Matt Luke Weekly Press Conference

Luke Recaps South Alabama Game, Previews UT Martin

Ole Miss Football Head Coach Matt Luke met with the media on Monday recapping the season-opening win over South Alabama, and looking forward to Saturday’s matchup with UT Martin (11 a.m., SEC Network Alternate).

Opening Statement…
“Thanks to everybody for coming. After reviewing the tape of last week’s game, offensively we were very pleased with the 80 percent completion percentage. I thought that was really good. We had 180 yards passing off RPO (run/pass option) calls. I thought that was really efficient and I liked that. II don’t think we panicked at halftime and I think we came out really well in the third quarter. That was a point of emphasis for us, starting fast in the second half after we had some issues with that last year, so we’re very pleased with that. Disappointed in the turnover that led to a touchdown, then we had a couple of critical errors in the red zone early. We had a drop and a penalty in the end zone which led to us kicking field goals. We want to convert touchdowns when we get down there. That was kind of the film study offensively.

“Defensively, I thought we played with really good energy early and ran to the ball. That was a point of emphasis and I thought that happened. I thought Josiah Coatney played really well. I was very impressed with him and how he came on. He and Breeland Speaks played really hard inside. I think the glaring thing was missed tackles, then a little bit too big of a drop off from the ones to the twos. I want to see some guys step up there when we watch the tape. We really have a challenge there to build our depth.

“Special teams, I was really happy to see our kickoff return take one to the house. That was a momentum booster and a game-changer. Then obviously we almost had two with D’Vaughn Pennamon. We want to be 100 percent on field goals. We missed a couple of opportunities there, but the special team’s effort was very solid.

“We came out relatively healthy. D.D. Bowie hurt his thumb, so we’ll have to continue to monitor that. Other than that, we’re pretty healthy. For this week, Jordan Sims and Eugene Brazley will be probable and Qaadir Sheppard will be questionable, but he’ll be a game time decision.

“UT Martin was 6-2 in the Ohio Valley Conference last year and came in second. They played three FBS schools into the second half and were all one-score games in the second half. They have a lot of returning starters on defense with seven, and five of those guys are seniors. They shut out their first opponent, held them to 136 yards and 0-for-13 on third down. So they’re a very good defensive football team. Offensively, they get the ball out quickly and they don’t take a whole bunch of sacks. They use a lot of motion in the run game to try to take your eye. So we’re going to have to be very disciplined with our eyes in the run game. This week is about us trying to create a standard of how we want to prepare and how we want to practice, and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”

On if any second-team defenders impressed him…
“I think Willie Hibbler is coming on. He’s just got to be confident in his reads and his keys and pull the trigger a little more north and south instead of running east and west. I think Jarrion Street will continue to improve as he gets more experience. Those are the two guys who flash to me, especially early. Willie made a good play on the play where they fumbled. He came over the top and did some good things. I think those guys really showed flashes.”

On the Ole Miss running game…
“We had a couple of wasted runs, but we also had some good runs. We had a lot of plays where Shea Patterson pulled it and threw it when runs were there. Some of that is just our offense, and you have to live with it. The whole key for us is being efficient in the run game. We had a couple of draws that were actually pass yardage, so there’s some hidden yardage there in the run game. But we just need to keep improving. When people play to defend our receivers, we have to be able to make our run game a weapon. So when people do try to cover us, we can really hurt them in the run game. That’ll be the goal moving forward.”

On the play of the Ole Miss offensive line…
“I thought the pass protection was really solid. I thought that was probably what they did the best. Obviously, Shea moving around some and creating some plays, that’s going to be him. But there wasn’t a whole bunch of pressure. I thought they did a really good job protecting.”

On junior defensive back C.J. Moore…
“The defensive staff was really impressed with him. They were talking about a play on the goal line when somebody was trying to get his eyes and go inside, and there was a back in the flat, he didn’t follow him in there. He stayed at home and he took the play away on one of our third-down stops. It just shows how he’s growing up and getting some experience. Those guys that have played now can make some in-game battlefield decisions like that to really help us out. His experience has really helped him and they were pleased with his performance.”

On rotating through 26 defenders…
“The score dictated that a little more in the second half. But, I know they wanted to play a bunch of guys to keep guys fresh. That’s what you have to do. You have to build that depth because injuries are going to occur during the season. When they do, you want guys who have played. I think that was good to get that many guys in there.”

On Dawson Knox’s status and the play of the tight ends without him…
“I think Dawson will probably be out this week. He’s going to start the running progression, and I’m hoping he’s going to be back for Cal. As far as the tight end play, I thought they were solid. We brought Michael Howard at the end in a short-yardage play and he did fine. Ty Quick did a good job in the box, Jason Pellerin got some reps, Gabe Angel got some reps. And they were all solid. I don’t think they made any big plays down the field, but they were solid in what we asked them to do.”

On getting back to game prep after coaching debut…
“It’ll be business as usual. It’s very important this week that we create a standard about what we want a Sunday to look like. What we want a Tuesday practice to look like in preparation. This is the first true test because you’ve had so long to prepare for the first game, but setting standards about each day of the week — this is what we expect. It’s not about this season, it’s about a program and setting standards for 15 years down the road, how you want to build your program and set standards on a day-to-day basis.”

On the defensive assistants coaching from the field…
“I thought in-game, we were really good on the headsets on both sides of the ball. I thought the communication was good. When they busted a play, the communication – this is what happened, this is what we have to do to fix it – I thought it was spot on. I was really pleased with that. And with special teams, I thought the communication was very good. I liked having the defensive coaches there at the point of conflict. They were there, they can look a guy in the eye and talk to him. I thought the decision we made to do that was really good.”

On getting that first win in his coaching debut…
“It’s always good to get a win. What I like the most is that we came out and started fast. But, then at halftime, the game was still in question. I like that they didn’t panic. That’s what we talked about at halftime. When did we do board drill? We did board drill at the end of practice, not the beginning. This is a four-quarter game. Let’s finish. We had talked about mental toughness, and all the things we talked about, it gave us an opportunity to show them – keep working and things will go. I was very pleased with that.” – RN

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