Matt Luke previews Auburn

Ole Miss Football Head Coach Matt Luke met with the media Monday to recap the team's SEC road win over Arkansas, while also looking ahead to this week's meeting with Auburn at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Posted: Oct 15, 2018 10:01 PM

OXFORD, Miss. (Ole Miss Athletics/WTVA) - Ole Miss Football Head Coach Matt Luke met with the media Monday to recap the team's SEC road win over Arkansas, while also looking ahead to this week's meeting with Auburn at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (11 a.m. CT, ESPN). The full transcript can be found below.

Opening Statement…
"Excited about the game. It was a big SEC road win for us. I thought it did a lot for the kids and their confidence. I'm very proud of all the things they fought through, the adversity a lot of injuries, a lot of guys playing on defense. Myles Hartsfield played every position in the secondary. Armani Linton and Tylan Knight stepping up, just proud of the guys that continued to fight, but a huge SEC road win for us."

Injury Report…
"Markel Winters sprained his knee, so he's out about four to six weeks. D.K. Metcalf, he hurt his neck, and it's a little bit more serious than we thought. He'll be done for the season. We're hoping to get C.J. Miller back and hoping to get Floyd Allen back this week. We've had several injuries. These kids put a lot into it, you know C.J. Moore, Jaylon Jones, Montrell Custus, D.K.—they put so much into this stuff and it's so important to them, but I think long-term, all of these kids will bounce back and will be fine. You have to think about their long-term well-being and making sure they get the best care they possibly can. Our guys will bounce back and be resilient."

On Auburn…
"Moving forward to Auburn, just excited to be back at home 5-2 with some momentum going. I know our crowd will be great playing against a very good Auburn team, one of the best front sevens in the country. They're very good up front, long in the secondary. Offensively, they have always been really good at running the football, so we'll have to do a great job at stopping the run and stopping their play action shots, so obviously it'll be a big challenge but excited to be back home in front of our home crowd."

On D.K. Metcalf's injury…
Long term, he is going to be fine, but I think it's going to require surgery. We're still looking to make sure we have the very best care and everything for him. It's not a long-term issue, but it is going to be one were he'll be done for the season. It has nothing to do with the spinal, it's all vertebrae, but again long term he is going to be fine, it's just something that will prevent him from playing for the rest of the season."

On how Metcalf's injury will affect the offense…
"Braylon Sanders will step in there, and then you have Elijah Moore, so you may be able to move A.J. Brown around some or let Elijah and A.J. play at the same time. Braylon Sanders has done well. He would normally be the replacement for D.K. if he ran a deep route, so he's the next guy to step in there."

On when Metcalf sustained the injury…
"It was early in the first quarter after our first drive. We noticed it right away. They initially just thought it was kind of a whiplash type thing, but we got back and did the MRI and everything, and it came back late last night."

On Metcalf's reaction to the diagnosis…
"Obviously very disappointing for him. They put a lot into this, and it's so important to them, but in the grand scheme of things, I think long term is what you have to look at, and I think he's going to be fine."

On the locker room after the game…
"Even given the records, I just thought it was a gutsy win. You just see Jalen Julius's shoulder is popping out, and he's getting back up and he's playing. To see Armani and Tylan and the guys just battling and competing. D.K. not being out there and Dawson Knox and Octavious Cooley and all of the guys stepping up and making plays. It's in the rain and you're on the road and your down 17, and they just kept fight and they kept competing, so just a proud gutsy win that will give us some momentum going forward. Now you're coming home at 5-2 and you get some momentum and the crowd fired up about coming and playing another big game in Oxford. I think that's what you're most proud of is you get the momentum going forward and these kids when they lay it all on the line they get something back and they get to be happy and they get to enjoy it together."

On the improvement defensively…
"In the first half, we didn't do very good stopping the run. A lot of credit to them in the second half coming back and making adjustments and holding those guys to two field goals. That kind of gets left out in the whole thing. They did a good job of holding those guys to two field goals in the second half then getting the big stops at the end of the game when we needed it. I'm proud of a guy like Willie Hibbler who made a play at the end of the game to not only get us off the field but also save us a timeout. A lot of good play. I mentioned Myles earlier playing star, both corners, safety—he played it out. Just proud of some guys stepping up."

On the importance of this game against Auburn…
"It's big. You have an open date after this, so it's very important that we do battle through all the injuries, everybody steps up and we close ranks and keep marching forward and find a way to be 1-0 this week going into the open date. We'll go out, we'll have a great week of practice, and it's going to be a great atmosphere. It's an early kick. But any time you have an SEC game in Oxford, I know our fans will show up and it'll be a great atmosphere."

On Auburn's front seven…
"They're big and fast. They're very good. They have experienced linebackers. They're big, they're twitchy. They stop the run. They rush the passer. You have to be opportunistic. When the plays are there, you have to make them. You have to be patient in the run game. Even through you might only be getting two or three yards, you have to keep giving the body punches and keep them off balance. You can't play on your heels against them, they're too good."

On Willie Hibbler moving up the depth chart…
"The first thing is experience. His communication skills and getting people lined up, he's really improved and taken a step forward in that. There is still a lot he can do in the run game to be better. But you are seeing improvement, especially with communication and being in the right spot. When you know what to do, you're going to play faster. If you just keep doing the same thing over and over again, you're going to know what to do, so you're going to get there a little bit faster. You don't want to be satisfied. We want to continue to move forward."

On Scottie Phillips…
"Before the season, I was cautiously optimistic. I've been around a lot of good football players and have seen a lot of good backs. When I looked at him, that's what I saw—a really good back, very twitchy, has the ability to make people miss, and like you saw on the winning touchdown score, he's able to run through somebody to get into the end zone. He's been very, very good—maybe better than I thought."

On the Auburn rushing offense…
"I do think they are good at running back. JaTarvious Whitlow is a very physical runner. He's really good. Very impressed with him. Then they have Malik Miller and Kam Martin behind him. I do think they're good. They're going to come in here and run the football. That's what they're going to do. They're going to get back to basics. They're going to come in here and run the football and then throw play actions. We're going to have our work cut out for us. We're going to have to do a good job of stopping the run, then them taking their shots deep. They have some receivers who can really run and make plays down the field."

On defending against explosive plays defensively…
"It's always easier to fix those problems after a win. You can focus on the positives. 'Hey look, this is what it looks like when we do it right.' But then it goes back to consistency. You can see the same play done right, then you see the same play done wrong. You just have to make sure you keep showing up and being consistent over and over and over again. In this league, if you aren't consistent, you'll get exploited."

On the defensive line rotation with Winters out…
"Having Victor Evans come back, that certainly helps. Having Tariqious Tisdale in there, he's been playing well. Some guys will have to step up. In pass rush, you may see Tisdale out there a little bit more."
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