OXFORD, Miss. — As Ole Miss continues its preparations for the game with Alabama this Saturday at Vaught-Hemingway, Rebels’ head coach Matt Luke spoke with the media Wednesday after practice about where his team stands through the midweek point.
“It’s been a good week of practice,” Luke said. “The focus has been good. The energy has been good.”
Defense having its ‘best week of practice’
Coach Luke believes his defense is zoned in on what it needs to do against the Crimson Tide. “I’ve thought they’ve had their best week of practice,” he commented.
In the first half of last Saturday’s game against SIU, the Ole Miss defense gave up 38 points; however, Coach Luke said the unit has responded positively in practice this week for a number of reasons. “Naturally, they want to do better, so the level of focus goes up,” he said. “Plus, it’s the start of SEC play, and you’re playing the No. 1 team in the country.”
Defensive end Victor Evans also spoke with the media after practice and said the defense is looking to pick up where it left off in the second half against SIU, when it held the Salukis to 3 points.
Evans noted that this week is more about the defense focusing on itself, as opposed to the Crimson Tide. “It’s about us going out there and playing how we know we can play,” he said.
“As long as we go out there and play how we know we can play, without any miscommunication or mental mistakes or mental errors, we’ll be fine,” he added.
Luke pleased with balance on offense
Offensively, Coach Luke continues to be pleased with what he sees, but he knows the Tide will be a tough foe.
“Right now, I think the balance is good,” he explained. “Having that balance makes you really really hard to defend. That will be a huge challenge against Alabama to run it enough and to get those one on ones,” he added.
Tight end Dawson Knox also expressed confidence in the Ole Miss offense. “I think it’s a great match-up,” he said of Saturday’s game.
“I don’t think there’s a single team we play this year that’s going to be a tough matchup for our offense. I think we’ve got a great game-plan and I’m really excited to see what we can do.”
Tight end Dawson Knox
Coach Luke offered an injury update on three players who have been in various stages of concussion protocol.
Linebacker Kevontae’ Ruggs, who suffered a concussion in the opening game against Tech, is out of the protocol and has been full contact since Tuesday. “Kevontae’ is flying around as usual,” Luke noted.
Right guard Ben Brown is currently in the concussion protocol, Luke said, but the redshirt freshman will practice Thursday in a non-contact capcity. Luke commented that Brown will likely be listed as “probable” for Saturday’s game.
Wide receiver DaMarkus Lodge practiced Wednesday while wearing the green non-contact jersey. “It’s been good to have him out there some,” Luke said.
‘A little something extra’
Although the coaches are quick to point out that last year’s 66-3 loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa will have little to no bearing on this year’s game, at least one player feels the lopsided loss could provide some additional motivation.
Dawson Knox expressed a little added desire to beat Alabama following last year’s defeat.
“I’ve never been beat like that in my life, and I think there’s a lot of guys on this team like that, so I think we’re going to have a little extra something for them.”
Ole Miss and Alabama kick off at 6:00 p.m. (CT) on Saturday, September 15, in Oxford, Mississippi. The game will be televised on ESPN.