October 1, 2011 12:26:00 AM
University of Mississippi football coach Houston Nutt wants his players to look closely at last year's game against Fresno State to see what the Rebels are capable of offensively when everything is clicking.
Fresno State coach Pat Hill is using video from that same game to make sure his players don't make the same defensive mistakes that doomed them in Mississippi.
Ole Miss ran all over Fresno State last year at home, rushing for 425 yards in a 55-38 victory. With running backs Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis slowed by injuries early this season, Ole Miss (1-3) has rushed for 367 yards this season with nearly half coming in their only win -- against Football Championship Subdivision Southern Illinois.
"We are doing our best to give them the best plan that they can execute," Nutt said. "Now we want them to put everything they have into it. Last year's Fresno game -- that's the same group of offensive linemen that had 500-something yards so, come on, you're the same guys. I know Enrique and Brandon aren't full speed and haven't been themselves, but we've got enough backs, if we execute, not to stop ourselves. That's the main thing."
That game still haunts the Bulldogs (2-2), who gave up four runs of at least 50 yards to blow a chance to beat a team from the Southeastern Conference for the first time in school history. They will get a shot to do it again at 8:15 tonight (ESPN2).
"For us to be successful against Mississippi, we'll have to limit the big plays," Hill said. "Last year, we played very sound against them except for about seven plays, which were huge gainers. They run a lot of trick plays and plays of that nature. They've got some very good athletes so we'll have to limit the big-play possibility and we'll have to stop the run."
Teams have had little trouble stopping Ole Miss so far this season. The Rebels have lost to BYU, Vanderbilt and Georgia.
Ole Miss ranks 118th out of 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in total offense and has scored just two offensive touchdowns in three games against FBS teams.
While the injuries at running back have hurt, the Rebels have had a big problem replacing Jeremiah Masoli at quarterback. First-year starter Zach Stoudt is completing just 50.5 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and six interceptions so far this season and is not the running threat Masoli was last year.
"The biggest thing for us to do is play as hard as we did last year," Stoudt said. "I saw the tape. We need to get our confidence back and show that we can beat teams."
Fresno State has had no problems with its first-year starter at quarterback in Derek Carr, who is coming off a 371-yard, five touchdown performance last week against Idaho.
After being sacked six times and struggling in his first game against California, Carr is completing 57.9 percent of his passes for 860 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions the past three games, including a strong performance at Nebraska.
"It blew me away how he played in Nebraska," defensive lineman Logan Harrell said. "That was huge for him, especially coming off the Cal game. The Nebraska game was just the spark we needed to get rolling. He's doing a great job handling what's been thrown at him. He's been getting better every game. Playing against an SEC team will show what potential he has as a quarterback."
This game is a big opportunity for the Bulldogs, who have never before hosted a team from the powerful SEC. While Fresno State has beaten teams from the Pac-12, Big Ten, Big 12 and Big East at home during Hill's tenure, this is their first shot at toppling a team from the conference that has produced the last five national champions.
"We've also had to pay our dues by playing a lot of road games to get these games," Hill said. "We've paid unbelievable dues to get these games. Now we're starting to get some return games coming back to Fresno. It's great to have them coming to town and it's a chance for our people to see what Southeastern Conference football players and teams look like from a size and speed standpoint."