Inside the Numbers in Saturday's Regional Rivalry Reunion
HATTIESBURG, Miss. -- Saturday's R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will be the 52nd all-time game between Southern Miss and Louisiana-Lafayette and the first since 2008. The Golden Eagles lead the series 39-11-1, with 16 of those games coming between 1981 and 1999.
The last meeting between the teams saw Southern Miss roll up a 51-21 win in the 2008 season opener, which also marked the first games for head coach Larry Fedora and quarterback Austin Davis. Damion Fletcher was an absolute stud with his 222 yards on 21 carries, while Bubba Kirksey added 110 more. The Golden Eagles won that Aug. 30 matchup in front of over 32,000 fans.
There are two 1,000-yard rushers slated to battle one another, highlighted by Ito Smith and his 1,321 yards that rank No. 20 nationally. He has also scored 15 touchdowns, which ranks 15th. Elijah McGuire, the Ragin' Cajuns' ground-game star, put up 223 yards against South Alabama and has totaled 1,028 this season.
Southern Miss' defense has proved to be stout at the line of scrimmage and really made an impression against Aaron Jones at UTEP, the league's best rusher at 147 yards per game. Outside of his early 68-yard score that accounted for the Miners' only points of the night, the Golden Eagles held him to a modest 15-carry, 68-yard game that many opponents would envy.
UL, thanks to McGuire, has actually averaged three more yards per game than Southern Miss on the year. Nick Mullens, through his 9 1/2 games played so far, has helped engineer the Golden Eagles to a higher passing (294.2 - 185.2) and total offense (472.1 - 365.9) yard advantage.
The Ragin' Cajuns' second-leading rusher is also its signal-caller and someone that many college football fans in the region may have heard of. Anthony Jennings tallied 322 and a tied-team-high seven touchdowns as a graduate transfer from LSU. He started 12 of the Tigers' 13 games in 2014 and led fourth-quarter comebacks three times.
Fans can tune in to the 8 p.m. Saturday game by watching ESPN or following along with the Southern Miss IMG Sports Network, airing locally on 104.5 Hattiesburg/Laurel.