By PARRISH ALFORD / NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – It took a lot of leg work, but Ole Miss snapped a three-game losing streak Saturday night.
The Rebels rushed for 298 and got 19 points from kicker Bryson Rose to take a 43-21 homecoming victory over Louisiana-Lafayette in their final non-SEC game.
A Vaught-Hemingway Stadium announced crowd of 53,144 watched Ole Miss rush for 298 yards, more than 100 yards each by running backs Brandon Bolden and Enrique Davis.
The forward progress often stopped short of the goalline, and Rose responded with a 5-for-5 field goal night connecting on kicks of 24, 30, 30, 27 and 20 yards.
Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt leaned on his ground game after starting quarterback Jeremiah Masoli left the game in the first quarter with what was described as a “mild concussion.” Masoli did not return, and his status for this week’s game at Tennessee is unclear.
“There’s nothing like winning, nothing like that antidote,” Nutt said. “It’s so good to win.”
Bolden ran for 142 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Bolden had rushed for 73 combined yards in losses Alabama, Auburn and Arkansas.
Davis, playing for the first time since sustaining a knee sprain against Fresno State, had 116 yards on 19 carries.
Deuce McAllister and Joe Gunn each rushed for 100 yards against Georgia in 1999, the last time the Rebels (4-5) had twin 100-yard rushers in one game.
“We did not want to be lazy. It would be easy to think it was just a brush-off game. We wanted to prepare for them like we were playing an SEC team, and that’s what we did,” Bolden said. “We just have to keep pushing.”
Masoli scored on a 6-yard scramble in the first quarter to give the Rebels a 17-7 lead, but the points were costly when he was tagged by ULL linebacker Devon Lewis-Buchanon.
Masoli was back on the field for the next series as Ole Miss scored on his 15-yard shovel pass to Bolden. Shortly after, however, it was announced that Masoli had sustained a “mild concussion.” He did not return.
The Rebels scored 17 points off three ULL turnovers in the first quarter and were pushing to make it a 34-14 game late in the second quarter, but Rodney Scott fumbled at the 7, and Cajuns defensive back Melvin White scooped it up and ran 93 yards for a touchdown.
After up back Martez Eastland returned a squib kick 39 yards, the Rebels added a field goal, the third of the half for Bryson Rose, to lead 30-21 at the break.
The fumble return turned out to be the final score for the Cajuns.
“That could have been a real downer, but I loved the way our team responded in the third quarter,” Nutt said. “Our defense played extremely hard. They had some big hits and forced some turnovers. I’m proud of our defense.”
The defense played without senior middle linebacker Jonathan Cornell, who sustained a hip injury against last week against Auburn. Freshman Mike Marry started in his place and had a game-high 11 tackles.
“We couldn’t get any of our big playmakers to make plays,” ULL coach Rickey Bustle said. “They played us man coverage all night long. We had some good plays, but it wasn’t exactly what we wanted.”
Each ULL possession in the second half end with a punt except the one in which the Cajuns ran out the clock.
The Cajuns (2-7) burned the Rebels with big plays early, hitting screen passes to open field when the Rebels had blitzed. Lafayette drove 73 yards in seven plays with the opening kick and led 7-0.
The Rebels scored the next 24 points, however, three times getting the ball inside the ULL 50 on interceptions by Charles Sawyer and Jeremy McGee and a fumble recovery by defensive tackle Lawon Scott.
Contact Parrish Alford at 678-1600