Three burning questions in SEC matchup between Rebels and No. 8 Aggies
Both the Ole Miss Rebels and Texas A&M Aggies are facing issues at certain positions heading into their matchup tonight. Here are three burning questions that offer insight into tonight’s game between the two historic programs.
Which team will have success at quarterback?
Last Saturday, tragedy struck both Ole Miss and Texas A&M on the gridiron. Rebels’ senior quarterback Chad Kelly suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament and torn lateral meniscus, which will sideline him for the rest of the season, effectively ending his career at Ole Miss. Thanks to Kelly’s three touchdowns, the Rebels (4-5, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) got past Georgia Southern, 37-27.
Texas A&M’s Trevor Knight suffered a right shoulder injury in the Aggies’ 35-28 loss at Mississippi State. Aggies’ head coach Kevin Sumlin said on Tuesday that the graduate transfer could return for the team’s bowl game if his recovery goes well.
Now, with that being said, will either program find success at the quarterback position in the final weeks of the regular season? Each team has reason to be optimistic.
A&M: When Knight went down, the Aggies (7-2, 4-2) had no confusion as to their starting quarterback. Junior quarterback Jake Hubenak, whose last start came in last season’s Music City Bowl when Kyler Murray and Kyle Allen transferred, now takes the reins for the Aggies. For his career in College Station, Hubenak has played in only seven games. His last performance this season came against the Bulldogs, as he completed 11 of 17 passes for 222 yards, two TDs and an interception after Knight went to the sideline.
Ole Miss: On Monday, Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze said that redshirt freshman Jason Pellerin would get most of the snaps with the first team in practice. In six games this season, Pellerin has completed 5 of 13 passes for 53 yards. He has also rushed for three touchdowns. As recently as Wednesday, however, Freeze was still evaluating the quarterback options for Ole Miss–including burning the redshirt of true freshman phenom Shea Patterson.
“It’ll be my decision; it’ll ultimately come down to me,” Freeze said. “I’ll talk to the kids and their families, of course, but it would be my decision.”
Friday afternoon, however, reports began streaming that Patterson’s redshirt will indeed come off–and that he will start against Texas A&M.
Ole Miss will remove the redshirt from QB Shea Patterson to replace the injured Chad Kelly and start Saturday vs. No. 8 Texas A&M. pic.twitter.com/XENt6ybQPE
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 11, 2016
Patterson’s appearance on the field for Ole Miss has been long-awaited. The 6-foot-2, 200-lb true freshman was a five-star recruit who was ranked the No. 1 QB of the 2016 class. He was named MVP of the U.S. Army All-American Bowl as well as MVP of the Elite 11 QB competition. He led IMG Academy (Bradenton, Fla.) to its first undefeated season in school history as a senior.
On Friday, Coach Freeze explained his thoughts to ESPN’s Chris Low:
“It was really not that hard of a decision. You’ve got to give the Evan Engrams and all those seniors the best chance to win.”
Hugh Freeze on starting Shea Patterson vs. Texas A&M
Can the Ole Miss revamped offensive line limit Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall?
The Rebels had to make some changes in the past few weeks on the offensive line following injuries to Sean Rawlings, Robert Conyers and Rod Taylor.
When Rawlings –the backup center who stepped in to replace the injured Conyers–was injured, Ole Miss moved left guard Javon Patterson to center. Freshman Alex Givens has been playing right tackle in Rawlings’ absence, while Greg Little continues at the left tackle spot. Daronte Bouldin has been at right guard.
We are hearing Rod Taylor will not be able to play when the Rebels take the field tonight and that Sean Rawlings is unlikely, as well. Conyers, ever the war-horse, will try and make a go of it if he is needed.
Most likely, Rebels will see Greg Little at left tackle, Daronte Bouldin at left guard, Javon Patterson at center, Jordan Sims at right guard and Alex Givens at right tackle tonight against A&M.
Can this offensive line limit the Aggies’ defensive ends Myles Garrett and Daeshon Hall? Both Garrett and Hall have recorded 9.5 tackles for losses this season. Garrett leads the team with four sacks, while Hall has recorded 3.5 sacks. As a defense, Texas A&M has a forced an SEC-leading 21 turnovers, which also ranks fifth in the nation.
Can the Rebels get to six wins?
Ole Miss is two wins away from reaching bowl eligibility for the fifth-consecutive year under Coach Freeze. But the Rebels will have to win two of their final three games to land a spot in a bowl game–and two of those final three games will be SEC road games. Thus far this season, Ole Miss has not fared so well in SEC road games, going 0-2 against Arkansas and LSU.
History in the Rebels’ favor: The last time Ole Miss was in a situation where it had to win one or two of its final three games was during the 2012-13 season. The Rebels were on a three-game losing streak heading into the Egg Bowl against Mississippi State, needing a victory to reach six wins. Ole Miss defeated the Bulldogs 41-24 to reach the BBVA Compass Bowl where the Rebels defeated Pittsburgh 38-17 to finish the year 7-6.
Injuries taking a toll
Ole Miss: In addition to the offensive line injuries mentioned above, the Rebels have been bitten hard by the injury bug this season.
Lockdown corner Ken Webster went down with a horrific injury in the first game of the season against Florida State. In that same game, running back Eric Swinney tore his ACL on his first and only carry of the game.
The following Saturday, Ole Miss lost star freshman wide receiver D.K. Metcalf for the season to a foot injury. Before Chad Kelly went down last Saturday against Georgia Southern in the third quarter, Rebels everywhere watched in horror as senior defensive end and Chucky Mullins Courage Award winner John Youngblood was carted off the field with season and career-ending injuries to his ankle and leg.
Before the season began, running back Jordan Wilkins was declared academically ineligible after an administrative snafu and junior safety C.J. Moore was lost to a pectoral injury early in fall practices. Leading tackler DeMarquis Gates has been hampered by a left knee injury that leaves his status questionable as well. Senior defensive end Fadol Brown, who had his best game last weekend with 14 tackles, has missed most of the season with a foot injury.
Texas A&M: Besides Knight’s season-ending injury, Sumlin announced junior reserve cornerback Noel Ellis (groin) and starting offensive guard Connor Lanfear (knee) will miss the remainder of the season. Myles Garrett has been struggling with a high-ankle sprain; however, the star defensive end has still wreaked plenty of havoc on opposing offenses.
- This is the ninth meeting all-time between Ole Miss and Texas A&M, dating back to 1911.
- The Aggies lead the series 6-2, but the Rebels have won back-to-back meetings.
- Ole Miss won its last trip to College Station, a 35-20 victory in 2014.
- The series is tied 2-2 since Texas A&M joined the SEC.
- With the game against the No. 10 Aggies, all six of the Rebels’ SEC opponents so far have been ranked at the time of the game.
- Ole Miss is 36-5 under Freeze when allowing less than 30 points, 2-18 when opponents score 30 or more.
- Ole Miss could start a freshman at QB for the first time since 1998 (David Morris).
- Senior TE Evan Engram leads all TEs in the nation with 5.9 catches/game and an SEC-best 86.1 receiving ypg.
- Ole Miss leads the SEC and ranks 15th nationally with 316.4 passing yards per game.
- Kicker Gary Wunderlich leads the SEC in FG % (94.1).
The Aggies and Rebels will kick off at 6:30 p.m. (CT) at Kyle Field in College Station. The game will be televised by the SEC Network.
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.