Next Level: ‘Old Arden’ and LSU will have their opportunities against Ole Miss and Louisiana native Shea Patterson

October 18, 2017

In watching the replay of LSU’s comeback win over Auburn, Christian LaCouture saw the same Arden Key that everyone else saw.

“I feel like it was the old Arden again, coming around the corner,” the LSU defensive end said. “He was doing that before, but I think he was a little overweight.”

The Old Arden roared to life during LSU’s furious 20-point comeback in the 27-23 victory of then-No. 10 Auburn. The stat sheet — a season-high 6 tackles — only tells half of the story. The advanced stats show Key’s backfield presence. He had six quarterback pressures, easily his most since a return five games ago against Mississippi State.

This is good news for 24th-ranked LSU (5-2, 2-1 Southeastern) and bad news for its next opponent, Ole Miss (3-3, 1-2). The Rebels are a pass-happy team that provides a perfect opportunity for the Tigers’ junior edge rusher to extend his newfound sizzle after a quiet first four games.

Ole Miss attempts more passes a game (39.5) than all but 17 other teams, and the Rebels have allowed more sacks (16) than all but 12 teams that have played six or fewer games.

Shea Patterson is not easy to tackle, though. The No. 1-ranked pro-style passer in the 2016 class, Patterson is a threat to run. More so, he’s a threat to escape the pocket and chunk it down field. The Rebels are a big-play passing attack, a unit that ranks second nationally in completions of 30 yards or more (17).

Toppling Patterson is critical. Trapping him in a closing pocket is the goal.

It can be difficult. The 6-2, 200-pound Shreveport native has a quick release, and LaCouture referred to him as a “gunslinger.” He compares Ole Miss’ pass-leaning, up-tempo spread scheme to the one Syracuse brought into Tiger Stadium last month. He compares Patterson to Syracuse QB Eric Dungey “but with a better arm,” he said.

“It’s so quick out of his hand. A lot of three-step (drops),” LaCouture said.

Key, meanwhile, is rounding into shape, and coordinator Dave Aranda is moving him around in attempt to get him effective matchups. During the first half of the game against Auburn, Key lined up, with his hand on the ground, at a defensive tackle position, beside LaCouture and with Corey Thompson and K’Lavon Chaisson as the edge guys.

“He’s down to 253 pounds now as opposed to 270 something. (It’s) making a difference,” coach Ed Orgeron said.

He’ll be hunting down a player with a connection to this place. LSU courted Patterson during his high school days at Calvary Baptist. His brother, now on the Ole Miss support staff, served in a similar role at LSU.

Some in the state say he snubbed his home-state school signing with its SEC Western Division rival. Last year, Patterson was left in Oxford, Mississippi, during the Rebels trip to Tiger Stadium. He watched the Rebels lose 38-21.

Patterson returned to Louisiana this summer to serve as a counselor at the Manning Passing Academy, and he recited to a reporter Ole Miss’ slogan this season, one that cannot end with a bowl because of self-imposed NCAA sanctions.

“If we’re not going, you’re not going,” he said. “That’s our motto.”