Few things are easy about beginning your college football career in front of almost 105,000 fans who hope that you fail.
However, the Shea Patterson-led comeback that propelled Ole Miss to a 29-28 win over No. 10 Texas A&M was simple in the sense that it included about four plays, much less of the playbook than the true freshman expects to employ this week when the Rebels visit Vanderbilt.
Patterson was named the SEC’s Freshman of the Week Monday after passing for 338 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. After a scoreless third quarter by both teams Ole Miss outscored the Aggies 23-7 in the final period.
“We need to put some things in. The second half we ran four plays. Now they’ve got different options on them. We maybe sprinkled in one play here one play there that was outside of those four,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said.
Patterson was 25-for-42 passing on the night, 15-for-24 after halftime.
Some of his biggest plays were made with his feet like when he rolled right and reversed his field before throwing to Damore’ea Stringfellow in the end zone to make it a one-score game in the early seconds of the fourth quarter, his first touchdown pass. He also had a 13-yard run to help set up Gary Wunderlich’s 39-yard winning field goal.
The limited play-calling was not an indication of his knowledge of the offense, Patterson said. It was about what was working.
“Coming in the spring really helped me. I really know the offense a lot like the back of my hand,” he said. “It’s not like we were running (just) four plays. There are one-high looks, two-high looks. At one point in the drive we ran one play four or five times, and it worked every single time.”
Wunderlich’s kick: Junior kicker Gary Wunderlich said he didn’t think he hit his 39-yard game-winner well and initially thought it was going to be a miss.
“I was nervous when I first saw it come off my foot,” he said.
Had he missed it would have been only the second miss of the season for the Memphis junior who is 19-for-20 on field goal attempts. Wunderlich was named SEC special teams player of the week Monday.
Injury Update: Senior cornerback Tony Bridges sustained a lower back strain against Texas A&M. Offensive tackle Rod Taylor (ankle) did not play against the Aggies. Center Robert Conyers (knee) and Sean Rawlings (ankle) did but really weren’t ready, Freeze said. All four are questionable this week for Vanderbilt.
Kelly, Youngblood not on A&M trip: Freeze said he made space available for both quarterback Chad Kelly and defensive lineman John Youngblood within the 70-man travel roster, but neither attended.
Kelly, who tore knee ligaments against Georgia Southern on Nov. 5, had just had surgery and attended the East Mississippi Community College game where he and other former EMCC quarterbacks were honored.
Youngblood was not physically ready to make such a trip, Freeze said.
Who: Ole Miss vs. Vanderbilt
When: 7 p.m., Saturday
Where: Nashville, Tenn.
TV: SEC Network