Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke and coordinators Wesley McGriff and Phil Longo met with the media Monday in the Rebels’ weekly press conference and took questions about Ole Miss’ 27-16 loss to Cal Saturday in Berkeley.
After looking at the game film, Coach Luke commented specifically on the impact of the Rebels’ 16 penalties against the Golden Bears.
“I was really disappointed in the self-inflicted penalties,” he said. “Looking back at it, that was the telltale sign, especially on offense. Just too many self-inflicted penalties.”
Coach Luke addressed the injuries suffered by Ole Miss in the game, including that of center Sean Rawlings who is having surgery Monday for a severe ankle sprain. According to Luke, the surgery will hopefully help Rawlings return more quickly, with the head coach adding he is “50-50” as to whether Rawlings will be able to play on the road at Alabama on September 30.
Wide receiver A.J. Brown suffered a strained MCL and will be out a week or two. Luke has hope Brown will be available to play when the Rebels take on the Tide.
Defensively, Victor Evans also has a strained MCL and his status is also uncertain for the Alabama game.
Kicker Gary Wunderlich has a pulled hamstring but will likely be able to play the Crimson Tide.
The injury to Rawlings obviously caused some issues for the Rebels offensively Saturday, leading to some costly penalties as well as a change in the tempo of the game. Backup center Eli Johnson is out for the season with a torn ACL and will have surgery soon after his swelling has subsided. Javon Patterson moved over to center against Cal in the absence of Rawlings and Johnson, and he and Jordan Sims will continue to take the majority of the snaps in practice at the position.
“You can never have enough centers,” Coach Luke said. “Before practice we’re snapping four and five every day. Javon (Patterson) was one of those. Now, you’ve got Sean (Rawlings) and Eli (Johnson) down, but Jordan Sims has also snapped.
“Jack DeFoor has also snapped. Ben Brown has also snapped. Because of the experience, you’d lean more on Javon and Jordan because they’ve been there and they’ve done it. We’ll work those two guys hard. We’ll have Ben Brown and Jack DeFoor also ready as a third and fourth because you can’t ever have enough because you never know what’s going to happen. Jordan and Javon will take most of the reps this week in practice.”
Many of the Rebels’ issues in Saturday’s loss stemmed from the 16 penalties they committed.
“I felt a lot of it was self-inflicted, and we can get those things corrected. That’s up to me and the coaching staff to get that better. Because if you take away the turnovers and penalties, I think you put yourself in position to win that football game. The good thing is, I think the mistakes are correctable.”
Head coach Matt Luke
The penalties called on the offensive line were such that they immediately forced the Rebels into obvious passing downs that made it difficult to present a more-balanced offense.
“We just had too many self-inflicted penalties,” offensive coordinator Longo said. “I’ll put it this way, a number of our third and long situations started off with drives that began with self-inflicted penalties. You can’t succeed on drives with so many first and second down penalties.
There is no doubt the Ole Miss defense showed improvement against Cal, holding the Golden Bears to 20 points in the game. Late in the fourth quarter, McGriff’s unit forced Cal to settle for a field goal which gave the Rebels’ offense a chance to get the ball back and win the game.
“They were battling and competing all the way to the end of the game. So I really like to see that,” Coach Luke said.
Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff agreed and was pleased with his unit’s improved tackling Saturday.
“I thought we reduced the number of missed tackles. We certainly missed some but there were not an abundance like before. I was really pleased to see that.”
Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff
In addition to the improved tackling, McGriff was also glad to see his defense create some turnovers. C.J. Moore notched two interceptions for Ole Miss against Cal. “I thought we did a good job of getting our hands on the football,” McGriff said Monday. “We needed to get it one or two more times. But there were certainly improvements in the tackling and takeaways.”
Ole Miss is off this Saturday before traveling to Tuscaloosa to play Alabama in a game that will kick off at 8:00 pm. The bye week gives the team time to correct mistakes made against Cal, as well as offers the injured a chance to heal.
We’re going to use that open date to get healthy and get ourselves fixed,” Luke said.
“We’ve got some really talented players that will have a chance to compete with anybody in the country. I’m looking forward to the challenge moving forward.”
Coach Matt Luke