“They beat us soundly in all three phases,” head coach Matt Luke said to open Monday’s press conference, following Saturday’s 66-3 loss to No. 1 Alabama.
The Rebels were never really in the game from the start, and missed opportunities and failure to execute culminated into an ugly defeat for them. Coming out of the loss, the coaching staff is trying to find answers.
“The biggest thing now is to just build our confidence back so we can play fast,” Luke said. “We didn’t play very fast, and we weren’t very sure of ourselves. We need to go back, simplify, make the corrections and move on.”
Hoping to chalk up the weekend as a learning experience, Luke and the Rebels will use the defeat to gauge where they stand early into their SEC schedule.
“I think when you play Alabama, it shows (your players) that this is how far you have to go,” Luke said. “At this point, we have to make sure they keep their confidence.”
Looking back at the loss and ahead to a No. 12 Auburn program, Luke’s emphasis is on simplifying the offense and getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers.
“We are good enough to score points,” Luke said. “We just have to simplify and know what to do. We are good enough to run the football, and we are good enough at receiver to make plays. We just have to go execute. When we get in the red zone, we have to score points. We have to convert on third downs to stay on the field — that’s a huge emphasis for us, staying on the field.”
Offensive and defensive play aside, there are questions regarding health and the decision to keep quarterback Shea Patterson in the game late, despite being down by such a large margin.
“Shea is a sophomore, and we are trying to get him as much experience as possible,” Luke said. “He was coming up to me, wanting to stay in the game and wanting to compete, but him getting as much experience as possible is the most important.”
Even playing all four quarters, Patterson and the offensive unit could not get anything going. Unfortunately, the defense did not play any better. In the second half, Alabama backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa got his first real-time under center and accounted for touchdowns both in the air and on the ground. In the run game alone, the Crimson Tide had five different players score a touchdown.
“Our tackling wasn’t on-point,” defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said. “The missed tackles showed up. We had more mental errors. We already (lean) on the side of simplicity, but we have to look at that even more, because the past performance speaks to you, and you just have to listen. We have to go back to square one. We have to continue to work on tackling and try and reset the culture.”
While missed tackles ran rampant, the inability to force turnovers was a glaring issue. Presented with a few opportunities, including a couple of potentially momentum-ending interceptions, the defensive unit couldn’t pull through.
“It’s without question,” McGriff said. “If you can grab an interception, that’s game-changing. When you get an opportunity, you have to capitalize on it, so that’s one thing we certainly have to improve on. (We need to) simplify more so we can focus on turnovers and takeaways. Those we should have had on Saturday certainly would have changed the complexion of the game.”
Ole Miss will look to overcome the defensive woes and get back to its previous offensive success away at Jordan-Hare Stadium against a top-15 Auburn program at 11 a.m. Saturday.