- By DAVID BRANDT, AP Sports Writer
By DAVID BRANDT, AP Sports Writer
OXFORD, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi quarterback Shea Patterson arrived on campus as one of the most celebrated recruits in program history.
Less than two years later — and in the face of some daunting adversity — the sophomore has mostly delivered on those expectations.
Patterson leads the Southeastern Conference with 2,143 yards passing, 17 touchdowns and just six interceptions this season while completing nearly 66 percent of his passes. He’s second among starters in passing efficiency, first in total offense and on pace to break the program’s single-season record for yards passing.
“Whatever you want done, he can get it done,” Ole Miss receiver A.J. Brown said. “A touch pass? He can do that. Long ball? He can do that. He can do everything.”
Patterson’s ample passing ability is a huge reason Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2 SEC) has remained fairly competitive despite having several legitimate reasons to fall apart.
Among them: The Rebels are ineligible for the postseason because of a self-imposed one-year bowl ban stemming from an NCAA rules infractions case. They also lost their head coach Hugh Freeze just before the season when he stunningly resigned following a university investigation into his phone records.
There have been some rough moments during season’s first half — most notably a 66-3 loss at No. 1 Alabama — but the Rebels are coming off a 57-35 victory over Vanderbilt and have some momentum heading into a home game against No. 24 LSU (5-2, 2-1) on Saturday.
Patterson said he didn’t think the win against Vanderbilt represented a huge turnaround for the Rebels. Instead, it was just another indication that an inexperienced team is getting better.
“In the meal line, when they call the seniors up to go eat, it’s kind of quick,” Patterson said. “And when they call the freshmen and sophomores it takes a while. We’re young and we’re growing as a team every game.”
Patterson certainly has the attention of LSU coach Ed Orgeron. The Tigers have won two straight games over Florida and Auburn since a stunning loss to Troy on Sept. 30 .
“Shea Patterson is a tremendous quarterback,” Orgeron said. “He has a tremendous release. Ole Miss has the best group of receivers we’ll see. They have big, physical receivers. The quarterback will play in the NFL.”
Patterson’s not a huge running threat, though his mobility in the pocket and ability to throw on the move keeps teams on their toes. The 6-foot-2, 203-pounder ran for a 4-yard touchdown against Vanderbilt, plowing through a defender before falling into the end zone.
“He’s a winner, that’s the only thing on his mind,” Ole Miss running back Jordan Wilkins said. “And of course, he has all the playmaking ability that anyone would need.”
The Ole Miss offense will always be dependent on Patterson’s arm, but the group is still trying to find a little more balance. The Rebels are next to last in the SEC in yards rushing, but had 252 yards on the ground against the Commodores, which was easily a season high.
Ole Miss interim coach Matt Luke said better play along the offensive line has helped make the Rebels a more balanced offense.
“They’ve accepted the challenge. The last two games have been their best two,” Luke said. “I think they took a step against Auburn and another step against Vanderbilt. They need to continue to improve, because when they play well, Shea feels more comfortable and we get our run game going.”
Associated Press writer Bryan Lazare in Baton Rouge contributed to this story.
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