OXFORD —Luke Altmyer didn’t waste much time in the first start of his career. His competition in the quarterback room — Jaxson Dart — didn’t either.
The first play of Ole Miss’ matchup against Central Arkansas Saturday night was a 36-yard deep strike and circus catch from Altmyer to senior wide receiver Jonathan Mingo. Altmyer then capped off the opening drive with a seven-yard touchdown pass to sophomore tight end Michael Trigg.
While it was against a lesser defensive grouping than he will likely see the remainder of the season, the sophomore from Starkville had about as good a start as possible, hitting 6 of 7 passes for 90 yards and three total touchdowns in the first quarter in a dominant 59-3 win over FCS foe Central Arkansas at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Altmyer took a hard hit early in the second quarter, and his pace slowed from there, as he missed all six of his pass attempts in the second, including an interception. Dart entered the game on the Rebels’ final drive of the quarter and played the remainder of the game. An Ole Miss spokesperson said it was deemed an upper body injury for Altmyer.
Dart was stellar, completing 10 of 15 passes for 182 yards and two touchdown passes.
“We’ll have to go watch the film,” Ole Miss head coach Lane Kiffin said. “I felt bad for Luke, because he was injured, and he’s so competitive that, stayed in even when we asked him. I think you can see it on the interception. … We’ll go back and look at the film and see what we think.”
After Dart — a transfer from USC — got the start in the season opener against Troy, Saturday was Altmyer’s turn to try his hand at winning the job as the Rebels’ (2-0) starting signal caller, as head coach Lane Kiffin said the race was tight enough to warrant each getting the chance to start a game.
Altmyer threw two touchdowns, both to Trigg, and rushed for another in a 28-point first quarter onslaught. Trigg finished with three touchdown catches, which is tied for the school record for a single game.
Altmyer has been locked in a tight battle with Dart, who threw for 154 yards, one touchdown and one interception and had an additional 40 yards rushing in the 28-10 win over Troy. Altmyer didn’t see action against Troy until the fourth quarter in that game, where he completed 1 of 2 passes for 13 yards.
Dart admitted that a quarterback competition can be taxing.
“Honestly, it’s a little bit of a whirlwind that you kind of go through mentally. There’s definitely times that where you have a really good day and then there’s a day that you might not do the best, or how you wanted to play,” Dart said. “For me, I try not to read into things sometimes, but anytime there’s a competition like this, we both are going after the same thing. We’re working really hard on that, we’re pushing each other. So, there’s definitely times when your head gets a little foggy, but you have to just try to just keep pushing through.”
The Rebels surrendered just 23 yards to Central Arkansas (0-2) in the first quarter and scored one touchdown on a bad punt snap and another by way of a blocked punt setting up a short field. The Bears (0-2) had just 79 yards of offense in the first half.
Mingo added another highlight catch in the third quarter, a 51-yard, one-handed grab from Dart. Mingo finished with 103 yards on three catches.
“I learned about myself (that), you really have to be prepared every single play,” Dart said. “You never know what’s going to happen. You never know when your number is going to be called. … That’s something that I learned a lot tonight.”
Junior running back Zach Evans racked up 53 yards and scored his first Ole Miss touchdown in the third quarter, and freshman Quinshon Judkins rushed for 104 yards on 10 carries. The Rebels ran for 231 yards on 7.4 yards per carry in the game.
“I don’t usually say that about any of these guys, because we have high expectations,” Kiffin said. “I knew (Judkins) was special, but his vision — we knew he was physical, but his vision is really unique. We’ve got three special guys … It’s a pretty special room.”
The Rebels play their first road game next weekend, an afternoon matchup with Georgia Tech set to kick off at 2:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ABC.
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