GAMEDAY: Rebels Set to Battle Alabama

Sept. 30, 2017

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By Brian Scott Rippee,

Quarterback play has been a key component in the formula Ole Miss has used to solve Alabama in two of the last three seasons. Now, Shea Patterson will get his crack at the nation's fiercest defense.

The Rebels will try to protect Patterson with quick throws, getting the football out of his hand before the Crimson Tide's pass rush is able to get to the sophomore quarterback.

"We've got to play fast, try to keep them out of their comfort zone," head coach Matt Luke said. "We have very simple answers for him in the pass game. You can't sit back there and hold it. They've got good pass rushers and good coverage guys."

Ole Miss will try to make the Alabama defense uncomfortable, something few teams have been able to do. Tempo is always important in Phil Longo's system, and it will come to the forefront this week.

"It's very important to play fast and get them out of their comfort zone," Luke said. "We want to keep some of their guys on the field by going tempo. We'll try to limit the looks they can give us with our tempo. It's very important to just be on-time with the football, to scramble around and try to make plays with their feet; you have to do that some."

One could make the argument this is the biggest stage Patterson has played on so far in his young career. He welcomes the challenge, and is no stranger to going on the road. Three of his first six starts have come in opponent's stadiums.

"They are obviously one of the best, if not the best (defense) talent-wise and coaching-wise," Patterson said. "This will be a good opportunity for us to go out there and play our game."

Alabama is coming off of a 59-0 trouncing of Vanderbilt a week ago and the Rebels are coming off of a well-timed bye week that gave them a chance to get healthy.

"The open date was really good for us," Luke said. "We had a chance to get some guys healthy and work on us."

Center Sean Rawlings will be a game time decision after suffering a sprained ankle against Cal. Wide receiver A.J. Brown will be able to play after dealing with a strained MCL and defensive end Victor Evans will also play in the game.

Ole Miss will need all hands on deck if it wishes to stop an Alabama rushing attack that is averaging 303 yards per game. The Rebels' run defense looked improved against Cal, and this will be their toughest test of the season.

"They make you be gap-sound," defensive line coach Freddie Roach said. "They make you do all of the things that good football teams make you do. We have to control the gaps we need to control, and that is what they do well. If you jump out they make you pay. We have to be consistent in what we do."

Brown's presence will go a long way in taking the pressure off Patterson. The sophomore wideout leads the nation in receiving yards per game at 194. He and Patterson have flashed good chemistry and the Ability to take the top off of the defense down the field. They've also been good at finding each other in space when a play breaks down. Patterson's mobility will be important in this one and will help the offensive line. Luke would like him to pick his spots and be smart about it.

"I think you have to protect Shea some with how many times he can carry it," Luke said. "I do think there is a place for him to carry it to help out in the run game some. He's a good enough athlete to do that, but you have to pick and choose your spots."

Kickoff on Saturday is set for 8 p.m.







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