Rebels set sights on Ragin' Cajuns

Sep 10, 2014 - 3:23 PM Oxford, MS ( - The 14th-ranked Ole Miss Rebels step out of SEC play on Saturday afternoon to play host to the Sun Belt Conference's Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns in their home opener at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Louisiana was dubbed the preseason favorite to win the Sun Belt after sharing the league title last season and is off to a 1-1 start in its non-conference schedule this year. After making easy work of Southern University in the opener (45-6), the Cajuns suffered a disappointing home loss to Louisiana Tech last Saturday, 48-20.

"We are much better than we showed (versus Louisiana Tech), and I am confident we are going to show that," Louisiana head coach Mark Hudspeth said. "One game does not make or break your season and we are fixing to come back and grind and get better."

A pair of impressive wins has allowed Ole Miss to creep up the rankings in the AP poll after starting the season at No. 18. The Rebels made easy work of Boise State in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game in Atlanta, 35-13, then went on the road to trounce Vanderbilt in their SEC opener, 41-3.

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze is the former head coach of Sun Belt squad Arkansas State, making him extra prepared to handle the Cajuns.

"I'm very familiar with what they do having play in that conference with them," he said. "They are very balanced, and they do a lot of the same stuff we do. They are a good football team, no question."

The Rebels have defeated the Cajuns in all three previous meetings dating back to 2010.

Although Louisiana picked up 415 yards of offense against Louisiana Tech last week, its three turnovers held it to a mere 20 points. Its yearly averages, however, are still stellar (32.5 ppg, 463.5 ypg).

Terrance Broadway was named the Preseason Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year but is off to a modest start. He's completed 61.9 percent of his passes for 387 yards with four touchdowns and three picks to go with 120 yards rushing an another score. Brooks Haack (14-of-17, 114 yards, two TDs) has looked great in limited action late in lopsided affairs, but it doesn't appear Broadway's starting gig is in jeopardy.

The Cajuns have an impressive tailback duo in Elijah McGuire (144 yards, TD) and Alonzo Harris (121 yards, TD), who, along with Broadway, help the team pick up 213 rushing yards per game.

Jamal Robinson is a big-play receiver, having tallied 141 yards and two scores on just seven catches.

Louisiana's defense has had one great performance and one poor one, resulting in middle-of-the-road stats (27.0 ppg, 406.0 ypg).

Trae Johnson has registered 17 tackles, nearly twice as many as any of his teammates. The unit has yet to record a takeaway.

The Ole Miss offense has been firing on all cylinders with 38.0 ppg and 502.5 ypg, and those numbers would be even better if it hadn't already committed four turnovers.

After three picks in the opener, Bo Wallace settled down against Vanderbilt, completing 23-of-30 passes for 320 yards and a touchdown. He's completing just shy of 73 percent of his throws this season for 707 yards and five scores.

"I'm just relaxing and playing ball," the signal caller said. "I don't think it's the best I've ever played or anything like that. I'm just trying to put points up and trying to win games."

Wallace's passing prowess has resulted in fast starts for several receivers. Cody Core is a deep threat with 195 yards and three scores on just eight catches, while Evan Engram (11 receptions, 153 yards) and Laquon Treadwell (11 receptions, 136 yards) are also heavily involved.

The Rebels' ground game has been stagnant so far, with Jordan Wilkins (48 yards) and Mark Dodson (47 yards) leading the sluggish rushing attack.

Ole Miss has played outstanding defensively, allowing a mere 8.0 ppg and 283.0 ypg. It held Vanderbilt to only nine first downs and 6-of-25 passing last week.

The unit already has five interceptions, one by Cody Prewitt (nine tackles), one of the SEC's best safeties. Mike Hilton and Trae Elston are the unit's top tacklers with 12 and 11, respectively.

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