FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A change at quarterback proved to be just what Ole Miss needed to spark its dormant offense.
Randall Mackey delivered the big plays all night on offense and Jeff Scott ran for 138 yards and two second-half touchdowns to lead the Rebels to a 38-28 victory against Fresno State on Saturday night.
“Coach was saying all we needed was a leader on offense,” Mackey said. “That’s what I wanted to do, be the leader on offense, keep the ball moving, get first downs and put points on the board.”
Brandon Bolden added two touchdown runs for the Rebels (2-3), who capped their first trip ever to California by earning their first win of the season against an FBS-level team.
Robbie Rouse ran for 123 yards and a touchdown and Derek Carr threw for 281 yards and a score for the Bulldogs (2-3), who were unable to get their first win ever against a Southeastern Conference team.
“It took their best game of the year to beat us. I promise you that,” Fresno State coach Pat Hill said. “They made some big plays when they had to win the game.”
The Rebels had lost all three games against FBS competition, scoring just two offensive touchdowns against BYU, Vanderbilt and Georgia and averaging 236.5 yards per game overall.
Rebs have balance
That led coach Houston Nutt to make a second change of the season at quarterback, starting Mackey in place of the struggling Zack Stoudt. Stoudt replaced Barry Brunetti in the opener against BYU and started the past three games, but was replaced after completing just 50.5 percent of his passes with six interceptions and two touchdowns.
With Bolden healthy for the first time since the opener an Mackey at quarterback, the Rebels had a balanced offensive attack with 216 yards rushing and 214 passing.
“This is how you anticipated it the first of the year, an offense much more together,” Nutt said. “It seems like we’ve been just trying to find the right chemistry, didn’t have a running game, didn’t have a passing game, just didn’t look like much of anything the first few weeks. I hope we can really build on this.”
Mackey, who was suspended for the season opener after getting into a bar fight, completed just 8 of 18 passes for 214 yards. But he was able to deliver some big plays in the passing game, including one TD, and did a good job prolonging plays with his scrambling ability.
“I was real comfortable,” Mackey said. “You can’t be nervous out there because you have 10 other people counting on you. You don’t have time to be nervous. The only thing I had to do was go out there and get into the rhythm of the game.”
Coming up big
Mackey came up big on the 88-yard game-winning drive, completing a 24-yard pass to Scott to get the Rebels moving and adding two more completions and a 9-yard scramble as Ole Miss drove to the Fresno State 12. Then on third-and-9, Scott dashed around the end and tiptoed down the sideline for the score that made it 33-28.
“We got a play that’s a sucker,” offensive coordinator David Lee said. “The whole line blocks to the right and we run a sweep to the left. They bit and it worked. If it didn’t we would kick a field goal to get ahead by two.”
After a false start, Mackey completed a 2-point conversion pass to Donte Moncrief to make it a seven-point game with 8:49 remaining. Mackey and Moncrief combined on a 57-yard pass play later in the fourth quarter to set up a short field goal by Bryson Rose that made it 38-28 with 3:42 remaining. (October 3, 2011, Page 1B)