Ole Miss and Arkansas experiencing changes at quarterback
Ole Miss and Arkansas have one thing in common heading into Saturday’s SEC contest: changes at the quarterback position.
After the Rebels’ sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson went down with a torn posterior cruciate ligament injury in last Saturday’s 40-24 loss to then-No. 24 LSU, head coach Matt Luke turned to backup quarterback Jordan Ta’amu.
Ta’amu, a junior college transfer, rushed for 20 yards on three carries and completed 7 of 11 passes for 78 yards against the Tigers.
After Patterson’s season-ending injury was confirmed the following day, Luke voiced confidence in Ta’amu’s ability to run the offense.
“I was pleased. He was in there for two drives. He led us on a field goal drive right before the half and then a touchdown drive at the end of the game,” Luke said at Monday’s press conference.
“I was pleased with his timing. He pulled the ball down and got positive yards and I think that’s one of his strengths. He can really run and he’s a very good athlete.“
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke on Jordan Ta’amu
Allen or Kelley at QB for the Hogs?
While Luke and the Rebels have their signal-caller in place for the rest of the season, things are a little more complicated for the Razorbacks with quarterbacks Austin Allen and Cole Kelley.
Allen, a senior, hasn’t played in Arkansas’ last two games since injuring his throwing shoulder in a 48-22 loss at South Carolina on October 7.
On Wednesday’s SEC football coaches media teleconference, head coach Bret Bielema suggested there’s a possibility Allen could play against Ole Miss.
Then, on his weekly radio show Thursday night, Bielema updated Allen’s status, announcing the quarterback threw the football more than 150 times at Wednesday’s practice and is “progressing quite nicely” from his shoulder injury.
For the season, Allen has completed 56.4 percent of his passes for 850 yards and eight touchdowns. Since Allen’s absence, however, the Razorbacks have been stagnant on offense, mounting just one offensive touchdown in the last two games against Alabama and Auburn.
Redshirt freshman Kelley, a 6’7″ Lafayette, Louisiana native, was responsible for that lone score, which came against the Crimson Tide. He has completed 49 of 86 passes for 549 yards and four touchdowns this season.
This season, Arkansas (2-5, 0-4) has been outscored 144-71 in the second half. The only time the Razorbacks have outscored their opponent in the second half/overtime this season was in week one against Florida A&M.
Luke has seen film on both quarterbacks and is preparing the defense for what it could see come Saturday (11 a.m., SEC Network).
“I think you have to prepare for Kelley and find out later in the week if Allen is going to play,” Luke said.
“You have a lot of tape on Allen. Kelley is a bigger guy who can stand back there as a pocket passer. He’s maybe not as mobile as Allen but certainly is capable.”
Matt Luke on Arkansas quarterbacks
Ole Miss and Arkansas will be meeting for the 64th time Saturday in a series that dates back to 1908. The Razorbacks hold a 35-27-1 advantage in the series, with a 15-10 record since they joined the SEC in 1992. The Rebels have won seven of the 12 games played in Oxford.