OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss coach Matt Luke didn’t expect the record-setting night from sophomore receiver A.J. Brown. Because he believes that type of night could come from any one of several Ole Miss receivers.
Brown had eight catches for 233 yards and two touchdowns in the Rebels’ 47-27 win over South Alabama, setting the school record for receiving yards in a game. The old mark (210, by Eddie Small) had stood since 1993.
Brown averaged 29.1 yards per catch and became the first Ole Miss player to have two 70-plus-yard catches in the same game.
“You know he’s good, but you never really expected 233 yards, the greatest single-game performance in history for receiving yards. We have three or four receivers who are capable. It was just kind of his time,” Luke said.
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With Evan Engram, Quincy Adeboyejo and Damore’ea Stringfellow ahead of him last year, Brown was not among the Rebels’ primary options early in the season. He finished the year with 29 catches for 412 yards and two touchdowns, but never had more than four catches in a game. Still, by November he was the Rebels’ best yards-after-contact receiver.
Brown had played out on the edge, and it was that asset that prompted Luke to move him to the slot. “When the plays came to him, not only did he make the catch but he also broke tackles and had big-time plays,” Luke said.
Brown, who was a national top-40 prospect out of Starkville (Miss.) High in the 2016 recruiting cycle, says he views the move as a positive.
“I’ve gotten faster. I feel more comfortable in the slot, not getting pressed every play,” he said. “When my number is called, I just tried to make a play. The goal is to just run to grass every play.”
While Luke works to build depth defensively, he’s pleased with what he’s seeing from his wide receivers. Quarterback Shea Patterson passed for 429 yards, and three receivers had at least 50 yards in the opener. Junior DaMarkus Lodge also had two touchdown catches.
“I’m happy for A.J. and our wide receivers. They’ve been very unselfish,” Luke said. “With the number of good receivers that we have, they all want the ball. I’m happy to see how unselfish they’ve been.”
(You can follow Parrish Alford on Twitter @parrishalford)
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