Rebels use bye week to eliminate penalties, recover from injuries
OXFORD, Miss. – The bye week comes just in the nick of time for Ole Miss as next week the Rebels kick off the Southeastern Conference (SEC) schedule against top-ranked Alabama. After reviewing the game film from the Rebels’ 27-16 loss at Cal Saturday, head coach Matt Luke said penalties were the biggest factor that kept Ole Miss from leaving Berkeley with a 3-0 record.
The Rebels (2-1) were penalized 16 times for 113 yards in the loss.
“I think the open date is coming at a good time. We’ve got to get some guys back healthy, and we have to fix the issues we have with the penalties,” Luke said at Monday’s press conference. “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.”
Luke is indeed correct—if you take away the penalties, Ole Miss very well could have walked out of Berkeley, California with a win as well as some momentum going into the bye week before facing the Crimson Tide on September 30. The Rebels were up 16-7 at halftime, with the defense performing better than it had all season and keeping Cal’s offense off-balance.
Ole Miss held the Golden Bears’ offense to 8 of 22 conversions on third down and 399 total yards.
“They were battling and competing all the way to the end of the game,” Luke said of his defense. “So I really like to see that. I think it’s something to build off of. I was pleased with their effort. They were flying around and giving great effort. I thought we tackled better, so there are a lot of good things to build off of.
“There were a couple of things with our alignment where we didn’t get lined up a couple of times where we could be better. But I think it’s definitely something to build off of moving forward.”
Injured Rebels welcome bye week
The bye week comes at a good time for Ole Miss as the Rebels have some banged up players who will look to get healthy in time for SEC play. Center Sean Rawlings, who’s 50-50 to play against Alabama, suffered an ankle sprain, and had surgery on Monday. Wide receiver A.J. Brown has a strained MCL and will probably be out one to two weeks. Receiver Markell Pack and kicker Gary Wunderlich (hamstring) will have a week away from action to recover.
Defensive lineman Victor Evans sprained his MCL and could be out of action for a week to two weeks.
“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 have a chance to compete with anybody in the country. I’m looking forward to the challenge moving forward.”
(Feature image credit: Josh McCoy, Ole Miss Athletics)