In a game highlighted by offensive explosion, Ole Miss dominated Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday and reached a 5-5 record on the season. Though the stands may have been near desolate, coming off of a momentum-boosting, last-second road win against Kentucky, energy was high, and the sideline was electric. With the pressure of reaching .500 on the season in the back of head coach Matt Luke’s and the players’ minds, the Rebels did not disappoint.
In their second consecutive win, Phil Longo’s mercurial offense put on a clinic against the Ragin’ Cajuns, putting up 641 offensive yards on 79 plays. The Landshark defense held the opponents from Louisiana to only 10 points through three quarters, before the Ragin’ Cajuns found the end zone twice in the fourth quarter against Ole Miss’ bench. After winning by a final score of 50-22, the Rebels will head into next weekend with much-needed confidence.
Ole Miss dominated the first half. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu carved up the Ragin’ Cajuns’ defensive unit both through the air and on the ground. His command of the offense continues to grow with every snap. Ta’amu accounted for 431 yards, including three touchdown throws and two touchdown runs. He was generous with his targets, finding nine different receivers on the day. A.J. Brown led those receivers with 185 yards in 14 catches and two touchdown grabs. Luke was pleased with his offense’s fast start.
“The offense scored on the first five possessions,” Luke said. “I was pleased for them coming out ready to play. Jordan played really well.”
The Rebel defense, at times, did struggle to contain Louisiana-Lafayette quarterback Levi Lewis in the pocket. The Ragin’ Cajuns were able to generate big plays when Lewis avoided the pass rush to keep plays alive. But in most every other aspect, the defense performed well in the first half. Tayler Polk came up with four tackles, including a sack, to lead the Landsharks in the first half.
The Rebel offense spent much of the second half in game-management mode, burning clock with frequent run calls. The first drive of the half was a seven-play, 80-yard drive that running back Jordan Wilkins capped off with a 3-yard score.
In Ta’amu’s last drive of the game, the offense marched 75 yards en route to an Eric Swinney score. Luke chose to go for two points, and the offense converted. Apart from those drives, the offense mustered just 16 plays throughout the half. The only turnover of the game was an interception thrown by Ta’amu early in the fourth quarter.
Wilkins found himself with more than 100 rushing yards again, adding 124 yards and a touchdown. Ta’amu tallied 418 yards through the air, 185 of which went in the direction of wide receiver A.J. Brown. Brown tied former Ole Miss wide receiver, now NFL player, Laquon Treadwell’s single-game catch record with 14. Brown told the coaches he wanted one more for the record.
“I did (tell coach Luke) but he was not aware,” Brown said. “I told them I would run a bubble screen and fall down.”
Two of Louisiana’s three touchdowns arrived in the second half. Lewis continued to scramble, avoiding pressure and allowing his receivers to open up. Even though the Rebels finished the game with three sacks, there were opportunities for more.
With that said, the Ragin’ Cajuns’ run game was effective. Nine different players combined for 228 rushing yards. This Ole Miss defense continues to struggle with opponents’ run games. Polk finished as the leading tackler for the Rebels with five, and Breeland Speaks and C.J. Moore finished with two apiece.
Van Jefferson left the game in the first half with a seemingly serious injury to his left arm. After the game, Luke hadn’t received an update on the extent of the injury.
“I was not exactly sure of the injury,” Luke said. “I will find out when I leave here. I am going to check on Van as soon as I am done here.”
With the win, the Rebels improved to 5-5 on the season. Two games remain this year for the Rebels, which are both potentially vital for Luke’s future as head coach. Texas A&M comes to town next weekend for senior night, and a Thanksgiving Day Egg Bowl matchup waits in the not-too-distant future.