OXFORD, Miss. – Mississippi quarterback Shea Patterson threw for 429 yards and four touchdowns, giving Matt Luke a successful debut as head coach as the Rebels defeated South Alabama 47-27 Saturday night in the season opener for both teams.
Luke’s successful opener provided a moment of relief for a program plagued with off-season issues. Head coach Hugh Freeze resigned in July after revelations surfaced regarding his personal conduct. The outcome of a prolonged NCAA investigation is scheduled to be resolved this month.
Those concerns disappeared as Patterson completed touchdown throws of 71 and 77 yards to A.J. Brown in the opening three minutes of the second half. DeMarkus Lodge had touchdown receptions of 5 and 14 yards in the first and third quarters, respectively. Patterson finished 28-of-35 as the Rebels rolled up 531 yards of total offense.
The Rebels put it away on a 97-yard kickoff return touchdown by Jaylon Jones for an insurmountable 33-13 lead late in the third quarter.
D’Vaughn Pennamon added a 2-yard touchdown run with 11:41 left to seal it.
South Alabama quarterback Cole Garvin had touchdown runs of 14 and 1 yards in the final nine minutes and a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jamarius Way in the first half. Garvin was 19 of 31 for 204 yards.
South Alabama: The Jaguars were bidding for successive opening game upset wins over SEC opponents after winning at Mississippi State last season.
The kicking game was solid with a pair of 20-yard field goals from Gavin Patterson. Punter Corliss Waitman had a 46.4-yard average on five punts.
Ole Miss: Brown finished with 233 receiving yards, a new school record, on eight receptions. Patterson shared the wealth by connecting with seven different receivers. The revamped Rebels defense, in Wesley McGriff’s debut as coordinator, turned in a solid statistical performance, but did not force any turnovers and had only one sack.
South Alabama: The Jaguars of the FBS and Sun Belt Conference host No. 10 Oklahoma State on Saturday.
Ole Miss: The Rebels host a second successive FBS opponent, Ohio Valley Conference member UT Martin, on Saturday.