LSU coach Les Miles saw enough of Jevan Snead last season to approach Saturday’s SEC trip to Vaught-Hemingway Stadium with raised eyebrows.
The season hasn’t been easy for the Ole Miss quarterback. His numbers aren’t approaching last year’s impressive finish, but last year he had Mike Wallace, who’s now catching NFLtouchdowns.
Miles remembers. Snead and Wallace burned LSU deep twice last season in a 31-13 Ole Miss win at Tiger Stadium.
This season Snead, missing the speed of Wallace, has thrown it to the other team far too often. Not coincidentally, the Rebels’ offense had been at best inconsistent this season until Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt made the electric Dexter McCluster the centerpiece of his game plan.
McCluster was again the weapon of choice Saturday, throwing the touchdown pass that Snead never did and also running for 148 yards.
Snead, just months ago an underclassman projected as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, has been in the background during the Rebels’ November rush.
And he seems to like it there.
“I don’t mind him throwing a touchdown. Any way we get the win is fine with me,” he said.
From the background Snead made big plays in the fourth quarter. He managed the game and led the Rebels down the field eating up so much clock that the frantic Tigers were left with only 1 second to try and kick a game-winning field goal, a second that vanished when the chains were set and the clock started.
After McCluster’s touchdown gave the Rebels a five-point lead, and the Ole Miss defense forced a three-and-out possession, Snead twice hit Shay Hodge for big third-down gains to move the chains. The drive stalled at the 5, and the Rebels settled for a short field goal, but the offense took 8:26 off the clock.
Snead finished 14-for-21 for 206 yards and, most importantly, no interceptions.
He entered the game with 14 on the season, tops in the SEC.
“The magnitude of this game … it was his best game,” offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Kent Austin said. “He made great throws, great decisions, and he didn’t turn the ball over. He’s gotten better the last few weeks.”
Indeed, Snead’s 14-pick total includes only one in the last three weeks, that one when a screen pass was thrown to low and snared by a Tennessee defensive end.
With growing confidence in his quarterback, Nutt more frequently attacked the middle of the field and came away with big gains.
It’s obvious the Rebels, now 7-0 in two Novembers under Nutt, have become the running team he favored at Arkansas.
The Tigers were giving up 126.9 on the ground, fourth in the SEC, but McCluster-led Ole Miss put up 193 on the ground.
It’s not the offense you think of when you think first-round draft pick under center.
What the future holds for Jevan Snead remains to be seen. His physical gifts could still have him in decent draft position if he chose to make the early jump. His stock could leap if he chooses to return.
For three games, however, Snead has backed his strong arm with good decisions.
The Rebels have positioned themselves for the Capital One Bowl, the SEC’s top non-BCS prize. They did it with a whole lot of McCluster, but they wouldn’t be in this position if November Snead and September Snead were the same quarterback.
Parrish Alford (firstname.lastname@example.org) covers Ole Miss for the Daily Journal. He blogs about the Rebels at NEMS360.com.
Parrish Alford/ NEMS Daily Journal