Luke, Rebels Continue Preparation for Cal

Ole Miss Gets Ready For Road Test at Cal

By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com

Oxford, Miss – Matt Luke returned to practice on Wednesday as Ole Miss prepares to jet across the country to face a 2-0 Cal team that defeated North Carolina on the road in the first week of the season.

Luke’s absence was brief, but he was pleased with what he came back to.

“We had a really good day, a lot of energy,” Luke said. “This is a really big game for us going on the road for the first time with a young team. We’ve just talked about enjoying this time together and going out on the west coast. After this game, our season is already a quarter over. We just talk about having a sense of urgency, playing fast and just enjoying this time together.”

He knows this is the first significant challenge for the Rebels this season and the first road game of his head coaching career. Cal’s got a good bit of speed on the perimeter at wideout, something Luke knows will be a test for his young secondary.

“This will be the best and most talented team we’ve played,” Luke said. “They have some guys that can mismatch you at receiver and they’ve got some guys that can run by you. Just from a talent standpoint, this will be the most talented team we’ve played.”

Luke had high praise for Cal’s talent on the defensive line, citing senior defensive end James Looney – who has the most tackles on the team over the last two seasons – as someone to keep an eye on.

The Rebels will soar over two time zones on their trek to Berkeley, something Luke has taken note of and attempted to adjust to. It’s why Ole Miss is leaving one day early on Thursday. The team will sleep in on Friday and Saturday mornings in an effort to adjust to the time change.

“Then we’ll try to simulate everything the same way as you would with a normal day like we are going to Tupelo for a home game,” Luke said. “You just try to get in the same routine just like you are trying to play a 6:30 kickoff at home.”

The Rebels will get a boost on the injury front. Luke said tight end Dawson Knox and right guard Jordan Sims will both play in the game Saturday. Sims may see time at center after Eli Johnson was sidelined for the season with a torn ACL.

There’s a competition playing out at linebacker between Detric Bing-Dukes and Donta Evans. Dukes took reps with the number ones this week after Evans had started the last two games. Both will be counted on to play a lot this season, and Luke knows the competition will make them both better at a position where the Rebels sorely need depth.

“I think he and Donta have a nice little competition going on,” Luke said. “I think Bing-Dukes played a little bit better than Donta last game and he earned it. Now Donta is going to have to work harder to get it back, and just the competition will make them both better.”

Luke can presumably rest a little easier knowing his sophomore quarterback Shea Patterson has been through the rigors of playing on the road before. He’s got two SEC road starts under his belt at Texas A&M and Vanderbilt in 2016.

“It is experience,” Luke said. “You don’t get any other way except going on the road and doing it. Thankfully, he has been on the road in a tough environment and I think he can draw from that.”

Kickoff on Saturday is slated for 9:30 p.m. CT. – RN

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