Luke, Coordinators Reflect on Cal Loss
Sept. 18, 2017

By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com 

Two days after Ole Miss was administered its first dose of adversity on the field this season, Matt Luke tried to make sense of it all at his Monday press conference after he was given a chance to review the film.

One glaring section of the stats sheet Ole Miss being penalized 16 times in the game, veering away from any sort of successful formula to winning on the road.

“I was really disappointed in the self-inflicted penalties,” Luke said. “Looking back at it, that was the telltale sign, especially on offense. Just too many self-inflicted penalties.”

The Rebels came out of the game pretty battered as well. It was the first game this season that came with a lengthy injury report. Ole Miss does have the luxury of a well-timed bye week to heal before playing at Alabama on Sept. 30. Here is how Luke broke down the various ailments his players are dealing with.

Sean Rawlings is having surgery on Monday for a pretty severe ankle sprain he suffered in the loss.  Luke is hopeful the procedure will allow him to come back quicker. He did not seem certain of Rawlings’ status, but thought it would be about “50-50” as to whether he can play at Alabama in two weeks.

A.J. Brown has a strained MCL and will be out a week or two. Luke is hopeful Brown will be able to play in Tuscaloosa. Victor Evans has a sprained MCL and his status is certainly in question for the Alabama game. Gary Wunderlich is dealing with a pulled hamstring but will likely be able to play in the next game.


 

 

All of these loses are significant in their own right, but the injury to Rawlings stings significantly. The dynamic of the game and the Rebel offense took a noticeable shift once he went out. Javon Patterson was forced to slide over to center because backup center Eli Johnson tore his ACL against UT-Martin.

“Obviously, Sean has been in there and has some experience and it’s the first road game, and all those things,” Luke said. “So I’m sure it played a little into it. But after watching the tape, the biggest thing was the penalties.”

A lot of the Rebels’ troubles were self-inflicted penalties. The cadence and rhythm were definitely issues once Rawlings left the game, but Luke thought it extended elsewhere as well.

“I felt a lot of it was self-inflicted, and we can get those things corrected,” Luke said. “That’s up to me and the coaching staff to get that better. Because if you take away the turnovers and penalties, I think you put yourself in position to win that football game. The good thing is, I think the mistakes are correctable.”

The penalties on the offensive line put Ole Miss in obvious passing situations, erasing the ability for the Rebels to present any illusion of balance. It was a big reason why the offense sputtered in the second half.

“We just had too many self-inflicted penalties,” offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. “I’ll put it this way, a number of our third and long situations started off with drives that began with self-inflicted penalties. You can’t succeed on drives with so many first and second down penalties.”

Too much of the production burden was put on Shea Patterson’s arm. The Rebels tallied  just 131 yards in the second half as opposed to 285 in the first half.

“It was just more us playing on our heels, and they were able to pin their ears back and come after us,” Luke said. “I think that was the biggest thing, and us getting behind the chains. You’ve got to get yourself in manageable down and distances and take advantage of the opportunities when they come, and we didn’t do that.”

The Ole Miss defense deserves some credit despite the loss. It kept the Rebels in the game in the second half, most notably holding to a field goal late in the fourth quarter to hand Patterson and the offense one more opportunity to go win the game.

“I liked that they kept fighting,” Luke said. “The turnovers put them in a tough spot early, and I think they got into the red zone in the first drive of the second half. But they bowed their neck, they got some turnovers. They were battling and competing all the way to the end of the game. So I really like to see that.”

Tackling had been an issue for this unit, and it looked noticeably better against Cal. That’s something that stuck with defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff.

“I thought we reduced the number of missed tackles,” McGriff said. “We certainly missed some but there were not an abundance like before. I was really pleased to see that.”

The Rebels also had two takeaways thanks to a pair of C.J. Moore interceptions. 

“I thought we did a good job of getting our hands on the football,” McGriff said. “We needed to get it one or two more times. But there were certainly improvements in the tackling and takeaways.”

This off-week came at a convenient time. Above all else, Ole Miss needs to get healthy.

"We’re going to use that open date to get healthy and get ourselves fixed,” Luke said. “We’ve got some really talented players that will have a chance to compete with anybody in the country. I’m looking forward to the challenge moving forward.”

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