September 04, 2010
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Jacksonville State 49, Ole Miss 48. Technically, it's not a written rule until the third overtime, but when it comes down to one play to win, lose or extend a game, there's really no decision at all: Grab the game by the cajones and go for two to win. The answer is the same whether you're playing for the national championship, or for the biggest win in school history, or for the Humanitarian Bowl.
For tiny Jacksonville (Ala.) State, having already mounted a stunning 21-point fourth-quarter rally – including a touchdown and two-point conversion with less than a minute left in regulation – to force overtime against heavily, heavily favored Ole Miss today in Oxford, there was no question what was coming after the Gamecocks converted a 4th-and-15 prayer into the back of the end zone to pull within 48-47 in the second frame. It was only whether the gamble would pay:
The winning throws were completed by a 6-foot, 180-pound true freshman, Coty Blanchard, coming off the bench in hostile territory in his first college game. With three touchdowns and a ridiculous 219.5 efficiency rating, Blanchard was one of the two quarterbacks in the game who overshadowed the prevailing headliner coming in, Oregon transfer Jeremiah Masoli, who may wish that the last-second clearance to play from the NCAA had come 24 hours later after throwing the game's only interception, leading to the first of the three Gamecock touchdowns in the final 15 minutes. Masoli's competition for the Ole Miss job, Nathan Stanley, had three touchdown passes to put the Rebels up 31-10 at the half, but only saw three series (none resulting in points) over the last two quarters and overtime. That may be one reason drunk Ole Miss fans want to fire Houston Nutt tonight. But it's not the only one.
In Nutt's defense (if you can ever defend losing to a I-AA/FCS patsy meant specifically to serve as an easy "preseason" win), at least he's not the only coach dealing with the ignominy: Turner Gill dropped his Kansas debut to I-AA/FCS patsy North Dakota State, 6-3, without even getting into the end zone. I'm sure if Nutt leads his press conference with that on Monday, the faithful will come around.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.