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No. 22 Ole Miss gives Luke Altmyer a turn vs. Central Arkansas

Sep 3, 2022; Oxford, Mississippi, USA; Mississippi Rebels head coach Lane Kiffin reacts during the first half against the Troy Trojans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Petre Thomas-USA TODAY Sports

After a season-opening win, Ole Miss will have another chance to pile up points this weekend.

They will also do so with a different starting quarterback.

Against Central Arkansas on Saturday night in Oxford, Miss., the No. 22 Rebels (1-0) will call on Luke Altmyer as part of a preseason plan of alternating starting signal-callers in the first two games.

That decision came about because there was no definitive separation between Altmyer and prized Southern California transfer Jaxson Dart — both trying to live up to the lofty standards set by 2021 quarterback Matt Corral.

In four seasons and 37 games played at Ole Miss, Corral totaled 8,287 passing yards with 57 touchdowns and 23 interceptions. He also rushed for 1,338 yards and 18 scores.

Most importantly, before departing for the NFL’s Carolina Panthers, Corral guided Ole Miss to its first-ever 10-win regular reason.

The current quarterback issues present a problem coach Lane Kiffin didn’t experience over his two years with Corral, who started all 23 games in 2020 and 2021.

“We’d always like to have it figured out,” Kiffin said. “This is not ideal. Luke Altmyer will go first in this game. So that gives both guys an opportunity to go first. We’ll see how he plays.”

A native of Kaysville, Utah, Dart got the start Saturday in the Rebels’ 28-10 home win over Troy, but the numbers were modest. He went 18-for-27 for 154 yards (5.7 yards per attempt) with one touchdown and one interception.

In fact, the running game and defense decided the game against their Sun Belt foe.

In their first starts in the Ole Miss backfield, TCU transfer Zach Evans (20 carries for 130 yards) and true freshman Quinshon Judkins (14 for 87, one TD) led the Rebels’ ground attack that churned out 266 yards and three scores on 44 carries.

The victory was the Rebels’ 10th straight at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, their longest streak since winning 33 consecutive games from 1952 to 1964.

In its season opener at home last Thursday, Central Arkansas (0-1) — an FCS program in the ASUN Conference — fell behind 20-0 to Missouri State after three quarters and lost 27-14.

After UCA quarterback Will McElvain’s 12-yard run put the home side on the board, the Bears allowed Missouri State’s Montrae Braswell to go 98 yards on a kickoff return touchdown.

“I thought our defense played a whale of a game,” Bears head coach Nathan Brown said. “They held their offense to 20 points and held them to field goals. Just played really, really good all night. So I’m really encouraged in that aspect.”

The Bears ran the ball well in the loss, logging 168 yards on 41 carries (4.1 per rush).

Running back Darius Hale, the ASUN Freshman of the Year in 2021, compiled 99 yards on 18 carries (5.5 per rush). The sophomore rushed for 1,015 yards on 198 carries in 2021.

But run defense was an area of strength for Ole Miss, which shut down Troy for 60 yards on 33 attempts (1.8 per rush).

“We’ll get better from this,” Brown said. “The fun part about that is, you get to go play Ole Miss now. That’s a little bit of a daunting task, but again, one we’ll be excited about.”

–Field Level Media