Matt Luke previews Kentucky at weekly news conference

Ole Miss visits Kentucky on Saturday.

Posted: Nov 7, 2017 8:50 AM

Ole Miss Football head coach Matt Luke met with the media Monday morning to review the team’s meeting with Arkansas and look ahead at the Saturday (3 p.m. CT, SEC Network) matchup at Kentucky.

Opening Statement…
“I was really impressed with our kids yesterday, coming in after a tough loss. They are a very resilient group of kids. After watching the tape, really pleased that they continue to fight and keep battling. We’ll have to do that again this week—get back up off the mat and keep fighting. Really impressed with Jordan Ta’amu’s performance. He had a couple of mistakes, but very impressive for his first start in the SEC. Going to continue to build off of that. The guys on defense continue to fight and play hard. DeMarquis Gates had another good game. He continues to battle through two shoulder injuries.”

Injury Report…
“Injury-wise, I think we’ll have a chance to get Sean Rawlings back. He’ll be limited on Tuesday and will probably be full speed on Wednesday. Jordan Wilkins came out the same, so we’ll probably hold him out of practice, but he’ll go on Saturday. Javien Hamilton and Zedrick Woods are in concussion protocol. Ross Donnelly will still be out.”

On Kentucky…
“Very impressed with Coach Stoops and Kentucky. Benny Snell is one of the better running backs that we’ll face all season. They do a great job in the running game. It’s complimented by Stephen Johnson, their quarterback, he can run it and throw it. Defensively, they do a lot of moving around. They’re hard to get a bead on. So we’ll have our work cut out for us. Another big-time SEC road game.”

On Ken Webster…
“He didn’t dress. He had a hamstring and he just couldn’t go. I’m hopeful he can go this week, but he didn’t even dress for the game. Thursday he went out there and just couldn’t go. We injected it, and hopefully he’ll have a chance to play some this week.”

On using a 5-man front on defense…
“We played five down linemen and one linebacker and put Marquis Haynes and Breeland Speaks on the edges and DeMarquis in the middle. I think we got some mileage out of it. Played man-to-man behind it and it did help us stop the run. We challenged them not to have a 100-yard rusher this week and they didn’t. That was another step in the right direction. We’ll keep building and getting better, but I did think that helped us some.”

On changing personnel defensively…
“We just have to keep getting better and focus. I think focus is the key, doing it consistently every time. If we’re not in the right place and doing the right thing every time, we’re not good enough to overcome that. When you make a mistake, it gets magnified. For us, the margin for error is very small. We just have to continue to focus and be right all the time.”

On dealing with offensive movement vs LSU…
“I thought it was good. We got out-flanked a couple of times, missed a few tackles. But there is improvement. We’re going to choose to build on the positives and keep building on it. I see us getting better, but unfortunately you get judged on wins and losses. We’re going to continue to get better and keep working and fighting, and the ball is going to bounce our way. But we are getting better, and we’re going to build on that and go to Kentucky with the mindset that we’re going to be one game better. That’ll be the goal for this week.”

On the fumble in the exchange between Ta’amu and Eric Swinney…
“It was just his time. Jordan (Wilkins) is banged up. So he was the guy who was in there. It’s a normal handoff. It just happened. I can’t tell you why it happened, but it was a normal power play. We ran it several times in the game. It’s a safe call. We were in our four-minute offense. It just didn’t work out. That’s just one of those things that happens.”

On the team’s mental reaction on Sunday…
“It was good. I was pleased with them. Obviously they were down. They weren’t happy. We have four games left to get together. They remember what you do in November, and we have to go finish. We have to keep building and keep getting better. Really proud of Jordan (Ta’amu) and Myles Hartsfield. Everyone wants to talk about the interception Jordan (Ta’amu) threw. I’m choosing to build on his positives. First SEC game and had 400 yards of offense. I’m going to choose to be positive with Myles Hartsfield and the way he played, not the one penalty he had on 4th-and-5. Just really proud of this team. I think we’re a closer team because of all the things we’ve gone through. And we’re going to continue to work to get better.”

On preparing for an uncommon opponent in Kentucky…
“That’s a challenge you enjoy, getting up to play a team you don’t play a whole bunch. In my career, I’ve been in the SEC a long time and I’ve only played at Kentucky once, when I was with Tennessee in 2007. It’ll be a unique challenge and a fun challenge to go somewhere different. Obviously they’re doing a great job and have a really good team, so it’ll be a good challenge on the road.”

On what he’s telling recruits right now…
“I think, defensively, they see opportunities to play. That’s always a positive. Offensively, just the numbers you put up and how explosive we are. You just stay close. ‘Hey man, you have opportunities to come in and help us.’ Then when all the NCAA stuff goes through, you stay right there in position ready to strike. People want to come to Ole Miss. Nobody comes to The Grove or comes to a game and doesn’t want to come back. Ole Miss sells itself. You’ve just got to be in great position, so when all the stuff does go through, you’re right there in position to strike.”

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