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Ole Miss 47, South Alabama 27: AJ Brown Shines

AJ Brown breaks the Ole Miss single game receiving record while a third quarter burst broke the game open

NCAA Football: South Alabama at Mississippi Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Ole Miss scored 27 third quarter points to pull away from South Alabama en route to a 47-27 victory.

The Rebels jumped out to an early lead on their opening drive with a Shea Patterson touchdown pass to DeMarkus Lodge but after that, the Rebels’ offense lagged throughout the remainder of the first half. The Rebels gained nearly 100 yards more than South Alabama in the first half, but had a pair of drives stall out inside the 10 yard line which led to field goals. The Rebels carried a 13-10 lead to the locker room at halftime, but the third quarter outburst put the Jaguars away.

So what did we learn from Ole Miss’ win?

AJ Brown is a Touch Matchup

Included in the third quarter outburst for Ole Miss was a pair of touchdowns for the sophomore from Starkville, Miss. of 71 and 77 yards. On 9 targets, A.J. Brown hauled in 8 catches for 233 yards and the pair of touchdowns. But it is not just the numbers that make Brown a touch matchup. With his physicality and size (listed at 6’1, 225 pounds) while lining up primarily in the slot, Brown offers a physical inside presence like Evan Engram has for Ole Miss the last few years.

On the second touchdown catch, Brown tried to find some open space while Patterson scrambled around and fought off a pair of defenders before a long run into the end zone.

The 233 yards is a single game record for Ole Miss breaking Eddie Small’s mark of 210 yards from 1993 against Vanderbilt.

Halftime Adjustments

Throughout the 2016 season, Ole Miss started out the games hot but failed to effectively make any halftime adjustments. Throughout the entire 2016 season, the Rebels’ offense only scored 44 third quarter points which led, in part, to notable blown leads against Florida State, Alabama and Auburn. At least for tonight, that looks to have changed. Ole Miss ran off four third quarter touchdowns while holding South Alabama to three points in the third quarter.

By the end of the third quarter, the score was 40-13 and effectively out of reach.

The Defense Remains a Work in Progress

After posting some historically bad defensive numbers in 2016, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack retired and former Auburn (and Ole Miss) defensive coach Wesley McGriff was brought back to try to revive the defense. That will likely continue to be in progress as defensive recruiting, barring at times on the defensive line, was not good under Hugh Freeze.

The South Alabama offense posted 374 total yards, but the most concerning aspect of Ole Miss’ defense for the future was in the first half. The Rebels could not get off the field for a 19 play, nine plus minute drive. The drive ended in a field goal for South Alabama, but given the quick strike, fast tempo nature of Phil Longo’s offense, the defense needs to find ways to get off the field. For the game, Ole Miss did not get a takeaway but did hold South Alabama to 1/10 on third down conversions.