In a storyline similar to the rest of its season, Ole Miss lost a heartbreaker to Arkansas and saw numerous injuries across the team over the weekend. Even still, head coach Matt Luke is continuing to try and motivate his team to get better week to week.
“We had a good day inside,” Luke said. “We put the pads back on this week after practicing without them last week to freshen up but it’s been a good week of work so far.”
Senior running back Jordan Wilkins was questionable heading into the game last week but quelled the whispers about his ability after breaking a 64-yard run for a touchdown on the second play of the game. This week, Wilkins, center Sean Rawlings and a host of other Rebels are fighting ailment but hopeful to suit up against Kentucky.
‘Wilkins practiced today,” Luke said. “Sean Rawlings was back today and it was good to have them back. Zedrick Woods and (Javien Hamilton) are both in concussion protocol but they did some work today so we will get the feedback from the radar on their work and we will find out for sure tomorrow if they can go or not. We are prepared to not have them but I’m hopeful; they’re probable.”
After losing two emotional games like the Rebels have against Arkansas and LSU, it can be hard to return to the level it takes to compete in the SEC. However, Luke is pleased with the team’s energy at this point in the season.
“I’m pleased that they keep getting up and that they keep showing up,” Luke said. “I’ve been pleased with their effort, we just have to find the extra one percent to get us over the hump, whether that’s mental toughness or the little things or finishing, whatever it is we just have to find it. I just want them to see some return on their investment and I want them to see some positives.”
Despite the team’s energy, Luke is still looking for ways to keep motivating his team and ensure that they finish the season with some positives to take away.
“It’s an old cliche but they remember what you do in November,” Luke said. “I would love nothing more than for these kids to have a great November and finish strong. I just talk about how close we are and how much improvement we have made as team from the first game until now.”
Through injuries and motivation struggles, there are still bright spots in the offense, one being the surprise of quarterback Jordan Ta’amu as he stepped into the shoes of Shea Patterson. At one point, Ta’amu led seven consecutive scoring drives between the games against LSU and Arkansas.
“I want him to build on it,” Luke said. “(I want him) to just get one week better just like everyone else. I’ve been very very impressed with him, his drop-back passing game and not holding reads too long and his ability to get rid of the ball.”
Ole Miss will square up with SEC East opponent Kentucky for the first time since 2011 (when the Wildcats took a 30-13 win in Lexington) at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday.