By Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – If the summertime move of Jeremiah Masoli from Oregon to Mississippi seemed swift, his acclimation to new surroundings has seemed even faster.
After two games the SEC’s most-documented newcomer is the league’s No. 5 quarterback in its pass efficiency ratings while having thrown only one touchdown pass.
Masoli is completing 70 percent of his attempts, well ahead of his 57.5 percent success rate for two seasons as the Ducks starter.
He will make his second start for Ole Miss at 11:21 a.m., today when the Rebels take on Vanderbilt in the SEC Network game.
“He seems to know the offense really well in a short period of time,” Vanderbilt coach Robbie Caldwell said. “That’s very impressive, and it’s hard to do, coming into a new system. He’s pretty smart, he’s in graduate school, and obviously he’s running the club really well.”
Masoli’s bad plays have been very few. A third-quarter interception against Jacksonville State helped the Gamecocks begin a touchdown drive and set them on their way in their comeback.
In the second overtime of the same game, he had a 7-yard loss on the first play, but overcame that and got the Rebels into the end zone.
At Tulane, he had a backwards pass skid out of bounds for lost yardage and a pass bounce off an intended receiver for an interception.
The good has far outweighed the bad in the early going. Masoli has completed 21 of 30 passes for 390 yards and a 70-yard score to Markeith Summers.
On the ground, he hasn’t been sacked, and he’s kept chains moving. He’s carried 14 times for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Receivers have adjusted, going from a pure pocket passer last year in Jevan Snead to a guy who does some of his best work outside the pocket.
“Guys have definitely picked it up, but that’s not a surprise,” he said. “They knew I could run, obviously, but being out there on the field and doing it is another thing.”
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt has described Masoli as a model citizen since his arrival in Oxford just prior to the start of practice in August.
Masoli’s new environment became necessary when he was dismissed at Oregon following two run-ins with law enforcement. He spent time in a juvenile detention center before ever arriving a Oregon.
“I don’t know if he’s looking at this as redemption or not,” Nutt said. “I’ve just talked to him about being the best person he can be. He knew this was his last opportunity to play college football, and I think he appreciates the opportunity.”
Masoli says he’s “pumped” about playing in his first SEC game. He hopes to see his fast start continue with a second win for Ole Miss.
“Coach Nutt told me I would fit in great with these guys, and I was like, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’ll fit in anywhere,’” Masoli said. “But here, it’s just happened so fast with these guys. It’s been great.”
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturday’s game at a glance
– Where: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford
– Kickoff: 11:21 a.m..
– Television: SEC Network (WCBI)
– Radio: Ole Miss Network, XM 200; Sirius 219.
– Records: Ole Miss 1-1, Vander 0-2
– Series: Ole Miss leads 41-28.
– Coaches: Vanderbilt – Robbie Caldwell 0-2 second season overall and at Vanderbilt. Ole Miss – Houston Nutt 130-79 18th season; 19-9 third season at Ole Miss.
– Statistical Leaders: Vanderbilt – RB Warren Norman, 18 carries, 114 yards, 1 TD; QB Larry Smith, 27 for 48, 310 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT; WR Brandon Barden, 9 catches, 101 yards, 1 TD; LB Chris Marve 18, DB Sean Richardson 18. Ole Miss – RB Brandon Bolden 24 carries, 136 yards, 2 TD; Jeremiah Masoli, 21 for 30, 390 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT; WR Markeith Summers 7 catches, 197 yards, 2 TD; LB Jonathan Cornell, 18 tackles, 4 tackles for loss, 3 sacks.
– Trends: Ole Miss won 11 of 12 from 1993-2004, but Vanderbilt had won three of the last four before Ole Miss won 23-7 in Nashville last year.
– Notes: Ole Miss is starting SEC play against Vanderbilt for the sixth time in eight seasons. … The Rebels are beginning SEC play at home for only the third time in 10 years. … Four true freshmen hae played in the Rebels’ first two games – RB Jeff Scott, FB Martez Eastland, LB Clarence Jackson and S Brishen Matthews. … LT Bradley Sowell is the Rebels’ most experienced offensive lineman with 14 career starts. … Ole Miss today will have its third starter in three games at right guard. … Ole Miss has been called for only eight penalties this season, second-fewest in the SEC.
– Summing it up: “I want our defense to play their best game this week. The way to do that is to get lined up right every snap, be sound tacklers, use eyes correctly in the secondary and play the ball right. We’ve let people stay on the field too long in the third quarter.” – Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt
– Prediction: Ole Miss 26, Vanderbilt 14
Read more about today’s game in GameDay in today’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.