After staying simple in Shea Patterson’s debut, Ole Miss looks to expand offense

Published 4:04 pm Monday, November 14, 2016

How many plays did Ole Miss need to mount its second-half comeback against Texas A&M and notch its first win over a Southeastern Conference Western Division opponent?

If you believe head coach Hugh Freeze, it was literally a handful.

“The second half, we ran four plays really when you get down to it,” Freeze said. “Now they’ve got different options on them, but we really ran four plays. There may have been a sprinkled-in one play here or one play there that’s outside those four, but the others were our Day-1 installation four plays.”

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It was part of a plan to keep things simple for Shea Patterson, the nation’s No. 1 quarterback prospect in the last recruiting cycle who looked like anything but a freshman in the Rebels’ 29-28 win at A&M on Saturday. Patterson debuted with single-game school records for a freshman quarterback for passing yards (338) and total offense (402).

Ole Miss (5-5, 2-4 SEC) didn’t need to go with any other calls with the basic plays working as much as they did. Fifteen of Patterson’s 25 completions came in the second half, and both of his touchdown passes came in the fourth quarter as the Rebels chipped away at a 21-6 halftime deficit and overcame a 28-19 hole with 6 minutes, 41 seconds left.

Patterson moved the offense 39 yards on its final possession to set up Gary Wunderlich’s winning field goal, a drive that included a 13-yard scramble from Patterson to get the Rebels to A&M’s 25-yard line.

“Those four plays we can run out of so many different looks, so it’s not like we were running four plays,” Patterson said. “There’s a bunch of different variations. One-high, two-high (safety) looks, and I think that kind of gave us some momentum because at one point in the drive, I think we ran one play about four or five times and it worked every single time.”

Now that Patterson has a game and a full week’s worth of practice reps behind him, the Rebels plan to expand the playbook to give him more options against a Vanderbilt defense that’s been among the best in the SEC this season and “has given us problems every year,” Freeze said, with its ability to be multiple.

The Commodores (4-6, 1-5), who held Ole Miss to 27 points a season ago, are in the top half of the league in scoring defense, rush defense and total defense.

“He did pretty well with those (plays against A&M), but we definitely need to expand it more,” Freeze said. “We’ll work on that this week.”

Preparing as the starter was “a little surreal,” Patterson said, after spending most of the season running the scout team thinking he would redshirt, but the early enrollee is confident he can handle whatever the coaches call.

“Coming into the spring, that really helped me coming in in January,” Patterson said. “I really know the offense a lot, like the back of my hand.”