Last Saturday, the Ole Miss Rebel defense allowed LSU running back Derrius Guice to ramble for 276 yards, averaging 12.6 yards per carry. Not surprisingly, Ole Miss lost 40-24. The Rebels’ defensive players could not stop the Tigers’ ground game.
Linebacker coach Bradley Dale Peveto took the loss a little more sourly than most, as it came during his first game against his former team. Strolling into the press room, Peveto chuckled and held up a hand before anyone could speak.
“I know what question y’all are going to ask me, and I can’t wait,” he said.
He took the loss and subsequent questioning with good humor but kept his tactical cards close to his chest. Peveto cannot afford future opponents any further advantages. Not that they need any.
But out of this heated rivalry came an unexpected and tragic story line: Shea Patterson’s season-ending knee injury. Taking over his gun-slinging leadership role is JUCO transfer Jordan Ta’Amu, the man who led Ole Miss to 10 points via two drives Saturday.
Ta’Amu assembled an impressive JUCO career that fielded several Division I offers. When asked about the transition to Division I football, he was willing to acknowledge the challenges of playing in the Southeastern Conference. But the Rebels’ new signal-caller was quick to turn his situation into an advantage.
“Everything’s a lot faster. Everyone’s a lot bigger, and everyone’s more athletic and all, but I have bigger targets,” he said. “So that’s a big jump.”
After appearing unexpectedly composed as he threw his first Division I passes against LSU, Ta’Amu spoke just as calmly when asked about his confidence moving forward.
“Oh, my confidence level is high,” Ta’amu said. “I just have to keep being me. … After getting that touchdown, I was more than pumped. I knew I could run this offense. I was excited, and the team was excited behind me. I’m pretty excited right now.”
No one is ever excited to see a teammate go down, especially when the injury ends an important player’s season. But Ta’Amu met this tragic turn of events with an air of optimism, humility and readiness.
“I was devastated,” he said. “I wouldn’t wish that upon anybody. He talked to me and told me I have to be ready and all that, so right now, I’m confident. I believe that I can take this role and be the starting quarterback. I have to do what he did: carry the team. My social media has been blowing up, but I just have to stay humble, just continue to do my thing and go out there and prove to everybody that I can run this offense.”
If Ta’amu can continue the form he displayed during his first two drives as an Ole Miss quarterback, Rebel Nation can rest easy knowing its coveted pass-heavy offense is in good hands.
Moving forward into a home game against SEC opponent Arkansas, Ta’Amu will get his first opportunity to start on college football’s biggest stage. The native Hawaiian Ta’Amu is taking that role in stride while modeling his game after a certain Tennessee Titan quarterback.
“Marcus Mariota,” he said, smiling. “People call me Marcus out there, so I try to play like him and be fast.”