An early kickoff was accompanied by a sluggish start for Ole Miss, but it persevered to a 45-23 win over UT Martin to improve to 2-0 on the season.
“I wasn’t very happy with our energy in the first half,” Matt Luke said. “Overall, I just thought we played a little sloppy today. We have to go back and look at it and improve.”
Luke pointed towards the energy of the team as the reason for the slow start as opposed to execution. UT Martin moved the ball up-and-down the field early on.
“We just didn’t have that energy or that thump on the first drive,” defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said.
The Rebels finished the game in a much more appealing fashion than they started. UT Martin jumped out to a 9-0 lead early on behind a rushing attack that tallied 67 yards in the opening quarter. Ole Miss was stopped on its opening drive, but the offense quickly gelled after that. Shea Patterson found A.J. Brown for a 58-yard touchdown pass. UT Martin answered that with a score of their own to go up 16-7.
Ole Miss proceeded to score 31 consecutive points after that highlighted by a 21-point third quarter in which the offense scored on every drive. Patterson found Brown on a two-yard touchdown pass for a second time just before half time to give the Rebels a 17-16 lead.
For a second consecutive week, the Rebels hit the ground running in the second half. Jordan Wilkins completed a nine play, 80 yard drive with a one yard touchdown rush on the first drive of the second half.
Patterson followed that up by throwing touchdown passes to Wilkins and Damarkus Lodge on the next two drives. Ole Miss has outscored its opponents 48-3 in the third quarter this season.
“We just talk about execution,” Luke said. “We are not changing anything. The magic is not in the scheme. The magic is in the effort. That’s what I keep telling these guys. We have to go back and do the little things right if we want to win tough games on the road.”
Both Brown and Lodge had touchdown catches on the day and both surpassed the 100-yard mark by the third quarter. Brown caught eight balls for 156 yards while Lodge had 6 receptions for a career high 133 yards.
Ole Miss continued to show how dynamic it can be in the passing game. Patterson threw for 489 yards and five scores. He broke the school record for passing yards in a single game, completed 74.4 percent of his throws and threw passes to nine different receivers. Four different receivers caught touchdown passes.
“I didn’t even know I broke the record,” Patterson said. “That is the cool thing about this offense is there is so much freedom and space and the tempo is always rolling. It was pretty cool.”
“He hit a lot of seconds looks today,” offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. “That takes some patience and some discipline. It is just some things we worked on. I can think of five specific plays he really had to be an intelligent quarterback on the field and he nailed all five of them.”
The defense shored up its first half struggles against the run and forced two straight three-and-outs to begin the second half. It allowed Ole Miss to distance itself on the scoreboard as the offense overwhelmed the Skyhawk secondary through the air.
UT Martin tallied 334 yards of total offense, 219 of that came by way of the ground. Ole Miss populated the football well in terms of getting multiple guys to the ball, but tackling was an issue. DeMarquis Gates led the team in tackles with nine. He stood out above everyone else on the defensive side of the ball.
“They did a tremendous job of running the ball,” defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said. “We have to continue to shore up our run defense and our tackling. You can’t ignore that. We did not tackle well and I am not satisfied at all.”
It wasn’t Ole Miss’ cleanest performance by any stretch, but it overcame an early kickoff and comfortably handled an inferior opponent. Luke has said more than once that it is better to learn from your mistakes in a win than a loss, and that is precisely what the Rebels will do as they head to California next week 2-0.
Courtesy of Ole Miss SportsHERE!