Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason thought it was fun watching Ole Miss freshman Shea Patterson in his college debut last week. Defending against the quarterback who just led a big fourth-quarter rally to upset then-No. 8 Texas A&M brings out an entirely different emotion.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” Mason said.
The Commodores (4-6, 1-5 Southeastern Conference) are hosting Ole Miss (5-5, 2-4) on Saturday night with time and games running out to become bowl eligible. The Rebels suddenly have new life with Patterson showing just how effective he could be taking over once they lost senior Chad Kelly to a knee injury, posting a 29-28 comeback win on the SEC road.
Mason said the Ole Miss offense remains similar, but the 6-foot-2 Patterson reminds the Vandy coach of another quarterback he had to defend against while at Stanford in Marcus Mariota with the freshman able to run and extend plays while also looking downfield to make a bigger play. That makes containing Patterson, who ran 15 times for 64 yards at Texas A&M, crucial.
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“This quarterback is capable of having a big game,” Mason said.
Patterson will be making his second straight start on the SEC road, though visiting the smallest stadium in the league will be a much easier trip than going to Kyle Field. Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze isn’t worried after what he saw in Patterson’s debut. Patterson threw for 338 yards and drove the Rebels to four scores in the big comeback after 21-6.
“As the game went on, I thought he got more and more comfortable, and the fourth quarter he had for a true freshman in that environment was pretty special,” Freeze said.
Vanderbilt now has lost two straight and needs its first win over Ole Miss since 2012 to play its way into bowl eligibility. The Commodores are coming off a 26-17 loss at Missouri .
Ole Miss has just a 5-5 record despite having a lead at halftime in nine out of 10 games. The only time the Rebels trailed was last week against Texas A&M. Said Freeze: “Maybe we need to try that more often.”
Ole Miss has won three straight games against Vanderbilt including a 27-16 victory in Oxford last season . But this has been a very close series over the past decade. The Commodores have won six out of the past 11 meetings dating back to 2005.
The Commodores have been using a running back by committee approach with junior Ralph Webb recovering from an injured ankle. Webb had been leading the SEC in rushing earlier this season and still ranks fifth in the league. But Webb ran for only 46 yards in a loss at Auburn and had just 34 last week at Missouri. He currently has 935 yards rushing and needs 150 yards to become Vandy’s all-time leading rusher.
Ole Miss needs one more win to be bowl eligible for a fifth-straight season. The last time the Rebels made five straight bowls was from 1957 to 1971, when the program made the postseason 15 consecutive times. Freeze said making a bowl matters as a reward for the seniors and with so many underclassmen needing the extra practice.
Ole Miss at Vanderbilt
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.1 FM