, after the first scrimmage or the second scrimmage at the latest, there will be a No. 1,” Nutt said.
On Saturday the snaps went to Brunetti and Mackey almost exclusively, Brunetti with the Blue team and Mackey with the Red.
The scrimmage was marred by 14 penalties – most of them false starts – and five fumbled snaps, miscues offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach David Lee attributed in part to the division of the offensive line.
“We get five we think are a unit, and then we split them up,” Lee said.
The day’s most exciting play came from Brunetti. Faced with a third down from his 10, he side-stepped pressure and found receiver Korvic Neat deep down field behind the secondary. Neat made the catch, and the touchdown play covered 90 yards.
Brunetti finished 12 for 21 for 211 yards, two touchdowns and had his team in position for a game-winning field goal, though kicker Andrew Ritter was wide left.
Brunetti also threw a pair of interceptions, one returned 92 yards by junior college transfer safety Ivan Nicholas, who was tackled at the 4 by tailback Enrique Davis. Brunetti carried seven times for 37 yards.
Mackey got in the end zone on his first possession, moving his team 55 yards and throwing a 14-yard touchdown pass to Terrell Grant on third-and-goal. Grant caught the ball at the 1 and made a powerful move to get into the end zone.
Mackey was fairly stagnant for the remainder of the first half but in the second developed a comfort level with tight end Layton Jones on a drive that ended in a 22-yard field goal.
Later in the third quarter he hit Melvin Harris downfield for 39 yards to the 14, leading to a 1-yard touchdown run by Devin Thomas, the final score of the day, early in the fourth quarter.
Mackey finished 9 for 18 for 151 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Thomas led all rushers, carrying 17 times for 92 yards.
“Generally speaking we turned he ball over too many times, but I did think we moved the ball at times. Once we got in the huddle I thought Barry Brunetti had his best day as an Ole Miss Rebel. Mackey when given time was very effective but had less time and less chance to execute than Brunetti did,” Lee said.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600