OXFORD, Miss. – The Ole Miss passing game was as spectacular as advertised in last Saturday’s win over South Alabama. Sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson threw for 429 yards and four touchdowns, and receiver A.J. Brown caught eight passes for a school-record 233 yards and two touchdowns.
On the ground, the Rebels gained 102 yards, led by 34 yards and one touchdown from D’Vaughn Pennamon. Jordan Wilkins finished with 29 yards on 8 carries, and Eric Swinney notched 29 on 6 carries, as Ole Miss averaged 3.5 yards per carry.
Truth be told, the Rebels didn’t really need to run against the Jaguars as they were gaining huge chunks through the air. Afterward, however, head coach Matt Luke said the ground game is a priority.
“When people play to defend our receivers, we have to be able to make our run game a weapon. So when people do try to cover us, we can really hurt them in the run game. That’ll be the goal moving forward.”
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke on Rebels’ run game
Catching the ball out of the backfield
In the first quarter of Ole Miss’ 47-27 win over the Jaguars, offensive coordinator Phil Longo had Wilkins and Pennamon became part of the passing game. On the Rebels’ first scoring drive, Shea Patterson completed an 18-yard pass to Wilkins.
Then the quarterback completed an 11-yard reception to Pennamon on the team’s second scoring drive. Wilkins would end up finishing the game with 24 yards on three receptions.
The offense, as a whole, finished with a total of 531 yards, and Longo mentioned this week his plan is to continue to implement passing plays for the running backs.
“Every week it’s hard for me to answer questions with regards to what we are going to do on Saturday until we see the defense,” the offensive coordinator said. “Some people want to take the run game away like they did on Saturday. That gave us an opportunity to make some throws.
“A couple of passes were to the backs, a couple of them were to our slots, a couple of them to our wide receivers. The ball going to the running back will be dictated by what they decide to take away Saturday. It’s in the plan to use backs in the passing game.”
Offensive coordinator Phil Longo
Scouting the UT-Martin defense
The Rebels’ next opponent, FCS school UT-Martin, limited Division II Clarion to 146 total yards and forced three turnovers (two fumbles, one interception) in its 36-0 shutout victory on opening night. Redshirt junior linebacker Kevin Prather Jr. led the team with 11 total tackles, including two solo tackles, and three tackles for a loss of seven yards. Prather, a Murfreesboro, Tennessee native, had a pair of pass breakups and quarterback hurries.
As a sophomore last season, Prather had 75 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, and 2.5 sacks.
“They are mobile,” Longo said about the Skyhawks’ defense. “Last year, they didn’t give up 400 yards of offense in the entire season for the exception of two games. So, 10 out of 12 games the offense totaled less than 400 yards, which isn’t easy to do in this day in age with what people are doing offensively.
“And in six of the games, the team didn’t even complete 50 percent of their passes, and so they are very efficient with what they do. They have some athletes that can run. We’re going to get a completely different look this week in their 30 front with what they do schematically.”
Ole Miss and UT-Martin kick off at 11:00 am (CT) in Oxford. The game will be televised by the SEC Network Alternate.
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)