OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss opened up the 2017 season and used strong performances from quarterback Shea Patterson and the Rebels’ electrifying receivers to run past South Alabama, 47-27.
With week one in the books, here are five thoughts on what we’ve seen so far:
If Ole Miss struggles to have an effective running game, they might want to consider using the backs more in the passing game. On the Rebels’ first scoring drive, Shea Patterson completed a pass to running back Jordan Wilkins for 18 yards. Then, Patterson completed an 11-yard reception to D’Vaughn Pennamon on the team’s second scoring drive. Using the backs in the passing game more frequently could take attention off of the talented receivers around Patterson.
On the ground, Pennamon was successful, gaining 34 yards on seven carries. Wilkins and Eric Swinney each rushed for 29 yards. The Ole Miss offense is already dangerous, and adding more weapons coming out of the backfield definitely wouldn’t hurt, either.
Keep Patterson healthy
Shea Patterson took some hits from South Alabama’s front seven but fortunately didn’t get hurt. Several times he deftly avoided a sack and scrambled outside of the pocket, extending the play with his feet as he looked for an open receiver. Ole Miss can’t afford to lose its starting quarterback, so Patterson may want to consider sliding a little more often when defenders come his way. Being the competitor he is, however, it’s hard to imagine that happening.
After the game Saturday, sophomore wide receiver A.J. Brown commented on his quarterback’s scrambling ability:
“I tell him sometimes you need to slide, sometimes stay in the pocket, but that’s just him being an athlete. You can’t teach that. If he wants to run around, let him run around.”
A.J. Brown on Shea Patterson
A.J. Brown and Laquon Treadwell
A.J. Brown leapt over Jaguar defenders in single and double coverage and found the end zone on two occasions Saturday night.
The way he plays may remind Ole Miss fans of Laquon Treadwell–and not just because they are both receivers with jersey number one.
Laquon Treadwell made things look easy, in part, due to his tremendous upper body strength. On Brown’s second touchdown reception Saturday, he simply took the football from his defender before running away for the 77-yard score.
Brown finished the night with 233 yards on eight receptions, breaking Eddie Small’s single-game record of 210 set against Vanderbilt in 1993.
The N.W.O lived up to their name in Week 1
The N.W.O—“Nasty Wide Outs”—as they call themselves, lived up to their name against the South Alabama Jaguars. Wide receivers coach Jacob Peeler is the creator of the moniker that captures the spirit of the talented receiving corps.
“We take N.W.O real serious. When you’re in our room, we’re going to hold you accountable. That’s just how it goes in that room.”
A.J. Brown on the “Nasty Wide Outs”
A.J. Brown had a record-breaking night, but he wasn’t the only Ole Miss receiver with a productive performance.
D.K. Metcalf notched 84 yards on eight receptions, and DaMarkus Lodge caught five passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns. During the game, the Rebels had a “championship belt” on the sideline that goes to the receiver who has the best performance, either in practice or a live game. One can imagine that belt will get passed around quite frequently this season with so many talented receivers on the roster.
Tighten up the middle
South Alabama running back Tra Minter ran for 83 yards on 12 carries against the Rebels, an average of 6.9 yards per carry, and the Jaguars tallied 170 yards in total rushing yards in the game. Ole Miss started the game with senior linebacker DeMarquis Gates and redshirt freshman Donta Evans, while Willie Hibbler and Brenden Williams also took some snaps.
Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff was pleased with the performances he saw Saturday, especially the enthusiasm and energy his players showed. At Monday’s press conference McGriff said of Donta Evans, “I thought he did a tremendous job of being poised, making the calls, and getting the defense set.”
McGriff also said the Rebels will work on not giving up as many yards after contact as they did Saturday. “We had way too many yards after contact. That’s one thing we’re certainly going to pay attention to this week.”
South Alabama junior quarterback Cole Garvin threw a lot of slant passes that seemed to catch the Rebels off guard a few times. He completed 19 of 31 for 204 yards and a touchdown. The good news, though, is it’s only week one and Coach McGriff and the Rebels have time to work out some of the kinks.
The greatest improvement in a team usually comes between week one and two, so look for some adjustments to be made. That being said, the defense had some nice goal-line stands, once holding South Alabama to a field goal after a long, 9:39 drive. That took some heart—something of which this team has plenty.