We knew it was going to be a tall challenge for South Alabama to try and stop that potent passing attack as the Rebels were loaded won the perimeter with skill position weapons. Former blue-chip quarterback Shea Patterson lived up to expectations and the Rebels rolled to the victory at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium in interim head coach Matt Luke’s first game.
Patterson threw for 429 yards and complete 80% of his passes on Saturday night as the Rebels offense put on a show in their first outing under offensive coordinator Phil Longo.
A.J. Brown was the star of the night as the sophomore wide receiver caught eight balls for 233 yards and two of Patterson’s four touchdowns. D.K. Metcalf also pulled in eight receptions that gained 84 yards. Then Damarkus Lodge had five catches for 51 yards and two scores. This is just a ridiculous passing attack that will hang numbers on every team they face this fall.
Meanwhile, we expected the South Alabama front seven to be pretty salty this season and they lived up to expectations in the opener. Ole Miss only posted 102 yards on 29 carries which was good for a very pedestrian 3.5 yards per carry. D’Vaughn Pennamon led Luke’s club with 34 yards on seven carries and one touchdown.
On the other side of the football, we got to see Cole Garvin as USA’s official QB1 and he flashed some potential. For the night, Garvin completed 19-of-31 passes for 204 yards and a touchdown. He led an offense that had zero turnovers and scored three touchdowns against a legit Power Five defense.
Receiver was a big question going into the season for the Jags and it appears that they’re still looking for answers. USA had 10 players records receptions on Saturday night as they are still searching for the number one target. Junior college transfer Jamarius Way was the story of fall camp and he showed some pig play potential. The junior from south Florida pulled in two receptions for 42 yards that included a 30-yard touchdown to tie the game at 10 with 5:09 left in the second quarter. Offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent’s search to find answers will continue on the perimeter.
But the biggest surprise of the night came in the backfield. The Ole Miss front seven contained star running back Xavier Johnson all night as the senior only posted 33 yards on 11 carries. But junior college transfer Tra Minter put on a show in his first game at the FBS level as he recorded 83 yards on 12 carries. The potential one-two backfield punch could be an impressive weapon for Vincent’s offense this fall.
The game fell apart for Joey Jones’ club in the second half after the Jags headed into halftime trailing, 13-10. The Ole Miss passing attack exploded in the second half for four touchdowns as the Rebs would pull away and win the yardage battle against the Sun Belt opponent, 531-374.
Looking back, I do not think you can be disappointed in this performance by South Alabama. The Jags hung tough for the first 30 minutes and the potent Ole Miss passing attack just took over in the third quarter.
The defense showed some impressive run stopping ability in the front seven and the offense has a nice rushing duo to build around. It’s a big week in Mobile as the Jags will be playing another great passing offense in Oklahoma State, but we’ll see if Joey Jones can find some Friday night magic when the Pokes get into town.