After season-opening win, Coach Luke looks for continued improvement against UT-Martin
OXFORD, Miss. – After Ole Miss defeated South Alabama, 47-27, head coach Matt Luke emphasized the positives from the victory and addressed some of the areas in which his team needs to improve.
On Saturday against UT-Martin in Oxford, the Rebels will have the opportunity to get playing time for many on the team and hopefully keep the starters healthy heading into the upcoming game the following weekend at Cal.
“It’s always good to get a win,” Coach Luke said Monday.
“What I like the most is that we came out and started fast. But, then at halftime, the game was still in question. I like that they didn’t panic…. We had talked about mental toughness, and all the things we talked about, it gave us an opportunity to show them – keep working and things will go. I was very pleased with that.”
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke
The Jaguars had a difficult time containing offensive coordinator Phil Longo’s offense, especially in the second half when A.J. Brown broke loose for two 70-plus-yard touchdowns in the third quarter where Ole Miss outscored South Alabama 26-3.
Quarterback Shea Patterson threw for 429 yards at an 80 percent completion rate.
“Offensively, I was very, very pleased with the 80 percent completion percentage,” Coach Luke said. “I thought that was really, really good. I don’t think we panicked at halftime. I thought we came out good in the third quarter. That was a point of emphasis for us was starting fast in the second half.”
Jaylon Jones’ 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was another big play that sparked the Rebels in the win.
Defensively, the tandem of Josiah Coatney and Breeland Speaks provided a spark for the Rebels, as the duo finished with a combined eight tackles. With Ole Miss’ first-team defense on the field, the Jaguars struggled, at times, to move the football. Luke acknowledged, however, the Rebels need to get a little more work in for the second and third string players.
“I just want to see some guys step up there,” Luke said. “I really got a challenge there to build up depth.” This will be crucial for the Rebels from here on out, as they travel to Cal for a September 16th game before starting conference play on the road at Alabama on September 30.
Ole Miss and UT-Martin kick off Saturday (11:00 a.m., SEC Network Alternate). The Skyhawks will look to run run the football as their offense rushed for 265 yards and three scores on 44 carries in their 36-0 win over Division II Clarion last Thursday night. UT-Martin out-gained the Golden Eagles 457-146 in total yards.
Freshman cornerback D.D Bowie injured a ligament in his right thumb Saturday and had surgery this week. He will miss the game vs. UT-Martin. Coach Luke thinks he could be back in time for the trip to Berkley. ”We’re hoping we’ll get him back for the Cal game,” Luke said. “They’ve just got to let the stitches heal before he gets back.”
Offensive lineman Jordan Sims should be available for action Saturday against Tennessee-Martin, while running back Eugene Brazley practiced this week and also should be ready to see action.
Tight end Dawson Knox (foot) will not play against Tennessee-Martin, but still looks to be on schedule to play vs Cal. In his absence, both Ty Quick and Jason Pellerin were able to get a lot of snaps in the team’s opener. Defensive tackle Garrald McDowell is also out for Saturday’s game in Oxford.
On Monday, defensive end Qaadir Shepard was listed questionable or “a game-time decision” against the Skyhawks. However, on Wednesday Coach Luke mentioned Shepard has been practicing with the team in full pads and indicated there is a chance Shepard will play.
(Feature image credit: Dan Anderson, The Rebel Walk)
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.