GAMEDAY: Ole Miss Hosts South Alabama
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By Brian Scott Rippee,

Oxford,Miss - Ole Miss kicks off its 2017 season on Saturday against the South Alabama Jaguars in the first ever meeting between the two schools.

It will be Matt Luke's first game as head coach of the Rebels, something he has been looking forward to for a long time.

"It's going to be emotional," Luke said. "This is something I've been thinking about for a long time. I'm just excited about the opportunity, excited about walking through The Grove, and excited about locking the Vaught and representing my University and trying to put a team on the field that everybody's proud of. I'm very, very excited."

It will also be the debut of Phil Longo's new up tempo offensive system, one that relies on playing fast and a balance between running and throwing the football. South Alabama toppled Mississippi State in last year's season opener, and will have the full attention of Ole Miss. The Jaguars also beat San Diego State last season. It was the first win over a ranked opponent in program history.

Luke knows the importance of getting off to a good start against a capable team like South Alabama.

"Fast starts are always very important," Luke said. "The guys will have watched that game on tape and understand it. It was also the first game of the season, and those are always tough, because you never know really where you are or what to expect because of the changes you made in the offseason. It's very important that we're sound in what we do and can make the proper adjustments."

At the controls of the offense will be quarterback Shea Patterson. The sophomore started the final three games of 2016 after an injury to Chad Kelly. Patterson knows that it is his offense now, and he's ready to go play in Longo's new system.

"I've very pleased," Patterson said. "I was pleased with the progress we made in the spring when the system was new to us. As the summer went along, we all got more reps and I think that repetition has really molded us into the offense we want to be for week one. I'm really excited about it."

Ole Miss is 90-27-5 all-time in season openers and have won 17 of its last 21. If the Rebels are going to improve that record, they'll need to defend well. This game will also mark the debut of new defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff's defense, one that the players say they can play fast in without thinking too much because of its simplicity.

It is like day and night," defensive backs coach Jason Jones said. "Coach McGriff has done a great job implementing the scheme and bringing back that edge you need to play with, but also that discipline. At the same time, the passion and the fun when you make a play and celebrate with your teammates. He has done a great job with that."

The game kicks off at 6:30 p.m. on ESPNU.






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