Nov. 16, 2013

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Monday Blog: Rebels Excited But Not Satisfied

Wednesday Blog: Dungy Visits Campus, Scott Returns

OXFORD, Miss. — Ole Miss is 6-3 for the first time since 2009, and the Rebels are bowl eligible for the second straight year under Hugh Freeze, as they host the Troy Trojans with kickoff set for 11 a.m. from Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

"I like that the expectation level has risen," assistant head coach Matt Luke said on Monday. "They're not just satisfied with getting six wins but trying to build this program to where we all want it to be.”

"It's a sense of accomplishment," sophomore offensive lineman Justin Bell said. "It shows that we're better than we were last year. We're not where we want to be but we're far from where we used to be."

Ole Miss (6-3, 3-3 SEC) enters its first ever meeting with Troy on a three-game winning streak, which includes victories over then-No. 6 LSU, Idaho and Arkansas.

The Trojans (5-5, 3-3 Sun Belt) won three of their first four league games before dropping close losses to ULM (49-47) and Louisiana-Lafayette (41-36) each of the past two weeks. Their only previous game against an SEC team this year was a 62-7 loss at Mississippi State.

"I don't think it’s a challenge of focus," Luke said. "We have to focus on us and getting better. That's the main thing. We want to finish going up, and to do that, each game has to be an improvement. And there are certainly a lot of areas of improvement from the Arkansas game, and that's a good thing. Our goal is to focus on us, get better and finish these three games playing our best football."

"Our mindset is so much on nine wins that we know we have to be prepared to play and reach that goal," junior quarterback Bo Wallace said.

Wallace leads an Ole Miss offense that ranks third in the SEC in passing (288.4 ypg) and fifth in total offense (469.9 ypg). He ranks top 25 nationally in passing (264.8 ypg) and total offense (283.2 ypg), including a career-best 416 passing yards and 428 total yards against Arkansas, which were both the second-best single-game totals in school history.

Senior running back Jeff Scott, the team’s leading rusher who has been sidelined since the Texas A&M game with a bone spur, is expected to return to the Ole Miss backfield. Scott has rushed for 434 yards and two touchdowns on 53 carries this year, including a career-high 164 yards on 19 carries against Texas.

"He's doing good," running backs coach Derrick Nix said. "The last few days, he's looked great. We're going to try to bring him along slowly for the game on Saturday. We'll have a couple of packages to get him involved. Just do what he can do and not try to run him into the ground right off the bat.”

The Trojans feature a dynamic offense that leads the Sun Belt in passing (324.4 ypg) and total offense (47.5 ypg) and ranks second in the league in scoring offense (34.6 ypg).

"They always have offensive weapons that are scary," head coach Hugh Freeze said. "They've been able to put up points against anybody they have played this year with the exception of one team. They are a scary team offensively because they are going to spread you out and they are athletic. (Corey Robinson), he's one of nation's leaders in passing yards. I have played against him and know he can throw it, so we'll have a challenge there for sure."

Robinson holds 11 Troy and Sun Belt Conference career records, including both the school and league marks for passing yards, passing touchdowns and total yards. His 24 career 300-yard passing games lead all active players in the NCAA.

"He's got a quick release," defensive coordinator Dave Wommack said. "He's thrown for a lot of yards in his career and his high school. He's had his ups and downs at times, he's been banged around, he's been inconsistent at times, but he is dangerous from the standpoint of having a great arm and a quick release."

Ole Miss will close out the season with a pair of big conference games at home against nationally ranked Missouri (Nov. 23) and on the road at Mississippi State (Thursday, Nov. 28).

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