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Luke, Rebels prepare for Egg Bowl

Kickoff on Thursday is set for 6:30 p.m.

Posted: Nov. 20, 2017 9:53 PM
Updated: Nov. 20, 2017 10:53 PM

OXFORD, Miss. (WTVA/Ole Miss Athletics) - Ole Miss Football Head Coach Matt Luke met with the media Monday to recap the home finale with Texas A&M, and preview Thursday night’s Egg Bowl battle at Mississippi State (6:30 p.m., ESPN).

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Opening Statement…
“Egg Bowl week. It’s a huge week for us with a big rivalry game on the road and we’re looking forward to the challenge. It’s a tough turnaround coming off of Saturday and getting ready for a Thursday game. That obviously presents some challenges, but having a rivalry game to get ready for helps your focus. We’re looking forward to the challenge and looking forward to the opportunity.”

On the rivalry…
“It’s always been a big game for as long as I can remember. To the people of the state of Mississippi, this is bragging rights. It’s a huge game, and it is every year, no matter the situation.”

On his personal connection to the Egg Bowl rivalry…
“I’m 41 so this is really Egg Bowl 41 for me. I remember my brother (Tom), we played in Jackson. I remember being at that game and him running for a couple touchdowns. I think maybe it was the Clarion-Ledger the next day, the headline said, ‘The Gospel According to Luke.’ I just always thought that was really cool. It was a great memory for me. Then obviously playing and coaching in it, it is a great rivalry and it’s great for the whole state of Mississippi.”

On Mississippi State…
“They do a great job of running the football. That’s something we’ve struggled with, so we have our work cut out going there and stopping the run and forcing them to throw it. They’ve done a great job on defense. Coach (Todd) Grantham has done a phenomenal job. We have to do a good job of handling crowd noise, first and foremost. Then we have to keep our balance. We have to play fast and be able to run the football then take advantage of our matchups on the outside.”

On the second half vs. Texas A&M…
“We got behind the chains a bunch. Typically, we haven’t been very good when we’ve been behind the chains, and I don’t think any offense is. You can’t have penalties. You can’t have negative yardage plays. And obviously the turnover for a touchdown was the difference in the game. Then maybe a little bit the wind, effecting the ball down the field, I think that affected both offenses in the second half.”

On the defense’s strong play vs. Texas A&M...
“Watching the tape, we got off blocks better. We weren’t just in our gaps. We got off blocks and made plays. Our DBs pressed a little more and challenged the receivers a little more. I was happy to see that. We got a turnover and basically held them to three points in the second half. I was really pleased with the strides. Our challenge this week is to put our total game together. We’ve got one last game. We have four days together. Let’s go and play our best game collectively this week.”

On how the team’s emotions will play out in this game…
“This game is emotional for a lot of different reasons. But my job is to focus on these players and give them the best chance to win this game. I’ve said this before, I’ve been a part of teams that have had a better record, but I am really proud of what this team has been able to accomplish with all they’ve been through. We have one more opportunity to go play together. We’re going to enjoy these four days together and we’re going to enjoy Thursday night.”

Injury report…
“Alex Givens is going to be out. He’s in the concussion protocol, and because of the quick turnaround, there’s not going to be enough time to get him back. D’Vaughn Pennamon is probably going to have surgery in the next two to three weeks. It’s a pretty significant injury. He’ll be out for some significant time. Jordan Ta’amu is fine. He was hit in the throat, but he came back and he’s been fine. Defensively, Jalen Julius is still in concussion protocol. Markell Pack is going to be probable. I hope he’ll (Pack) do some stuff today and maybe practice tomorrow. With the injury to Van Jefferson, that’s big and will give us some depth in the slot. Van didn’t practice yesterday. I don’t want to rule him all the way out, but he’s questionable at best.”

On Braylon Sanders…
“In the slot behind A.J. Brown, he’s the next guy up. So if A.J. runs a deep ball or gets winded, Braylon is going to go in there. I’m really proud of him. He’s one of the guys who was one of the pleasant surprises of fall camp. You saw that he has ability, and he has a bright future ahead of him. Any time you can get out there and get your feet wet and make plays in an SEC game, I think that bodes well for his future.”

On the importance of this game for A.J. Brown…
“A.J. is not only one of our leaders and top players, he’s one of the top players in the country. He’ll be a focal point for us to get him the ball. I’m sure this will be a big game for him. It’s a big game for all of us and anyone from Mississippi, but especially for him. Coming back home, I’m sure it’ll be a big game and be emotional. But all his teammates will be behind him, and we’re looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge.”

On Deontay Anderson…
“In all my dealings with him, Deontay is a great kid and we wish him the best. As far as all the transfer stuff, there’s a standard operating procedure that you have to go through compliance for all of that. They’ll handle all of that. But for me, he’s been great. He’s been on the scout team this year while taking his redshirt. He’s a good kid to be around.”

On this season for him personally…
“It’s been great. It’s been so different for me, because I was always so close to the offensive line and the offensive side of the ball. But for me to get to know the different kids on defense and to become close with the whole team and for this team to develop an identity, it’s been great and a great experience for me.”

On if the players take this rivalry personally…
“What the players are focused on is winning the football game. That’s what we have to focus on is winning the game. All the allegations and all of that stuff, none of it affects what happens on Thursday night. Our focus is going to be 100 percent on the game Thursday night and trying to go get a win.”

On if the coaches feel more pressure to win this game…
“If you’re a coach at Ole Miss, there’s always pressure to win this game no matter what. It’s always one of the biggest games of the season, and you have to treat it that way. And me being from Mississippi, I know that better than everybody.”

On dealing with the short week…
“The first thing you have to do is you have to recover from Saturday. It’s already a Wednesday in terms of the process going to the game. You can’t do as much in pads. You have to do a little more mental preparation. We have to do a little more toward the end of the week. The good thing for us is we don’t have school, so we can devote some more time watching tape and getting mentally ready for the game. But you have to take care of their bodies, because you want them to be fresh so we can compete.”

On players keeping their emotions in check…
“You want to play and compete between the whistles. You’re going to be on edge and the emotions will be high, but there’s a fine line there. You want to make sure you handle things the right way.”

On this week’s practice schedule…
“We’re practicing tonight last night and tonight so we get very similar weather to what we’re going to get at game time. As we move closer to the kickoff, we’ll move back into a normal schedule so the kids get back to their routine. But last night and tonight we’ll practice under the lights to simulate the time of the kickoff.”

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