Rebels embrace ‘next man up’ philosophy as Ta’amu steps in at QB
OXFORD, Miss. – Once again, the Ole Miss football team finds itself facing adversity. In last week’s loss to LSU, starting quarterback Shea Patterson suffered a season-ending injury, a torn posterior cruciate ligament in his right knee.
Patterson finishes his sophomore season leading the SEC with an average of 320.7 passing yards per game and is second in passing TD’s with 17.
‘Next man up’
All season long, the Ole Miss coaches have lived by the philosophy of “next man up,” shuffling players as needed to fill spots in the lineup due to injury or depth issues.
Up now for the Rebels is JUCO transfer quarterback Jordan Ta’amu. The Hawaii native played last season at New Mexico Military Institute, where he threw for over 3,000 yards and 32 TDs and also added 328 yards on the ground with 7 rushing TDs.
In his first significant action of the year for Ole Miss, Ta’amu was 7 of 11 for 78 yards through the air against the Tigers and also added 20 yards on 3 rushing attempts. Ta’amu, who led the Rebels on two scoring drives vs. LSU, will start the first SEC game of his career on Saturday against the Razorbacks.
Jason Pellerin, who had moved from quarterback to tight end before the season began, will now return to QB duties to provide a backup for Ta’amu. Head coach Matt Luke said Wednesday Alex Faniel will be third on the depth chart at quarterback.
(Video credit: Jake Evans, The Rebel Walk)
Ground game gaining traction
Although the Rebels have lost their leader at quarterback in Patterson, they still have a great opportunity to finish the year strong. The run game is coming along at the right time and remains a key component in Ole Miss’ success the rest of the way.
Running back Jordan Wilkins has hit his stride, averaging 6.5 yards per carry over the last 4 games. The senior has added a rushing TD in each of the last 3 games and has gone over 100 rushing yards twice in his last 4 games.
On Wednesday after practice, Coach Luke said he would list Wilkins as “probable” for the game against the Razorbacks, following the ankle injury the senior suffered in the game against LSU.
“He looked pretty good today and he’ll probably practice some tomorrow,” Luke said. “I think Jordan will have a shot to play,” he added.
Better days ahead
The toughest stretch of the season is arguably over for the Rebels, as they look to finish the year with five games against opponents who are currently unranked—and three of those games are at home.
Ole Miss and Arkansas will square off in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium at 11 a.m. The Razorbacks, who enter the contest 2-5 (0-4 SEC), are as battered as the Rebels with key injuries plaguing the team.
One thing is certain–both schools need a win, so make sure to Lock the Vaught Saturday and support your Ole Miss Rebels!
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)