After a tightly contested first half of football at Vaught Hemingway Stadium, Ole Miss used an explosive third quarter to pull away from the South Alabama Jaguars. The final score of 47-27 gave Ole Miss a win in their season opener and gave Matt Luke a win in his head coaching debut.
Ole Miss struck first by way of a 5-yard Damarkus Lodge TD from Shea Patterson capping a 9-play drive early in the first quarter. The game’s only turnover happened in the second quarter when Jordan Wilkins lost a fumble leading to a South Alabama score.
The second half began with the Rebels leading 13-10, but after a Gary Wunderlich field goal stretched the lead to 16-10, A.J. Brown put Ole Miss in the driver’s seat. QB Shea Patterson hit Brown on a pair of 70+ TDs on back to back drives to give Ole Miss a 26-10 lead. With 233 yards on 8 catches, Brown would go on to break the Ole Miss single game receiving record which was previously held by Eddie Small (210 yards in 1993). Patterson and Brown were at their best when the play broke down, and Brown talked about their chemistry after the game as he carried his game ball into the meeting room.
“Whenever my number got called, I just tried to make a play,” Brown said after the game. “We work on the scramble drill because he is going to run around. He likes to run so it was just a drill we work on.”
The Jaguars continued to claw their way down the field and answered Brown’s second TD with a long drive of their own. The drive stalled and South Alabama settled for a field goal to cut the Rebel lead to 13. On the ensuing kickoff, Jaylon Jones took it 97 yards for another Rebel score, giving the momentum right back to the Rebels.
The Rebels 3rd quarter wasn’t done yet, as Lodge hauled in his second TD of the game to give the Rebels a 40-13 lead.
Ole Miss’ ground attack wasn’t quite as explosive as the air raid, finishing with only 102 total rushing yards. D’Vaugnn Pennamon scored the first TD of the fourth quarter on a short 2-yard carry, and he was the Rebels’ leading rusher with just 34 yards. Jordan Wilkins finished with 29 yards and the aforementioned fumble in his first game back since missing the 2016 season.
After an up and down first quarter, Shea Patterson settled down as the game progressed and ended up turning in a prolific performance. Patterson finished 28-35 with 429 yards and four TDs. Seven receivers caught a pass before all was said and done on Saturday night. D.K. Metcalf caught 8 passes for 84 yards in his first game back after suffering a foot injury in 2016. Patterson threw a few risky balls, but was bailed out by his wide-outs, Brown’s second TD could’ve easily been an INT. After a solid start to the season, Patterson is eager to see what this offense can accomplish.
His style of play brings a level of unpredictability to the Rebel offense, and Luke talked about how that makes him unique moving forward.
“You do worry about him, but that’s what makes him special,” Luke said. “I don’t think you can take that away from him. As he gets more experienced, he’ll learn when he can and can’t do those things. You don’t want to harness that because that’s his playmaking ability.”
Matt Luke commented on the play of his wide receivers, Patterson’s performance and his emotions throughout the day in his post-game press conference.
The Rebel defense played well and kept the Jaguars out of the end zone despite a couple of long sustained drives, including a 19-play drive in the second quarter. Wesley McGriff’s defense held their own in the red zone, and forced the Jaguars to settle for field goals which kept the momentum with the Rebels. The Jaguars finished with 374 total yards, but the yards after contact concerned McGriff, and he mentioned that will be a focus moving forward.
“There was just too much-leaking yardage,” McGriff said. “The first guy would get there, and there were too many yards after contact. We will pay attention to that. I do like the way we populated the football and how we played as one.”
After all of the talk during the offseason, Ole Miss football is finally back between the lines and sitting at 1-0 with another home game set for next weekend. UT Martin comes to Oxford next Saturday with kickoff set for 11 a.m.
Steven Gagliano is the managing editor of HottyToddy.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.HERE!