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Everything Coach Luke had to say at Monday’s Ole Miss press conference

Everything Coach Luke had to say at Monday’s Ole Miss press conference

OXFORD, Miss. — On Monday morning Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke met with the media and looked back at the Rebels’ 31-16 loss to Auburn as well as previewed his plans for the upcoming bye week.

Opening statement

“We really needed this open date. It’s a good time for us for self-evaluation and to get some guys healed up for this stretch run. We’ve got four games coming up in 19 days. It’s a very important stretch for us. Big week for us, self-evaluation, looking at things we’ve done well, things that we haven’t done well and we’re going to use this week to get better.”

Injury updates

“It’s also a good time for us to get some guys healthy, try to get some guys back in C.J. Miller and Victor Evans. Ross Donelly is a little bit banged up after that game. Dawson Knox, his groin is bothering him, so we’re trying to get some guys healthy for this stretch run.”

On areas for improvement

“The things we’re looking at are critical factors. Offensively, third downs and red zone. Obviously after the last game, we’ve spent a lot of time on red zone and what can we do to improve there. When you play against defenses that are really good, it gets tough down there. It gets constricted, they’re going to bring zero pressure and we have to win some one-on-ones. I think there’s a lot of things that you have to look at, but we have to make sure we’re putting our players in the best position to be successful. We do have some guys that can win some one-on-ones, and we have to give those guys a chance when we get down there. Defensively, looking at explosive plays over the course of the season. Is it scheme, is it players, is there a call that is coming up that’s consistent, is there a player where we’re putting him in a situation where he can’t be successful? We are looking at all those things where we can be better.”

On improving in the red zone

“I think there’s some things we can do in the run game down there to maybe create some mismatches off play action with Dawson Knox and our tight ends. DaMarkus Lodge and A.J. Brown can win down there, and we just have to put those guys in the right spots, and then we have to make plays when they become available. It’s been a little bit of everything. Sometimes we haven’t made the one-on-ones, sometimes we missed a block up front. In the last game, they brought zero pressure twice in the red zone, and when they brought one more than you can protect, we didn’t get it out soon enough. It’s a combination of everything and that’s usually the way it is, it’s not usually just one thing or one person. It’s just having the right plan and being confident down there.”

On run game schematics

“You look at all that stuff, there’s always things you can do better. Hindsight is 20/20, but just having the right plan in the run game and then the pass game getting guys chances to get open. But again, when they bring zero, you have to get the ball out quick.”

On Ross Donelly and C.J. Miller’s status

“He’s (Donelly) just got a sore knee. It’s swollen up and inflamed this week so we just have to manage him for the rest of the season. I don’t think it’s anything serious, but it’s been bothering him so he’ll take it easy this week. C.J. Miller will be back in practice this week, and I’d say he’s probable for South Carolina. I’ll know more as he goes through practice this week, but I’d say he’ll be back.”

On RPOs (run-pass-option plays) in the red zone

“We ask our quarterback to do a lot and to make some fast decisions, and I think he’s been really good with that. Has he been perfect? No, and when you get down to the red zone it shows up, where he has to do this better, he has to do that better but that’s true with everyone. There are some times when the line can be better, Scottie (Phillips) can be better, the receivers can win their one-on-ones better. Everyone wants to put the blame on the quarterback. QBs get too much credit and too much blame sometimes, but I do think there are some things we can all do better in the red zone, coaches included. In a game like that, it gets magnified. Back in the Texas Tech game, we kicked a ton of field goals in the red zone, but we scored enough where it wasn’t a huge red flag. Now when you lose a game like Saturday, it was the difference in the game, so we have to make sure we’re addressing that going forward.”

On the defense in the second half vs. Auburn

“It was different things here and there. We gave up an explosive pass and an explosive run, and we didn’t fit it, and it goes back to that consistency…but when they do break a run, you have to be able to get that guy on the ground and then just play the next play, and those plays prove to be the difference. Those first three drives of the second half, they got three touchdowns and we got three points, and that ended up being the difference in the game.”

On preventing explosive plays

“I think the thing is, you look over eight games, and I think that’s what you’re looking at. You’re 5-3, where could we be better to try to go and find a way to win these next four? As you look at all the explosive plays and you see if there are any common denominators, anything showing up, is it one call that we’re giving up explosive plays on? Is there one player that’s struggling in man-to-man coverage? How can we help him? You’re just looking for common denominators and making sure you eliminate that and try to put guys in as good as situations that you can with your lack of depth. This guy is struggling with doing this, so what can we do to help him? Those are the things you’re looking for when you’re looking over a stretch of how we can be better.”

On making changes to the scheme

“I think it’s more tweaks than it is drastic changes. I think you are always concerned more about yourself than you are the opponent. I think if you go out there and you play really sound good football and you play consistent, you’re going to have a chance to win football games.”

On moving players around in the secondary

“We’re hoping to get C.J. Miller back. Obviously that gives a little bit more flexibility with Myles Hartsfield, Javien Hamilton and Ken Webster. We had to move Myles back out to corner in that game, so it made us not very deep at the safety position. Zedrick Woods has been a warrior for us all year and basically plays every snap, but hopefully with C.J. coming back, that’ll give us a bit of more flexibility with Myles.”

On the bye week schedule

“We lifted and ran yesterday and got the video done so we could move forward. We’ll practice Tuesday and Wednesday, and then have a pretty good run on Thursday along with some weights on Thursday afternoon. Then the coaches will be out recruiting after that.”

On how the offensive line graded out vs. Auburn

“I have high expectations for those guys, and I don’t think that they had their best game. I think we could’ve been a little bit more physical in the run game. Sometimes the protection broke down and some of the sacks weren’t on them, but that doesn’t matter. I think we have a high standard in that room, and I don’t think that we played to that standard in that game. There were some bright spots and some good things, but in the red zone or getting stopped on a 4th-and-1, there were some things we could’ve done better for sure.”

On recruiting

“I think you’re always looking at immediate needs, and if you’re looking for an immediate need then you’re going to look in junior college or this new transfer wire. You’re going to keep an eye on that obviously, so there’s always some things if you have immediate needs, but when you’re building a program for the long haul, I do think that some of these kids do see an opportunity, and I think that’s always good. Recruiting has been going very well, and it continues to go very well, so I’m very excited about the way it’s going.”

(Transcript courtesy of Ole Miss Athletics)

About The Author

Evelyn Van Pelt

Evelyn has covered sports for over two decades, beginning her journalism career as a sports writer for a newspaper in Austin, Texas. She attended Texas A&M and majored in English. Evelyn's love for Ole Miss began when her daughter Katie attended the university on a volleyball scholarship--and continued as she watched Katie receive three degrees from Ole Miss, culminating with her Pharm D. in 2012. Evelyn, a member of the FWAA, USBWA and the NCBWA, has covered Rebel sports for numerous outlets. In addition to working for The Rebel Walk, Evelyn is a sports writer for a newspaper in Texas.

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