Ragin' Focus

Ole Miss, amidst chilly conditions, held a light practice inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Thursday. Go inside for a full report, including updates on middle linebacker Jonathan Cornell and quarterback Jeremiah Masoli.

Ole Miss head coach Houston Nutt, football in hand, was upbeat when meeting with the media after a light practice inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium Thursday.

He had his reasons.

Senior linebacker Jonathan Cornell, who hurt his hip in a 51-31 loss to Auburn, had returned to the practice field. He was limited, but still running through some drills, giving Nutt a bit of guarded optimism he could play in some capacity Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette.

Houston Nutt

"Fairly healthy," he said. "Jonathan moved around a little bit better. He probably won't start. We'll see how that goes. I'd like to hold him, but I don't know if we can."

Cornell leads the team in tackles, having totaled 56 through eight games. His 11 tackles for loss are also a team-best, as are his 3.5 sacks. Against Auburn, Cornell collected four tackles (four solo) and 1.5 tackles for loss.

Cornell ranks in the top-10 in the Southeastern Conference in both TFLs and sacks.

"He's big," Nutt said. "I just don't know. I just don't know if he'll be back. But he's been a real leader for us."

Louisiana-Lafayette, despite its 2-6 overall record, has some weapons, according to Nutt. Chris Masson leads the Cajuns with 1,512 yards passing and nine touchdowns, while freshman Aaron Spikes has added 211 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.

ULL has dropped out-of-conference matchups against Georgia, Ohio and Oklahoma State by a combined score of 140-66.

"They spread you out," Nutt said. "Here's fast sweep, here's a reverse. That scares you. And then you see how hard they play. Oklahoma State, Georgia – even though the score got away towards the end – but early on, it was competitive."

Nutt praised ULL tight end Ladarius Green, who Nutt believes has NFL-type potential.

"Their tight end, watch the tight end," Nutt said. "He's 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, runs about a 4.6, 4.5 (40-yard dash), excellent hands. NFL-type tight end."

Snapping the streak:

Ole Miss, sitting 3-5 (1-4 SEC) on the season, will be looking to snap a three-game losing streak Saturday.

The Rebels are a heavy favorite against Louisiana-Lafayette, but with an early-season loss to Jacksonville State on their resume, senior quarterback Jeremiah Masoli said the team isn't taking a lesser opponent lightly.

"It's real easy to kind of sit back and relax and look at who you're playing," he said. "But as a leader, you can't let that happen, and you can't let the younger guys think like that. But I think they're smart enough and they know we really need this win."

Each of Ole Miss' three October losses were to conference opponents (Alabama, Arkansas and Auburn).

Jeremiah Masoli

"We're just ready to play," Masoli said. "We're ready to get out there on Saturday and get this bad taste out of our mouths. We're ready to put it out there."

Louisiana-Lafayette has one of the nation's worst defenses, by statistical standards. But Masoli isn't buying those poor numbers when watching film. He sees a hard-nosed Cajun defense that flies to the football.

"They're a good team," he said. "They play really hard on defense; run to the ball really well. They're going to come ready to fight."

Masoli is one of four players in the nation averaging at least 50 rushing yards and 180 passing yards. He leads an offense ranking third in the league in rushing with 212.0 yards per game. Ole Miss also ranks sixth in the SEC in scoring offense and fifth in total offense.

"We've got to make sure we execute against these guys," Masoli said. "We've been shooting ourselves in the foot week in and week out with some small stuff that could've turned into big plays, so we want to capitalize on that."

The Rebels are 7-1 in November games under Nutt. Masoli said the team will need yet another memorable final month of the regular season to realize a third bowl in as many seasons.

"We just need to win out," he said. "That's our main goal. That's our first objective with this Saturday in mind."

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