Ole Miss has had plenty of excuses to be a bad football team this season.
But despite a constant drumbeat of bad news and adverse circumstances, the Rebels have remained a fairly competitive program. Now Ole Miss (4-5) has a chance to get back to .500 when it hosts Louisiana-Lafayette (4-4) in a non-conference game on Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.
Ole Miss walked away with a 38-37 win over Kentucky last weekend after scoring a touchdown with five seconds remaining on a pass from Jordan Ta'amu to D.K. Metcalf. It was arguably the best moment in a season that’s been marred from the start after a self-imposed postseason ban and the sudden resignation of coach Hugh Freeze in July.
Ole Miss interim coach Matt Luke, who has manage to hold the program together amid all the adversity, said there’s still plenty to play for over the season’s final weeks. A fifth win would match the Ole Miss total from last season, when the Rebels finished 5-7.
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“The biggest thing is we have 17 days left guaranteed together, and we have to make the best of those 17 days,” Luke said earlier this week. “That’s what we talked about in the locker room after the game. With this young team only having 12 seniors, we talk about, ‘Hey, we’re learning how to get better. We’re learning how to win.
“If you keep putting yourself in position to win games, you’re going to win your share.’ ”
Louisiana-Lafayette has won three of its past four games, including last week’s 19-14 victory over South Alabama.
Ole Miss backup quarterback Jordan Ta'amu has been solid since starter Shea Patterson went down with a knee injury two weeks ago against LSU. Ta'amu completed 31 of 40 passes for 382 yards and four touchdowns against Kentucky, including the game-winner to D.K. Metcalf with five seconds left.
Ole Miss kicker Gary Wunderlich has 62 career field goals, which is one short of the school record set by Jonathan Nichols, who played from 2001-04. He also needs just 13 points to pass Nichols for school records for points scored and points kicking.
Ole Miss has a 4-0 record against Louisiana-Lafayette and all four games have been played in Oxford. The Rebels won the last meeting 56-15 in 2014.
Ole Miss sophomore receiver A.J. Brown leads the SEC with 830 yards receiving, 92.2 yards receiving per game and 5.3 catches per game. Defensive end Marquis Haynes has 7 1/2 sacks, which ranks third in the SEC and 11th nationally.
Louisiana-Lafayette is one of four FBS schools who have started three different quarterbacks in wins this season. True freshman Levi Lewis made his first start in the Ragin' Cajuns win over South Alabama last week. Lewis threw for 110 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 129 yards.
Who: Louisiana-Lafayette at Ole Miss
When: 11 a.m. Saturday
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 103.1 FM