Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson gets first second crack at Vanderbilt
Shea Patterson is about to do something in his young career he’s never done before.
Ole Miss’ quarterback will get his ninth career start this week with each of the first eight coming against a different opponent. That will change Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium when the Rebels try to end their three-game losing streak against Vanderbilt.
“They’re really good scheme-wise, so we’ve got to come ready to play,” Patterson said.
This time, Patterson is speaking from experience.
His second career start came against the Commodores last November in Nashville, Tennessee, and it didn’t go nearly as well as his first. A week after leading the Rebels to a comeback win at Texas A&M with two fourth-quarter touchdowns passes in his college debut, Patterson looked more like a true freshman against Vanderbilt’s array of defensive looks, completing less than 50 percent of his passes (20 of 42) for just 222 yards as the Commodores handed the Rebels what turned out to be their second-worst loss of the season with a 38-17 setback.
Last year’s game doesn’t have much to do with this year’s matchup, but it’s serving as a reference point for Patterson against his first repeat opponent.
“They schemed some stuff up pretty well, and I could’ve been way better,” Patterson said. “Went back and watched the film. There’s a lot of things I left out on the field, and I’m doing everything I can this week to not let that happen.”
Vanderbilt’s defense has had more success this season keeping teams from throwing the ball than running it after losing All-American linebacker Zach Cunningham, the SEC’s leading tackler last season, to the NFL Draft. Only Ole Miss (2-3, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) and Tennessee are giving up more rushing yards per game in the SEC than the Commodores (3-3, 0-3), who allowed Alabama to rack up a school-record 496 rushing yards in a 59-0 loss in September as part of their own three-game losing skid.
But Ole Miss’ struggling running game — the Rebels’ 76 yards per game ranks 127th nationally — could once again put the onus on Patterson and his receivers to move the ball against a Vanderbilt defense that’s yielding just 140 yards a game through the air, second-fewest in the SEC. The Commodores have given up just five touchdown passes in their first six games.
“They’re athletic,” Patterson said of the Commodores’ secondary. “They’re kind of like Alabama in they’re not going to make mistakes and not going to beat themselves. They’re very disciplined and very well-coached.”
Ole Miss will bring the SEC’s top passing offense into this year’s matchup, the same place it ranked when the teams met last season. Vanderbilt changed up its looks and pressures in its 4-3 scheme to confuse Patterson throughout a game in which the Rebels went more than 37 minutes of game time without scoring after leading 10-0 midway through the first quarter.
“They had him not knowing where to go with the football,” interim coach Matt Luke said, “but we’ve got to focus on this year.”
Patterson said the Commodores are still running “a number of different things” defensively this season, but it’s the one defense he’s seen before. That experience has him more aware of what he can and can’t do when he sees it again Saturday.
“Really just taking what they give me and going there and playing with confidence,” Patterson said. “Knowing they’re a great team and very well-coached and got a lot of great athletes. Just playing with my team and playing one game at a time.”
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