Junen Impresses

Expectations weren't high for Patrick Junen in his debut season at Ole Miss. He wasn't supposed to play, a walk-on freshman many figured would redshirt in the preseason.

But football is a game of opportunity. Junen knows better than anyone these days.

Ole Miss' offensive line has been a week-to-week experiment through four games, primarily at both guard spots, where Rishaw Johnson and Alex Washington opened the year as starters.

Junen earned his first career start in Saturday's 55-38 win over Fresno State. He helped pave the way for a monstrous day on the ground, as Ole Miss running backs accounted for 425 rushing yards, the most since 1977.

"It was a pretty crazy experience, but I have to give it up to the coaches for believing in me and giving me the opportunity to go in," Junen said. "The rest is God taking control. That's the only way I got here, is through Him."

Ole Miss (2-2, 0-1 SEC) moved the ball at will against the Bulldogs. The interior of the offensive line, which had failed to generate much push during a miserable 1-2 start, did its job with relative ease as the Rebels racked up yards and points.

Junen, though admittedly nervous, handled himself as a veteran. He's originally a tackle, so left guard remains new to him. But he hid it well through solid play.

"Patrick had a bright-eyed look to him," co-offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Mike Markuson said.

Junen practiced with the first team last week, drew his first start against FSU

"There was no indication in the game his head was swimming much or he was not getting the job done. I'm sure he made some mistakes but we'll get those corrected tomorrow. He was in the meeting room every day this week watching film and he handled things well, but I am proud of all of them."

Saturday was easily the most impressive performance of a beleaguered Ole Miss offense this season. Everything clicked, even if Ole Miss threw the ball only 12 times.

The Rebels accounted for the 12th-most points in school history. Brandon Bolden rushed for 228 yards on 19 carries, the program's sixth-highest total, including a 71-yarder up the middle. Jeff Scott, who rushed for 74 yards, broke free for a 55-yard run.

All in all, Ole Miss finished with a ridiculous 578 yards of total offense.

"It's the focus of everybody – the quarterback, running backs, linemen. It was all there," Junen said. "The whole team was blocking well. We clicked and it worked."

Junen couldn't wipe the smile off his face as he sat in the team meeting room of the indoor practice facility postgame. This was what he had worked for, an opportunity to showcase his talents on college football's biggest stage.

"It was still a pretty big deal," Junen said. "There was a little bit of nerves. But once you get out there, those first couple of snaps, you know what you're supposed to do. You've been working on it all week and it's just go out there and do your job.

"It's pretty surreal, but I'm loving every minute of it. I love Ole Miss."

He isn't where he'd like to be yet, but that's to be expected. He's only a true freshman, learning his craft as he goes along.

"It definitely helps, getting that first start under your belt," he said. "That's big, especially against a good team like Fresno. There's some good confidence building.

"From just starting at left guard, because I've been working at left tackle in practice, most of the stuff is the same. Just learning the techniques and the calls with the other guys, that's of big importance. I've got a lot of work to do, but keep going."

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