Coming off of a tough 27-16 road loss to Cal on Saturday, the bright spot for the Rebels was the defense, which struggled in weeks one and two. With the defense showing out in Berkeley, the Rebel offense had every opportunity throughout the game and in the fourth quarter to bring the win home.
But there were false starts, problems with the snap, a chop block penalty and multiple injuries that weighed it down.
The game was only three minutes into the fourth quarter when the Rebels’ first loss was already sealed. Cal’s outside linebacker Cameron Goode picked off Shea Patterson and returned it 32 yards for the touchdown, giving the Golden Bears an 11-point lead. Patterson, who only threw one interception through the first two games, was intercepted three times Saturday.
Not only did the prolific air attack Rebel fans have grown to know and love struggle, but Ole Miss only had 53 yards on 29 carries. Jordan Wilkins had 38 yards on 11 carries, and D’Vaughn Pennamon had 23 yards on five carries.
“The good news is mistakes are correctable,” Luke said. “We got some really talented and good players that will have a chance to compete with anybody in the country. I’m looking forward to the challenge moving forward.”
After meeting with the press Monday, Luke said the biggest challenge going forward will be reducing the number of turnovers and self-inflicted penalties.
Ole Miss was penalized 16 times for 113 yards in the loss, costing it the flow of the game on multiple occasions. Working alongside his coordinators Wesley McGriff and Phil Longo, Luke said he plans to drastically improve the team’s rhythm in preparation for Alabama and the rest of the year.
“Penalties slow you down,” Luke said. “To be in tempo, you have to win first downs and be clean. You have to get self-inflicted penalties out of there, especially if you want to have the chance to win the football game.”
Defensively, the Rebels tackled better. However, they struggled with alignment adjustments.
Luke just finished coaching his first quarter of the season as the Rebels’ coach and said he’s learned a lot from the first three games.
“Anytime you’re doing something for the first time, you’re learning a little bit on the run,” Luke said. “You just be yourself, and you stick with the things you believe in and know are going to work.”
Since the team is off this weekend, Luke said he hopes to work on getting healthy during the bye week and next week leading up to No. 1 Alabama next Saturday.
Center Sean Rawlings suffered a significant ankle sprain and had surgery Monday morning. Leading receiver A.J. Brown also was injured, going down with a strained MCL early in the first half and will need a week or two for recovery. Similarly, Victor Evans suffered an MCL sprain and will also require a couple weeks rest.
“I do think the open date is coming at a good time,” Luke said. “We have to get some guys back healthy, and we really have to fix all these self-inflicted issues.”
The Rebels will face their toughest stretch of games coming off of the bye week, facing Alabama next weekend, with gritty SEC games against Auburn and Vanderbilt in the weeks after.
Luke plans to find a balance in the offense after falling to California 27-16 Saturday night.
“The thing they have to understand is that we have the ability to compete with anybody, but you can’t play that way with anybody,” Luke said, referring to the Pac12-after-dark loss. “It’s not a talent issue. It’s about us fixing the things and controlling the things that we can control. That’s what good football teams do.”