Ole Miss uses big plays to beat Fresno St. 38-28
Once again, it was the inability to stop the big play that cost Fresno State the chance at a big win.
Jeff Scott ran for 138 yards and two second-half touchdowns and new starting quarterback Randall Mackey sparked Mississippi's dormant offense in a 38-28 victory against the Bulldogs on Saturday night.
With Mackey scrambling to keep plays alive and Scott beating Fresno State with his speed, Ole Miss gained 307 of its 430 yards on just eight plays that proved to be the difference.
''You can't give up the big play,'' coach Pat Hill said. ''In the end, Mississippi made the plays in the fourth quarter just like Nebraska did to us.''
Three weeks ago, the Bulldogs (2-3) blew a chance to upset Nebraska when they allowed a 100-yard kickoff return and a 46-yard touchdown run immediately after scoring to make it close.
This time it was Scott's 69-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and big plays in the fourth by Mackey that proved to be the difference 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, 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,'' 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.
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 running back Brandon Bolden running for two TDs as he was healthy for the first time since the opener and 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.''
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.
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.
The teams traded touchdowns on the opening three drives of the second half with Rouse scoring on a 12-yard run for the Bulldogs and Carr on a 1-yard keeper around Scott's 69-yard scamper for a touchdown. That put Fresno State on top 28-27 heading into the fourth quarter.
Mackey started slowly with his first three passes falling incomplete and the Rebels going three-and-out on their opening two drives. Ole Miss trailed 7-0 on Carr's 2-yard TD pass to Rashad Evans before Mackey and the Ole Miss offense got going.
It started with a 46-yard pass to Ja-Mes Logan that was followed immediately by Bolden's 21-yard touchdown run. Mackey completed two deep balls on the following drive, a 40-yarder to Nickolas Brassell and a 22-yard TD pass to Melvin Harris that made it 13-7 when the extra point was blocked.
Jalen Saunders 26-yard run on an end around put the Bulldogs up 14-13 in the closing seconds of the first quarter but mistakes in the second quarter doomed Fresno State and Ole Miss led 20-14 at the half.
Rouse lost the first fumble of his career on his 401st carry to set up Bolden's second TD run.
''I've got to see it on video, but I got caught up and he got me,'' Rouse said. ''That will definitely be the first clip I see tomorrow.''
Carr threw an interception on a deflected ball and Kevin Goessling missed field goals from 32 and 57 yards out. Goessling later missed a 46-yarder in the closing minute of the game.