Ole Miss’ offensive game plan against South Carolina went smoothly for three quarters on Saturday. In the fourth, the Rebel attack failed utterly, netting just 18 total yards for two first downs and zero points. The defense also did the team no favors, and they surrendered a 10-point lead in the final frame to lose, 48-44. Ugly stuff.
One troubling subtext among many to emerge from Saturday’s failure was the physical health of Ole Miss QB Jordan Ta’amu, who rushed for 66 yards on 21 carries (TWENTY ONE). That’s exactly as many run attempts as Ole Miss’ go-to running back Scottie Phillips, who gobbled up 141 yards and three touchdowns. Maybe he should do the rushing work moving forward.
We point that out for two reasons: 1) Scottie Phillips remains Ole Miss’ best rushing threat; 2) Jordan Ta’amu tweaked his lower leg — either ankle or foot — on Saturday after carrying the ball 21 times. It’s unsustainable to subject a pass-first QB to that sort of abuse.
#OleMiss coach Matt Luke is stressing attention to detail this week. QB Jordan Ta'amu will be limited in practice but is expected to be ready for Texas A&M. The ankle seemed to bother him after he turned it against South Carolina.— Parrish Alford (@parrishalford) November 5, 2018
Furthermore, Ta’amu’s injury on Saturday may be the result of a nagging bang compiled over the past few weeks. His heroics against Arkansas required 17 rushes for 141 yards, then in the loss to Auburn, he ran 19 times for only 43 yards. His 21 carries on Saturday were a career high after breaking his previous career highs the two consecutive weeks prior. How much can one man get tackled in a month and remain intact in this conference?
In addition to Ta’amu being limited in practice this week before Texas A&M, sophomore wideout Braylon Sanders will see even less preparation. According to the team, he’ll be a game-time decision on Saturday.
While possibly not having that weapon in the arsenal on Saturday, Ole Miss’ WR stable is replete with pass-catchers, evidenced by Elijah Moore’s career day against South Carolina. The freshman wideout exploded against Cocky with 11 catches for 129 yards. His previous best was four catches for 59 yards against Louisiana-Monroe in garbage time, so it’s encouraging to see him step up in production in the absence of Sanders.
We’ll monitor both Ta’amu and Sanders’ respective injury statuses this week and see what happens on Saturday.