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A game similar to a ‘little Johnny Football,’ Ole Miss’ Shea Patterson earning respect of SEC foes

HOOVER, Ala. — Only three teams saw Shea Patterson last season, but Ole Miss’ young quarterback left quite an impression.

He also drew a lofty comparison from those that had to try to defend him.

Patterson, who’s entering his first season as the Rebels’ full-time starter after taking over late last season for the injured Chad Kelly, made his collegiate debut against Texas A&M in front of more than 100,000 fans at Kyle Field. It was the first glimpse the nation got of the former five-star prospect, who displayed his full skill set to help the Rebels rally from a 15-point deficit in the first half and an 11-point hole in the fourth quarter for a 29-28 upset of the then-No. 8-ranked Aggies.

Patterson completed 25 of his 42 passes for 338 yards with two of those completions going for fourth-quarter scores, including a 6-yarder that saw Patterson scramble toward one sideline only to reverse field before finding Damore’ea Stringfellow all alone in the end zone. He added 64 yards on the ground, reminding some of A&M’s players of a former Aggie star.

“I heard he was like a little Johnny Football,” Texas A&M safety Armani Watts said. “He’s a great quarterback, a young quarterback. He has throwing ability and can run. He can move around the pocket. I think he’s going to be a good quarterback in the league.”

Things didn’t go as smoothly for Patterson a week later against Vanderbilt in the Rebels’ 38-17 loss, but those who had to try to defend him remember the 6-foot-2, 203-pounder’s mobility. Constantly under pressure against the Commodores’ intricate blitz packages, Patterson completed less than half of his passes but threw a pair of touchdowns while consistently using his feet to limit Vanderbilt’s sack total to three.

“He’s a quick guy,” Vanderbilt linebacker Oren Burks said. “He’s definitely going to be a good quarterback in the SEC.”

Patterson did what he could in the regular-season finale against Mississippi State, though the offense didn’t get much help from its defense in a 55-20 loss. He threw for 320 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and once again showed his elusiveness, averaging 5.6 yards on his 13 carries.

“It was fun,” Mississippi State linebacker Dez Harris said. “In any game, the quarterback can determine a lot. Trying to keep him contained, it was good. … You can’t really prepare for someone that can throw and run, and we didn’t have much film on him.”

In all, Patterson completed 54.5 percent of his passes and accounted for 1,049 yards of offense with six touchdown passes and three interceptions. More teams will get their shot at Patterson this season, but a reputation as one of the league’s best young signal callers is getting around.

“It was great to see a guy that was ready to come in and play,” A&M offensive lineman Koda Martin said. “I’ve been in that role and doing whatever you can do to help the team win. … He’s definitely a great athlete. Looking forward to playing him again.”