OXFORD, Miss. – As they did in last week’s season opener, Ole Miss used a strong second half to pull away from its opponent.
Behind a 21-0 third quarter, the Rebels (2-0) outmuscled the UT-Martin Skyhawks en route to a 45-23 victory Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Senior running back Jordan Wilkins was responsible for two of the three touchdowns in the third quarter, with the first one coming off a 1-yard run and the other a 16-yard reception from Shea Patterson, who set a school record for most passing yards in a game.
Patterson completed 32 of 43 passes for 489 yards, breaking Chad Kelly’s record of 465 yards last season against Auburn. Patterson threw for five touchdowns Saturday.
Last week, the Rebels outscored South Alabama 26-3 after leading by just three at halftime (13-10).
“We got off to a slow start, wasn’t happy with our energy in the first half,” head coach Matt Luke said after the game. “Third quarter was better. We put three touchdown drives together and played better on defense.
“Overall, I just thought we played a little bit sloppy today. Just got to go back, go to look at it, and we got to improve.”
UT-Martin running back Ladarius Galloway rushed for 188 yards on 24 carries and a touchdown, with the TD coming in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
“They did a tremendous job of running the football,” defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said. “We have to continue to shore-up our run defense and our tackling. I mean you can’t ignore that. We didn’t tackle well, and I’m not satisfied at all.”
Rebels overcome slow start
UT-Martin scored on its first two possessions of the game. Senior quarterback Troy Cook ran in from two yards out for the game’s first touchdown. Then Ryan Courtright, who missed the extra point after Cook’s TD run, nailed a 23-yard field goal to make it 9-0.
The Skyhawks’ Tae Martin picked off Patterson and returned it 23 yards to the Ole Miss 47 to give his team solid field position.
Patterson shook off the INT and later connected with A.J. Brown on the Rebels’ next possession for a 58-yard touchdown that made it 9-7.
The Skyhawks answered with Marque Grayson’s 2-yard scoring run. Though the Rebels had trailed UT-Martin for much of the first half, Gary Wunderlich’s 21-yard field goal and Patterson’s second touchdown pass to Brown gave Ole Miss a 17-16 lead going into halftime.
“We have a fantastic staff, and I thought they did a great job of making some halftime adjustments. And identifying some weaknesses in the defense, we were able to exploit them in the second half.”
Ole Miss offensive coordinator Phil Longo
Patterson’s five TDs were to:
- A.J. Brown (2),
- DaMarkus Lodge
- D.K. Metcalf
- Jordan Wilkins
Brown finished with 156 yards on eight receptions. Lodge’s 133 yards and six catches were both career-highs for him.
Junior cornerback Javien Hamilton caught his first interception of the season late in the fourth quarter.
Troy Cook passed for 192 yards last week against Division II Clarion. Against Ole Miss, Cook completed just 9 of 15 passes for 92 yards.
Ole Miss travels to California Saturday (9:30 p.m. CT, ESPN).
UT-Martin plays at Chattanooga next Saturday.
(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)