OXFORD, Miss. – Entering the 2017 season opener against the Ole Miss Rebels, South Alabama hoped for a second-straight upset over an SEC opponent after having defeated Mississippi State in last season’s opener.
The Jaguars, however, simply had no answer for Ole Miss’ passing game; they could do nothing to stop Shea Patterson and his army of monster receivers and the Rebels rolled to a 47-27 win.
Third quarter aerial extravaganza
After leading 13-10 at halftime, the Rebels pulled away from South Alabama, outscoring them 27-3 in the third quarter.
In that third period, Patterson hit A.J. Brown on a pair of long touchdown passes that gave Ole Miss (1-0) a 26-10 lead with 12:07 left in the third.
Just one play after the second-half kickoff, Patterson found Brown on a post pattern near midfield that turned into a 71-yard touchdown and a 19-10 Rebels’ lead at the 14:27 mark in the third.
The Ole Miss defense held South Alabama to six yards on three plays and the Jaguars were forced to punt—and Patterson and Brown again connected.
On third-and-11, Patterson evaded the South Alabama pressure and found Brown on a comeback route. No one was going to catch Brown as he outran the Jags’ secondary for a 77-yard touchdown that gave the Rebels a 26-10 lead.
Huge games for Patterson and Brown
Patterson completed 28 of 35 passes for 429 yards and four touchdowns and no interceptions, giving him a passer rating of 220.7 on the game.
As for Brown, he finished the game with 233 yards on eight receptions, setting the school-record for the most receiving yards in a game, breaking Eddie Small’s record of 210 yards set against Vanderbilt in 1993.
“He sparked us, he made a lot of big time plays, not only tough catches but breaking tackles,” head coach Matt Luke said of Brown, who was given the game ball in the team’s locker room. “He was very, very solid.”
Brown, in turn, gave the game ball back to Coach Luke for his first win as head coach of the Rebels.
After South Alabama kicked a field goal to pull within 26-13 in the third, Ole Miss’ Jaylon Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 97 yards for a Rebels’ touchdown, giving Ole Miss a 33-13 lead.
On the Rebels’ next series, Patterson and the offense went 64 yards in five plays, scoring on a 14-yard touchdown pass to DaMarkus Lodge, his second TD reception on the night, which gave Ole Miss a 40-13 lead.
Lodge finished with five receptions for 51 yards on the night.
The Rebels later added a 2-yard D’Vaughn Pennamon touchdown run in the fourth quarter—set up by a 44-yard pass from Patterson to Brown—to make it 47-13.
Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf also made his presence known in the game, notching eight receptions for 84 yards and averaging 10.5 yards per catch.
After the game, head coach Matt Luke reflected on his team’s performance.
“I think there are a lot of things we need to get cleaned up from game one to game two, but it’s always better to make those corrections after a win.“
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke
In the first quarter, Ole Miss did exactly what it was supposed to do against South Alabama on both sides of the football.
The defense got after South Alabama quarterback Cole Garvin, and the offense scored points in offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s up-tempo system.
The Rebels quickly scored 10 points before the Jaguars gained some confidence.
On Ole Miss’ third drive of the game, however, the Rebels fumbled the ball and it was recovered by South Alabama’s Zach Befort.
South Alabama had just three points on the scoreboard when Garvin connected with Jamarius Way for a 30-yard touchdown reception to the tie the game 10-all on a three-play drive. Unfortunately for the Jaguars, Shea Patterson and his offense were just getting started.
Emotional win for Coach Luke
After the game, Coach Luke talked about his emotions in his first game as head coach of the Rebels. He finished by giving credit to his players.
“Very emotional walking out on the field for the first time. I really appreciate Rebel Nation…These kids have been through a lot and the credit goes to them.”
Head coach Matt Luke
Coach Matt Luke talked about his emotions today and finished by saying: "These kids have been through a lot and the credit goes to them." pic.twitter.com/KPWNVvhHuW
— The Rebel Walk (@TheRebelWalk) September 3, 2017
- The Rebels improve to 91-27-5 in season openers, and have won 18 of the last 22.
- Ole Miss is 31-1-2 all-time against current members of the Sun Belt.
- Defensive lineman Benito Jones returned from injury and played in the season opener, finishing with two tackles.
- Running back D’Vaughn Pennamon scored the team’s lone rushing touchdown of the game off a two-yard run early in the final quarter.
- The Jaguars drop to 1-5 all-time against current members of the Southeastern Conference.
- After Gavin Patterson’s 20-yard made field goal at the 5:11 mark of the third quarter, South Alabama wouldn’t score again until the 8:42 mark of the fourth when Cole Garvin ran it in from 14-yards out. Garvin completed 19 of 31 passes for 204 yards.
Ole Miss hosts UT-Martin next Saturday, September 9. (11:00 a.m., SEC Network Alternate)
South Alabama hosts Oklahoma State next Saturday (7:00 p.m., ESPN2).
(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)