Jordan Ta’amu officially took over as the Ole Miss starting quarterback last month when Shea Patterson was lost for the season with a knee injury against LSU.
Ta'amu has been setting records ever since, and UL-Lafayette was his latest victim.
Ta’amu was 28 of 36 for a career-high 418 passing yards and five total touchdowns (three passing, two rushing) and the Rebels routed the Ragin' Cajuns 50-22 on Saturday afternoon at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
“I think he’s got good poise,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said. “He throws strikes, and I tell you, a couple of times you could tell we covered his first and second progression and he sat there and he found the dig across the middle. You could hear the ball hitting the receiver’s shoulder pads with a pop. He’s got a live arm. He’s a very able runner who can hurt you with his legs. I think the guy did a really good job. He’s tough to stop, especially with their running back and their wideouts.”
Ta'amu's touchdowns all came in the first half as Ole Miss (5-5) scored on each of its first five possessions and led 35-7 by the time Ta'amu ran for his second touchdown with 7:56 left in the second quarter.
Meanwhile, UL-Lafayette (4-5) was undermanned with five starters suspended and had true freshman quarterback Levi Lewis in his second career start. The Cajuns struggled to generate offense early against a Rebels defense that entered play ranked No. 118 in the country in total defense and 126th out of 129 teams in rushing defense.
The dual-threat Lewis guided the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 19-14 win over South Alabama in his debut last week. However, he wasn’t able to get much going in any phase Saturday, completing 14 of 26 passes for 166 yards and no touchdowns. He added 11 rushing yards on 11 attempts.
Lewis took all the snaps in the first half, apparently tightening his hold on the job over previous starters Andre Nunez and Jordan Davis.
But now the ULL quarterback carousel is likely to continue churning for at least another week. Lewis left late in the third quarter with an injury — Hudspeth said after the game he sprained his ankle.
Davis replaced him and proceeded to march the Cajuns 90 yards for a touchdown, punctuated by his 10-yard run on fourth-and-7. After Chaiziere Malbrue intercepted Ta’amu on the following possession, Davis capped a four-play, 52-yard touchdown drive with another rushing score, a 31-yard third-down scamper through the heart of the Rebels defense.
“Levi Lewis, once again, showed a lot of poise there in the first half,” Hudspeth said. “Everything indicates that he’s fine. Just got a little ankle sprain, should be fine. I thought Jordan Davis came in and executed really well. Did some nice things, had a big run for a touchdown. I thought it was good to see him sharp and come into the game and execute.
“That’s something we’ll have to sit down and look at.”
No Cajuns quarterback had rushed for 100 yards in a game this season until Lewis rushed for a team-best 129 on 18 carries against South Alabama. Ole Miss bottled him up, but Davis who proved to be a spark. As a team, UL-Lafayette finished with 228 yards on 31 carries, 7.4 yards per carry.
Davis finished 4 of 9 passing for 33 yards, and he tied for the team-high in yards rushing with 52, along with his two touchdowns.
The Cajuns just had no answer for Ta’amu.
“He definitely is a good quarterback,” Cajuns defensive back Tracy Walker said. “I can tell he picked up on a lot of things from Shea Patterson. I wish I could have played him, but it didn’t turn out that way. Jordan is definitely a good quarterback. He reads his keys and he does his job. He runs the offense well.”
And they had no definitive answer, either, for the year-long question of whom to call on, consistently, under center moving forward as they fight for bowl eligibility.
ULL has three games remaining and returns to action at home at 4 p.m. next Saturday against New Mexico State.