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Sunday, September 21, 2014

Stoudt should start for Rebels vs. SIU

COLUMN: If Zack Stoudt’s play on Saturday didn’t make it obvious he should be Ole Miss’ next starter at quarterback, then his post-game Q-and-A with reporters sure did.

The junior college transfer didn’t dodge questions regarding the fumble.

He looked reporters in the eyes, remained poised when others might trip over their words, and responded.

“Guy came through. Didn’t see him. Didn’t have two hands on the ball. Hit me and I lost it,” he said directly and to the point.

Maybe most importantly, Stoudt took a portion of the blame for the loss when he had the chance throw another team under the bus.

Asked if he thought his long-ball to freshman receiver Nikolas Brassell should have been hauled in for a touchdown, Stoudt said, “yeah, but it wasn’t. Then we fumbled it. There were probably 10 or 15 other things that happened that would have changed the outcome of the game, so he made a mistake, I made a mistake, everybody made mistakes.”

With his spring indiscretions behind him — Stoudt was suspended from the Grove Bowl for a violation of team rules related to academics — he has regained the trust of the coaching staff and vice versa.

Coming into the game towards the end of the second quarter, Stoudt immediately helped lead the Rebels down to BYU’s 3 before settling for a field goal.

Stoudt admitted that he was nervous when he first took the field.

After all, he had taken a rather unique road from Dublin, Ohio, to Oxford.

“My heart was pumping when I went out there for that first snap, ya know? From Louisville to community college out in the middle of nowhere to here in the SEC playing BYU,” he said. “It was definitely a reality check, but it was great. A dream come true.”

Once Stoudt got into the game, took a hit on his first pass attempt and completed his second — a 16-yard screen pass to running back Jeff Scott — he settled down.

“I think once you get that first completion you gain confidence,” he said. “You realize you’re here for a reason. They recruited you and think you’re good enough, so you get into a groove and you realize that you are good enough to hang with these guys. It’s just football at a different speed.”

The size of Ole Miss’ offensive line doesn’t hurt, either.

“We’ve got the biggest offensive line in America,” he said, “and we feel comfortable throwing to the guys we have running the routes.”

In between Stoudt’s 13 completions he also showed enough poise and smarts to throw the ball away when an open receiver was not present, like on his first drive of the game when on third-and-goal from the 3 he threw the ball out of the back of the end zone to allow Bryson Rose to kick his first field goal of the game.

Living to quarterback another drive. Smart.

Decision time
With Bolden’s season likely over and no obvious replacement in place, the coaching staff can’t drag its feet on making a decision.

It wasn’t fair to Nathan Stanley and Jeremiah Masoli last year and it wouldn’t be fair to lollygag on the decision this year.

If the Rebels want to utilize more option runs to try to make up for the loss of Bolden, then the decision comes down to Barry Brunetti or Randall Mackey.

But if the Rebels want to attempt to throw the ball more, then the best passer needs to be under center and that’s Stoudt. (September 5, 2011, Page 2B)

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