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)
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.