Four weeks ago, Mississippi reserve quarterback Jordan Ta'amu could walk around campus without being noticed. That is no longer the case.
When starting quarterback Shea Patterson went down with a season-ending knee injury against LSU, Ta'amu was forced into the starting position. In three starts, the juco transfer from New Mexico Military Institute has been nothing short of brilliant.
Ta'amu threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more as the Rebels scored on their first five possessions Saturday to defeat Louisiana 50-22.
“He’s like a point guard in basketball,” said interim Ole Miss coach Matt Luke. “He’s got to distribute the ball to the players that can make it happen.
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“We’re fortunate here to have two really outstanding quarterbacks. Jordan is really playing well.”
Ta'amu finished 28 of 36 for 418 yards, opening with nine consecutive completions and was 14 of 15 midway through the first half. Ta'amu added scoring runs of 1 and 8 yards as the Rebels (5-5, 2-4 SEC) raced to an insurmountable 35-7 lead early in the second quarter.
“It doesn’t matter who you are playing. When your quarterback takes you for touchdowns on the first five possessions, that’s pretty impressive,” Luke said. “We were sharp in the first half.”
In three starts and six appearances, Ta'amu is 86 of 117 for 1,246 yards and 7 touchdowns, adding 4 touchdowns on the ground. Since he is the first Hawaiian, a native of Pearl City, in the Ole Miss program, his attention factor has increased significantly.
“It’s a lot of fun with our receivers and backs. I trust them,” Ta'amu said. “A.J. (Brown) had a a great day today. A.J. is always going to do more than I expect when he has the ball.
Brown had 14 receptions for 185 yards, including touchdown catches of 31 and 27 yards. DaMarkus Lodge opened the early surge with a 37-yard touchdown reception. Jordan Wilkins and Eric Swinney added scoring runs of 8 and 10 yards, respectively.
Louisiana (4-5, 3-2 Sun Belt) scored on a 31-yard run by Raymond Calais during the first half surge by the Rebels. Reserve quarterback Jordan Davis added fourth quarter scoring runs of 10 and 31 yards.
“We knew coming in that 22 points would not be enough,” Louisiana coach Mark Hudspeth said. “They’re outstanding, especially offensively. They’ve got a lot of weapons and we could not show them down enough in the first half.”
The Rebels finished with 641 yards of total offense, 441 in the first half. Louisiana finished with no turnovers and 437 yards of total offense.
Despite an unsettling season on and off the field, plus a postseason bowl ban, the resilient Rebels improved to .500, riding a two-game winning streak.
“We’re 2-0 in November, with 12 days left,” Luke said. “We have a lot to play for.”