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Advantage Altmyer … for now.
Ole Miss sophomore Luke Altmyer exited spring practice on Saturday either in the lead for the No. 1 quarterback job or closer to it after outplaying USC sophomore transfer Jaxson Dart in the Grove Bowl spring game at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Neither completed passes at a high percentage, though.
Altmyer completed 9 of 22 for 182 yards and rushed five times for 77 yards with touchdown runs of 29 and six yards for the Red in a 48-36 victory over the Navy. Dart completed 11 of 30 for 166 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions while rushing 16 times for 66 yards for the Navy.
“It would be considered Luke’s day,” Ole Miss coach Lane Kiffin said. “Jaxson made some mistakes early, and Luke seemed to play really consistent and not force things.”
Kiffin focused on how his quarterbacks operated his system more than numbers. From that perspective, he also liked the play of sophomore Kinkead Dent, who completed 12 of 13 passes for 140 yards and three touchdowns while playing for both teams.
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“He did what we want our guys to do,” Kiffin said. “It’s not easy when you’re sitting there and get thrown on both teams. I want them to operate the system really well, and not try to play outside of the system. He did a really good job of that.”
Altmyer completed 20 of 37 passes for 192 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions in five games as a backup to Matt Corral last season. Corral is expected to be a late first round or early second round pick in the NFL Draft that begins Thursday.
“I think I did all right,” Altmyer said of the spring game. “I’m a big perfectionist and over-thinker. I think good is never good enough for me. I’m always reaching for bigger heights. But it was a great time. I had a lot of fun. With Matt being gone, a new chapter is turned. It’s just about getting more confident and more comfortable.”
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Dart threw 5- and 3-yard touchdown passes to fellow USC sophomore transfer Michael Trigg, a tight end who caught seven passes for 89 yards for the Navy team.
Sophomore defensive back Tysheem Johnson returned one of Dart’s interceptions 73 yards for a touchdown and 23-0 Red lead in the second quarter.
“I was just reading Dart. Then I looked, and the ball hit my hands,” Johnson said. “I saw one player, and I said, ‘I’ve got to take this for six. I got to score six.’ That’s kind of how it happened.”
Sophomore defensive back Derek Bermudez had the other interception of Dart.
Senior tailback Isaiah Woullard rushed four times for 78 yards for the Navy team with a 55-yard touchdown to cut the Red’s lead to 26-13 in the third quarter. Altmyer answered with his 29-yard touchdown run for a 33-13 Red lead.
Senior tailback Uriah Shephard gained 74 yards on seven rushes for the Navy with a 9-yard touchdown run to cut the Red’s lead to 33-21 in the third quarter.
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Freshman wide receiver JJ Henry caught five passes for 84 yards for the Red team. Senior wide receiver Jonathan Mingo, who caught 22 passes for 346 yards last season, sat out with an injury.
“Better than where it started,” Kiffin said of his receiver room, which lost more than 1,500 receiving yards from last season with Dontario Drummond and Braylon Sanders moving on to the draft. “We know what Mingo is, so not having him is not like having a new player hurt. We see some pieces coming together. JJ Henry made some plays. Obviously, you saw Trigg. So, feeling better.”
Kiffin has lost Corral, who led the Rebels to their first 10-win, regular season in history, but the expectations will not leave as he enters his third season as head coach.
“I can’t control the fan base,” Kiffin said. “Every season is new. Last season has nothing to do with this season, just like the previous one. We always have to start over. So, we’ve got a lot of work to do with so many new people. There were some good things out there. Some guys made some plays. Good to see some turnovers by the defense. Good to see some consistent movement by the offense.”