This is not what Ole Miss expected.
When Shea Patterson went down late in the first half of Saturday’s game against LSU, fans were right to be concerned. However, when Patterson emerged from the Rebel locker room after halftime and resumed play, it appeared the former five-star recruit — and the fan base that relies on him — had dodged a bullet.
Visibly off target throughout the Magnolia Bowl matchup against LSU, Patterson was even further out of rhythm after his injury. With his left knee in a brace the entire second half, Patterson’s mobility was limited and he was not able to set his feet. His discomfort added three interceptions to an already sputtering Rebel offense and ultimately led to a 16-point Ole Miss loss. Once again, the result was not what Ole Miss had in mind.
Of course, Ole Miss fans have not expected many things recently, and it’s clear the trials and tribulations have taken a toll.
Ole Miss fans did not foresee a five-year NCAA investigation into their football program, they did not anticipate a self-imposed postseason ban with the potential of further sanctions from the NCAA and they certainly did not predict the head coach who led their program to its first Sugar Bowl appearance since 1963 to resign.
Most recently, they did not expect the quarterback who has the talent to lead the program through these murky waters to go down with what was diagnosed as a season-ending injury on Monday.
But it all happened, and now Rebel nation is forced to decipher the current situation.
Patterson is expected to be in a cast for four weeks before an MRI will determine whether surgery will be required to mend his torn PCL. Regardless of the final diagnosis, Patterson will not play another down of football in 2017, and Rebel fans are wondering what’s next.
There is a bright spot, however, and his name is Jordan Ta’amu.
Ta’amu, who will start for the Rebels going forward, has speed and elusiveness comparable to Patterson’s. In his playing time last week against the Tigers, Ta’amu led two drives with his arm and on his feet that resulted in 11 of Ole Miss’ 24 points. His decisions in the passing game were quick, and his throws were accurate and decisive.
That being said, Ta’amu is not Patterson. But he is talented and unfamiliar to SEC opponents.
Teams in the SEC are aware of Patterson and what he can do with an offense. This is not the case when it comes to his replacement, as defenses have not seen him on the field but for a few snaps. Arkansas, whom Ole Miss will host at 11 a.m. Saturday, is forced to prepare for a player with whom the coaching staff and players are unfamiliar, which gives an added advantage to the Rebel offense.
Heading into the weekend’s fifth consecutive SEC opponent, the Rebels are still waiting for a final verdict from the NCAA, are continuing to be led by an interim head coach and are fighting for a bowl-eligible record, even though they cannot go to a bowl game this season.
Now, without their starting quarterback, the Rebels are at an unwanted crossroads once again with the faith lying in an exciting quarterback from Hawaii. The question is: Can Jordan Ta’amu take Ole Miss in the right direction?