On Monday morning in his weekly press conference, Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke opened up about the Rebels’ recent struggles and the confidence boost that comes from Saturday’s 37-34 road win at Kentucky.
In his opening statement, Coach Luke said:
“I’m really happy for our players. Anytime you can go on the road in the SEC and get a win, it’s a good thing. But, especially after the tough loss against Arkansas. The kids bouncing back and fighting and competing, just really happy to see them in the locker room after getting that win after everything they’ve been through.”
Head coach Matt Luke
In the victory over the Wildcats, in just his second career start, QB Jordan Ta’amu completed 31-of-40 passes for 382 yards and 4 touchdowns.
For his efforts, Ta’amu was named SEC Offensive Player of the Week.
Luke on Ta’amu
Coach Luke praised the performance of Ta’amu, who has stepped in following the season-ending injury to Shea Patterson.
“You wouldn’t believe it was his second start, especially the way he led that last drive,” Luke said.
“He was calm in the pocket. I think we gave up a sack on the first drive, but he didn’t get rattled on the road. Just very impressive. A lot of credit to him and coach Phil Longo, both.”
On the final drive of the game, Ta’amu completed 6-of-9 passes for 59 yards and the game winning touchdown pass to D.K. Metcalf with only 5 seconds to go. Luke was not at all surprised by Ta’amu’s success.
“You don’t know if he can go out there and do it in a game with live bullets flying, but he has showed that he can,” Luke said. “I’m not surprised in his ability, but just with how well he has handled those live bullets.”
Longo on Ta’amu
When asked about Ta’amu and his success thus far, offensive coordinator Phil Longo also said he is not surprised. “He’s done a great job of being the No. 2, and preparing himself behind Shea Patterson,” Longo said.
“I think that the fact that we gave them equal reps, and that he prepared professionally like he’s supposed to, is the big reason why he’s playing well now.”
Wide receiver D.K. Metcalf is a grown man playing college football. In the Kentucky game, all 6’4″ of Metcalf went up and over 6’3″ CB Lonnie Johnson, for the game-winning, NFL-caliber catch. Johnson had great coverage and did all that he could, but Metcalf just out-manned him. It was truly a clutch catch by a freakishly-talented athlete. D.K. Metcalf, who is as “nasty” a wideout as you’ll find anywhere, finished the game with 5 catches for 83 yards and 2 TDs.
Metcalf was also named SEC Co-Freshman of the Week, as announced by the league office Monday.
Senior kicker Gary Wunderlich sits at 62 career field goals, one shy of Jonathon Nichols’ school record of 63. Wunderlich is also a mere 13 points shy of Nichols’ school record 344 points.
The Rebels defense has recorded 3 or more sacks in 4 straight games this season. That pressure will need to show up on Saturday, as the Ragin’ Cajuns ran for 264 yards last week against South Alabama.
Senior DeMarquis Gates is currently 2nd in the SEC with 86 tackles this season. His 59 solo tackles lead the SEC and ranks him 5th nationally.
Coach Luke offered the following injury updates:
Offensive lineman Daronte Bouldin is out for the remainder of the season after suffering a broken foot against Kentucky. Bouldin is a senior, so this, in effect, is the end of his career as a Rebel. Luke commented on what a special young man Bouldin is.
Offensive lineman Alex Givens is in the concussion protocol after sustaining a blow to the head in the game against the Wildcats.
Running back Jordan Wilkins is still battling an ankle injury, but Luke said he is hopeful the senior will be available for the game against the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Defensive tackle Austrian Robinson is “day-to-day,” Luke said, after suffering a bruised lung in practice last week.
Cornerback Jalen Julius is also in the concussion protocol this week.
This Saturday, Ole Miss is back in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, facing off against a 4-4 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns team. The Rebels opened as 19.5 point favorites Monday. Kickoff is set for 11:00 a.m. (CT), and the game will be televised on the SEC Network.
(Feature image credit: Amanda Swain, The Rebel Walk)