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November 13, 2010KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- Jeremiah Masoli's availability for the game against Tennessee was the main topic all week during Ole Miss' practices.
Considering how Saturday ended, it may have been a moot point.
The transfer quarterback had his worst game as a Rebel today, throwing three interceptions, two of which went for Tennessee touchdowns, as the Volunteers won their second-straight game with a 52-14 dismantling of Ole Miss.
"(Masoli) didn't set his feet and didn't do a lot of the things that he normally does," Houston Nutt said. "He'll be the first to tell you it was a bad day for him."
Masoli completed just 7-18 passes for 80 yards and had critical mistakes that crippled what was already the tallest of tasks. He was pulled in the third quarter, and back-up Nathan Stanley went 3-of-6 for 19 yards.
Ole Miss trainer Tim Mullins officially cleared Masoli Friday, but the senior thought he would play all along. He took fewer snaps in practice than normal, but Masoli didn't use the lack of repetitions as an excuse.
"I felt good during pregame and during the week," Masoli said. "I just didn't get it done. That's the bottom line. It was on me, my mistakes."
Down 14-0 late in the first quarter, Masoli attempted a pass in the direction of Jeff Scott in the flat, but Eric Gordon read the play the entire time and stepped in front of Scott. Gordon took it 46 yards for the score and a 21-0 advantage.
On Ole Miss' first drive of the second half, Masoli lobbed a pass over Brandon Bolden's head near his own goal line, and Prentiss Waggner grabbed the gift pick and walked in from 10 yards out. The final interception was lofted in the air after the outcome was more than decided.
"I really thought Jeff Scott was open but obviously he wasn't," Masoli said. "And then I had (Bolden), but I put too much air under it I just didn't have it, that's for sure, and there's nobody to blame."
FIRST UT PLAY SET TONE: Ole Miss missed an opportunity, and Tennessee - literally - caught a break on the Volunteers' first play from scrimmage.
Quarterback Tyler Bray threw a ill-advised pass into solid coverage, and Ole Miss middle linebacker Jonathan Cornell got his hands on the ball. However, the ball didn't stick. Instead of floated in the air and right into the hands of UT receiver Justin Hunter, who was running full stride and didn't stop until he reached the end zone.
Considering the final score, it was only one play out of a myriad of Ole Miss miscues, but Nutt thought the game turned that suddenly.
"Boy we're in good position, tip a ball up, thought we'd intercept it, but the way things went was absolutely perfect for them," Nutt said. "We really helped them, and that was the typical play. They took it 80 yards.
Defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix knew the play shook his team, but in his mind, as Hunter was running down the field, the unfortunate tip wasn't going to end Ole Miss' chances.
"This can't beat us," Nix said. "This won't beat us, it's a fluke play. We've seen it before, and we'll play the remainder of the game. You can't draw that play up and expect it to work, but it did today.
"It hit a linebacker in the hands. He made a great drop, but he didn't finish the play. We feel like we put them in good position. The rest is left up to the kids."
Nutt thought the play's outcome changed everything.
"I think so because if we're 7-0 it's a different game," Nutt said. "But very few times do we play ahead."
Nix said chances to get breaks are dwindling quickly.
"You say sooner or later. Hell, it's later now. Two opportunities left."
BOLDEN A LONELY BRIGHT SPOT: While the final score and the Rebels' 4-6 record are certainly the main storylines, Bolden has a quality day and continues his assault on Ole Miss' record book.
With his two touchdowns today, Bolden has moved into fifth in school history for career rushing touchdowns with 20. The junior has 11 this season and is just two scores away from second place all-time.
"The offensive line has been good with hat on a hat," Bolden said. "We just couldn't get in a situation to do that. We didn't get it done."
However, first place is a long way away - Deuce McAllister with 46 touchdowns on the ground.
Bolden rushed for 113 yards on 12 carries against Tennessee and scored on runs of 17 yards and two yards, respectively.
"I was proud of the things our OL was doing. I thought they fought hard," Nutt said. "We just can't give out that many gifts."
INJURIES CONTINUE TO MOUND: Ole Miss defensive tackle Lawon Scott left the field on a cart during the second half with an apparent serious leg injury.
The senior tangled his leg up on the play, and after several minutes, officials called for the vehicle. Nutt wasn't definitive about Scott's injury after the game, but it appears to be bad.
"It doesn't look good at all," Nutt said. "I haven't been told, but it's not good at all."
"Never good when one of those things has to come out," Nix said.
Also, freshman cornerback Charles Sawyer injured his knee and didn't return. His status was also unclear during postgame.
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