After another SEC loss to drop the Rebels to 5-4 on the season ahead of yet another strong SEC matchup in College Station against Texas A&M, Matt Luke is in a tough spot. For the most part, people were expecting just slight improvement on last year in Luke’s second season as head coach. However, with three games to go, it seems like it will take some effort to land above .500 on the season.
With no bowl eligibility and no shot at competing for any titles this season, there is still a lot on the line for Ole Miss. The jobs of Wesley McGriff, Phil Longo, Ross Bjork and even Matt Luke himself are all at stake in these final three weeks. With his back against the wall, Luke is drawing positives out of this week’s news.
“(Our team) played with the energy, the passion and the toughness it takes to win in this league,” said Luke. “We had to watch the tape and say, ‘hey look, the attention to detail is what’s going to get us over the hump.’ If you leave your heart out there and you play that way, you’re going to win a bunch of football games, but the attention to detail is what it takes to get you over that hump.”
Other positives Luke highlighted going into this week were the injury reports following a game in which there were 13 injuries in the first half alone between the two teams.
“It was a very physical game on both sides of the ball with injuries, but there wasn’t anything major for us,” he said. “A lot of bumps and bruises. Ta’amu’s foot is hurt, he’ll be limited in practice a little bit, but he’ll be fine to play… Other than that, nothing major.”
Another focus for Luke was the ways in which the recruiting and the overall mood of the program are going to be improved after the NCAA lifted recruiting sanctions this past week.
“We had prepared this whole season for the bowl ban,” he said. “We have 17 days left, that’s the way we’ve been preparing. To get that victory on recruiting is huge… Now just to put everything behind us, it’s over, all the recruiting restrictions are lifted. There are no more bowl bans. Let’s move forward, attack this thing and see the big picture.”
Moving forward is the key for a team that has lagged far more than expected this season. Focusing on these positives and banking on improved recruiting to garner future success is what will likely be on Luke’s mind for the remainder of the season as we move into three weeks that could drop the Rebel record below .500 for the second time in eight years.