OXFORD, Miss. – Ole Miss has shown a lot of fight this season, even when the final scoreboard did not end in the Rebels’ favor.
The team’s spirit of resilience is a direct result of its leader—head coach Matt Luke. When Ole Miss lost three straight road games to California, Alabama, and Auburn, Luke insisted his team was still fighting and still working hard.
And after a loss to LSU, which was followed by a heartbreaking one-point defeat to Arkansas in the final four seconds, Luke remained adamant his team would not give up.
He was correct.
On Saturday in Lexington, against a Kentucky team that is bowl eligible for the second-consecutive season under head coach Mark Stoops, the Rebels’ triumphed in their own last-second victory, a 37-34 win over the Wildcats.
In the win, Ole Miss quarterback Jordan Ta’amu, starting in place of the injured Shea Patterson, led the Rebels to their second conference win of the season. With five seconds left in the game and trailing by four (34-30), Ta’amu connected with D.K. Metcalf in the back of the end zone for the decisive score.
There are now only three games left for the Rebels this season—along with a multitude of questions about the future—but Matt Luke wants his players to finish strong and take advantage of the opportunities that remain.
“The biggest thing is we have 17 days left guaranteed together, and we have to make the best of those 17 days,” Luke said at Monday’s press conference. “That’s what we talked about in the locker room after the game.
“With this young team only having 12 seniors, we talk about, ‘Hey, we’re learning how to get better. We’re learning how to win. If you keep putting yourself in position to win games, you’re going to win your share.’ We just talk about getting one week better and taking advantage of all 17 days we’re guaranteed left together.”
Head coach Matt Luke
Scouting the Ragin’ Cajuns
Sitting at 4-5 (2-4 SEC) with three games to play, Ole Miss has a real chance to finish .500 or better.
The Rebels’ next game is this Saturday against Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin’ Cajuns are in a similar situation as the Rebels found themselves last year when an injury to then-quarterback Chad Kelly forced Ole Miss to pull the redshirt off Shea Patterson.
The Ragin’ Cajuns (4-4, 2-3 Sun Belt) have had to do the same and pull the redshirt off of true freshman quarterback Levi Lewis.
In a 19-14 victory over South Alabama, Lewis completed 8 of 15 passes for 110 yards and threw a pair touchdowns. He also rushed for 129 yards in his collegiate debut, making defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff’s job even tougher as the Rebels must prepare for a mobile quarterback.
In Monday’s weekly press conference McGriff commented on the Ragin’ Cajuns’ young signal-caller.
“Number 17 (Lewis) is the guy who is driving the offense now—very, very good skill-set guy. They’re going to put in a lot of QB runs for this guy because he can extend the play with his feet.” McGriff said.
“They took the redshirt off him. You can see why. He gives them a spark. We’ve got to be prepared for him running the ball.”
Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff on Louisiana QB Levi Lewis
With only one game film available on Lewis, the Rebels realize their communication and run gaps will have to be close to perfect to avoid Lewis rushing for tons of yardage.
“Offensively, they took the redshirt off of a quarterback who can really run. We only have one game of film to watch of him, last week of South Alabama,” Luke said. “He’s very mobile and does a good job with the zone read.”
Regardless of who is in at quarterback for Louisiana, Ole Miss will continue to fight hard.
“When you look at the tape, you see a lot of effort. The one thing I’m really proud about these guys on defense is they play hard for sixty minutes.”
Coach McGriff on the Rebels’ defense
Saturday’s game between ULL and the Rebels is set for 11 a.m. CT and will be televised on the SEC Network.
(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)