Quinshon Judkins and No. 9 Ole Miss will aim to continue their fast start to the season on Saturday when they visit Vanderbilt at Nashville, Tenn.
Judkins was named Southeastern Conference Co-Freshman of the Week on Monday, two days after rushing for 106 yards and a touchdown in the Rebels’ 22-19 victory over then-No. 7 Kentucky.
Judkins has rushed for 535 yards and six TDs this season for Ole Miss (5-0, 1-0), which has won its first five games of a season for the first time since 2014.
Rebels coach Lane Kiffin said he isn’t concerned with Judkins’ workload at this point in the season.
“He’s great. He was really struggling early in the week physically from all the pounding two weeks ago, but he was better by the end of the week,” Kiffin said. “… He didn’t take the pounding that he took the week before. He’s doing a phenomenal job.”
Micah Pettus helped pave the way for Judkins, and in doing so was named the SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week on Monday. Pettus played at right tackle in lieu of the team’s injuries along the line.
“He did play great for a first start; he played great whether it was his first start or not,” Kiffin said. “Really physical, how we talk about straining to finish, finishing people with a violent attitude, and that was awesome to see. So we pointed him out today in film, told our players again, this is how you’re supposed to do (it) in this program.”
While applauding Pettus’ effort, Kiffin also said Ole Miss needs to put the Kentucky game in the past and focus on Vanderbilt.
“Just like last week, we said, you’ve got to prepare the same regardless,” Kiffin said. “Last week, everybody built up the game and everything. Told them, it’s a faceless opponent. It’s not just when you play a team that’s not ranked and you’re heavily favored with. It’s both ways. That way you avoid playing like this. Hopefully they listened.”
The Rebels’ defense has allowed an average of just 11.8 points per game and has held nine of its last 10 opponents to 21 points or less.
Vanderbilt (3-2, 0-1) has been idle since being steamrolled by then-No. 2 Alabama 55-3 on Sept. 24. The Crimson Tide had a decisive 628-129 advantage in total yards.
Commodores coach Clark Lea plans to make adjustments following the one-sided setback.
“It’s just about improvement,” Lea said. “We’ve pinpointed some areas we want to strengthen from the performance (against Alabama), and we’re just going to pull that learning forward. And as we go, I think also these (bye) weeks give you a chance to kind of make adjustments and adaptations, not in big ways, but in subtle ways that kind of equip you schematically, so we’ll look at that, too.”
AJ Swann struggled mightily in his second career start, completing just 13 of 26 passes for 115 yards in the loss to the Crimson Tide.
Will Sheppard leads the team in catches (26), receiving yards (365) and receiving touchdowns (seven) this season. He had two catches for 13 yards in Vanderbilt’s 31-17 setback to Ole Miss last season.