Mississippi seeks running game improvement vs UT Martin
Mississippi's offense looked very familiar during its reasonably comfortable 47-27 win over South Alabama last weekend.
That's not necessarily a bad thing. The passing game was awesome: Shea Patterson threw for 429 yards and four touchdowns while receiver A.J. Brown caught eight passes for a school-record 233 yards and two touchdowns.
But the running game was just OK: The Rebels gained 102 yards on the ground, led by D'Vaughn Pennamon's 34 yards and a touchdown. Ole Miss averaged 3.5 yards per carry.
The imbalance has been a familiar theme for the Ole Miss offense over the past few seasons. New offensive coordinator Phil Longo was brought in during the offseason because of his ability to mix a productive running game with a spread passing offense.
Through one game, the results were mixed.
To be fair, Ole Miss didn't have to run the ball much against South Alabama because it was piling up such huge numbers through the air. Coach Matt Luke said the Rebels had some good moments running the ball, but also had a ''couple of wasted runs.''
Ole Miss (1-0) has another chance to get the running game going on Saturday when it hosts UT Martin (1-0), an FCS opponent that has a 1-23 record all-time against opponents from the Football Bowl Subdivision.
Luke said improvement in the running game remains a priority.
''When people play to defend our receivers, we have to be able to make our run game a weapon,'' Luke said. ''So when people do try to cover us, we can really hurt them in the run game. That'll be the goal moving forward.''
Some other things to watch when the Rebels host UT Martin on Saturday:
NOT JUST BROWN: Ole Miss receiver A.J. Brown was the star of last week's game after breaking the school record with 233 yards receiving, but he wasn't the only receiver with a big game against South Alabama. D.K. Metcalf caught eight passes for 84 yards after missing the last 10 games of last season with a foot injury. DaMarkus Lodge caught five passes for 51 yards and two touchdowns.
BACK IN ACTION: Linebacker Detric Bing-Dukes and cornerback Ken Webster are expected to play on Saturday after both were suspended for the season opener because of their arrest on shoplifting charges just before preseason camp began. Webster returns after missing almost all of last season with a knee injury.
RARE MISS: Ole Miss kicker Gary Wunderlich made 95.7 percent of his field goals last season, which led the nation. But the senior missed a 45-yard field goal try against South Alabama and also missed an extra point. He's ranked third in school history with 276 career points - 49 field goals and 129 extra points.
COATNEY'S DEBUT: Ole Miss defensive tackle Josiah Coatney had an impressive debut for the Rebels, making five tackles in his first game, including two for a loss. The 6-foot-4, 302-pound sophomore played at a junior college in 2015 before redshirting in 2016.
THE ONE AND ONLY: UT Martin's only victory against a team from the FBS came in 2012, when the Skyhawks beat Memphis 20-17. UT Martin is coming off a 36-0 win over Clarion its opener. It was the first shutout for the Skyhawks since 2011. Ole Miss beat UT Martin 76-3 in 2015.
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