GAMEDAY PREVIEW: Idaho At Ole Miss

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I'Tavius Mathers

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I'Tavius Mathers
OLEMISSSPORTSDOTCOM

Oct. 26, 2013

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OXFORD, Miss. — Coming off the program’s first win over a top-10 foe since 2009, Ole Miss hosts Idaho in the program’s 86th Homecoming game, with a kickoff set for 6:30 p.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

The thrilling 27-24 win over No. 6 LSU capped a four-game stretch that featured three top-10 opponents.

“We’ve got to put it away and move forward,” head coach Hugh Freeze said. “That gauntlet that we’ve gone through has taken a toll on us some, physically and mentally. We certainly need to continue moving in the right direction in all areas.”

"As big as (the LSU win) was for us and the fan base, if we go out there and don't show up against Idaho, that win doesn't really mean a lot," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said. "We know who we're playing this week, and we'll prepare just like they're any other team."

Last week, senior kicker Andrew Ritter kicked the game-winning 41-yard field goal with two seconds left, as the Rebels knocked off the Tigers and improved to 4-3 overall and 2-3 in Southeastern Conference games.

This week’s opponent, Idaho, which plays as an FBS Independent team, is 1-6 this season. The Vandals' lone win was a 26-24 victory over Temple on Sept. 28, but they did have a close 45-35 loss to current No. 22-ranked Northern Illinois on Sept. 24.

“We got a team coming in this week that I'm sure will have nothing to lose playing in an SEC home and have a chance to make some noise, just like many teams did last weekend,” Freeze said. “We don’t want to be on the other end of that, so we have got to regain our kids’ focus and elevate our concentration to do the little things right.”

In the win over LSU, Wallace completed 30-of-39 passes for 346 yards, his third-straight 300-yard passing game, as the Ole Miss offense racked up 525 yards of total offense. He ranks fourth in the SEC in total offense (278.9 ypg) and fifth in passing (255.7 ypg).

“Bo played his best game he’s played since he’s been here,” said Freeze, of Wallace against LSU. “I can only find two things to complain about, and hopefully we can get those cleaned up, and him play an even more complete game. Dan (Werner) did a great job with him all week making sure he understood our plan exactly.”

On the ground, sophomore running back Jaylen Walton filled in for injured senior Jeff Scott against LSU and set career highs with 106 rushing yards, two rushing touchdowns and 192 all-purpose yards. He is also second on the team with 235 rushing yards and tied for second with four total touchdowns.

“I was really impressed, but at the same time, I believe in them just as much as Jeff,” said Wallace, of Walton and fellow sophomore running back I’Tavius Mathers. “I’Tavius had a big night against Texas A&M, and for Jaylen to come out and play the way he did against LSU, it was exciting to see.”

The Ole Miss defense forced three first-half turnovers, all interceptions, in the win over LSU, including junior Cody Prewitt, who recorded his SEC-leading fourth interception of the season. He is also second in the league and tied for sixth nationally with 0.57 interceptions per game.

Like several other teams around college football, the Rebels are dealing with a laundry list of injuries, including three starters who are out for the year in junior offensive lineman Aaron Morris (ACL), junior defensive end C.J. Johnson (ankle) and freshman tight end Evan Engram (ankle).

Several other key players missed the LSU game and could miss more action. Among them are junior linebacker Serderius Bryant (concussion), sophomore cornerback Mike Hilton (hamstring), freshman defensive lineman Robert Nkemdiche (hamstring), senior running back Jeff Scott (thigh bruise) and junior defensive end Carlos Thompson (neck/shoulder strain).

“At this point in the season, we have to manage the risk associated with playing someone a bit early, particularly if you have some depth at that spot,” Freeze said. “If you don’t, you have to play them.”

This is the first meeting all-time between Ole Miss and Idaho. The Rebels are 68-15-2 all-time in Homecoming games and have won 14 of their last 16, including last year’s 41-20 win over Auburn.

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