Masoli might cause fits for ‘Dogs

Associated Press File

For the third game in a row, the Fresno State football team will have to prepare for a mobile quarterback.

This week, Ole Miss’ Jeremiah Masoli will get his turn to test a Bulldogs’ defense that has proven capable of stopping a dual-threat quarterback.

“In our first two games against those type of players you’ve got to give our defensive players credit, they’ve done a good job,” head coach Pat Hill said. “We’re holding these teams way below what their averages are.”

After limiting both Cincinnati’s Zach Collaros and Utah State’s Diondre Borel to less than 200 yards of total offense, the task of containing the 5-foot-11, 220 pound Masoli seems like an attainable goal for linebacker Ben Jacobs and the defense.

But Masoli’s aggressive style of play might cause multiple matchup problems for the ‘Dogs that the prior two quarterbacks did not.

“He’s a physical runner, more physical runner than Borel, he’ll run you over if you’re in the way,” Hill said of Masoli. “This guy is built like a running back.”

Before ending up at Ole Miss, Masoli was the signal caller in charge of directing Oregon’s explosive spread offense attack for two years.

In his first full-year as the starter last season, Masoli guided the Ducks to a Pac-10 Championship and it’s first Rose Bowl berth in 15 years, passing for 2,147 yards and 15 touchdowns. Masoli was at his best when running the ball, rushing for 668 yards on 121 carries and 13 touchdowns from the quarterback position.

As a sophomore, Masoli was thrown into the fire after the quarterbacks in front of him suffered multiple injuries. Masoli would go on to start 10 games in 2008, passing for 1,744 yards and 13 touchdowns. He also added 718 yards rushing and 10 touchdowns on the ground. Masoli’s longest run went for 66 yards.

“Once he gets an edge he takes off,” Hill said. “He’ll pull that ball down and run a lot faster than Borel will.”

Masoli might not make the same kind of impact like he did with Oregon considering Masoli’s only been directing the Rebels’ offense for a little over a month. Masoli and the Ole Miss offense is still trying to adjust on the fly.

“They’re sort of still in a little bit of a transition,” Hill said. “That’s a hard deal to just plug him in there right away. I think the offense is growing with him. He’s got some weapons on the perimeter. They’ve got running backs that can hit it. They’ve got a huge offensive line.”

Masoli has started two games for the Rebels this year while also seeing action in the disappointing season opening loss to Football Championship Subdivision Jacksonville State.

In three games Masoli has passed for a less-than-impressive 580 yards and a touchdown with four interceptions, but he has been his dynamic self, carrying the ball, rushing for 160 yards and two touchdowns. Masoli is coming off a season-high 104 yard rushing effort against Vanderbilt.

Masoli will try to expose a defensive unit that has yet to give up 100 yards rushing to a single player this year when the Rebels host the ‘Dogs on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in Oxford, Miss.

Getting to know the Rebels…

2010 Record: 1-2

The story so far: After falling to Jacksonville State 49-48 in the season opener, the Rebels have since gone 1-1. With coach Houston Nutt handing the keys over to Jeremiah Masoli, the Rebels are much more dangerous on the offensive side of the ball.

Offensive impact player: With the loss of versatile running back Dexter McCluster to the NFL, Brandon Bolden has filled in the role vacated by the All-SEC player. As the Rebels’ featured player on offense, Bolden has rushed for 182 yards and two touchdowns with 92 yards receiving. Bolden ran for over 600 yards last season as a reserve.

Defensive impact player: Middle linebacker Jonathan Cornell leads the team with 27 tackles, three sacks and two pass breakups after finishing third on the team in tackles in 2009. Cornell leads a Rebels’ defense that has shown improvement in the past two games after giving up 49 points to a lower-tier team in the season opener.

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