Pleased with an opening day win, Ole Miss coach Matt Luke has a clearer picture of immediate needs for the Rebels.
One of the biggest goals is creating quality depth defensively.
Better play from second-teamers was one of the talking points for Luke at his regular Monday press conference. The Rebels (1-0) are back in action at home Saturday at 11 a.m. against FCS foe Tennessee-Martin (1-0).
Ole Miss started fast on both sides of the ball in its 47-27 win over South Alabama. The Jaguars, though, were able to gain steady footing against Ole Miss reserves on a 19-play, 95-yard drive on their third possession. Defensive line starters were back in the game when the Jaguars were forced to settle for a short field goal.
“I think the glaring thing was missed tackles and a little bit too big a drop-off from the ones to the twos. I just want to see some guys step up there when we watch the tape,” Luke said. “We’ve really got a challenge to build our depth.”
Backed up to their 2, the Jaguars’ first four plays covered 5, 18, 13 and 12 yards. Junior Ross Donelly and redshirt freshman Austrian Robinson were the tackles, and true freshman Ryder Anderson was at one end when the drive began.
Ole Miss held South Alabama to 374 yards for the game. After the Rebels’ lead reached 47-10 and they subbed more freely on defense, the Jaguars ran 16 plays for 147 yards and two touchdowns on their last two possessions.
“When the game was still in question at halftime we didn’t panic,” Luke said. “We talk about mental toughness. All the things we talk about it gave us a chance to say, ‘Hey keep doing this. Keep working.'”
Speaking of depth: The Rebels played four true freshmen in the opener, all on the defensive side: cornerback D.D. Bowie, safety C.J. Miller, linebacker Breon Dixon and end Ryder Anderson.
Injuries: The Rebels enter Week 2 mostly healthy, though Bowie sustained stretched ligaments in his thumb that will require further evaluation, Luke said. Guard Jordan Sims and running back Eugene Brazley, who did not play in the game, are probable for UT-Martin. End Qaadir Shepherd will be a game-time decision.
Knox Update: Tight end Dawson Knox is expected to begin running this week as he continues his recovery from a foot injury sustained in a camp scrimmage. Luke said Knox is still on target for a return in Week 3 at Cal.
Without Knox the Rebels used three tight ends – Ty Quick, Jason Pellerin and Gabe Angel – against South Alabama. Only Quick caught a pass, a 2-yard gain.
Prolific Patterson: Shea Patterson’s 429 passing yards against the Jags were a career-high for the sophomore making his fourth college start. Chad Kelly (465 last year against Auburn) and Archie Manning (against Alabama in 1969) are the only Ole Miss quarterbacks to pass for more in a single game.