Luke Reflects on Alabama, Shifts Focus to Auburn
Oct. 2, 2017

By Brian Scott Rippee, 

Matt Luke and his staff let Saturday’s 66-3 defeat to Alabama marinate a bit before they ultimately watched the film and flushed it in preparation for Auburn.

“I think the biggest thing for our guys is simplifying and getting their confidence back to go play fast,” Luke said. “We didn't play very fast. When I watched the tape, we didn't seem sure of ourselves and weren't attacking.”

Luke wants to strip things down and make them simpler again as the Rebels prepare to return to the state of Alabama again to take on an Auburn team that clobbered Mississippi State 49-10 over the weekend.

“I think the biggest way to get that back is to simplify,” Luke said. “We will continue to watch the tape and make corrections and move on to another tough SEC opponent on the road at 11 a.m. Auburn is very good defensively, and they have a very good front seven.”

Alabama overwhelmed Ole Miss with its aggressiveness on defense. The Tide fired off several different blitz packages which had Shea Patterson scrambling for the majority of the night. Luke would like to see his team handle defensive pressure better on the offensive line, though he thought the line did well for the most part in one-on-one situations.

“On the blitzing, they got us one time on a screen, where the linemen were releasing,” Luke said. “We got sacked one time on a screen and then the empty protection, those are the ones that jumped out at me.”

A bright spot in the loss came in the offensive backfield. Running back Jordan Wilkins rushed for 101 yards in the game and spouted off runs of 21 and 44 yards. It was his best game of the season so far.

“He was a warrior on Saturday. He ran hard and broke tackles,” Luke said. “I am very pleased with Jordan.”

Defensively, Ole Miss got a taste of just how dominant Alabama can be up front. The Tide rushed for 363 yards and scored five times on the ground. Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff was not pleased with the way the Rebels tackled and then compounded that with mental mistakes.

“We’ve got to look at it even more,” McGriff said. “The players’ performances and mental mistakes speak to you, and you have to listen to it. We have to go back to square one and continue to work on tackling and change the culture.”

Simplicity was the overarching verdict the coaching staff came to after watching the film, wanting to make things simpler on both sides of the football to allow the players to play more freely without thinking as much.

“Whenever you are struggling, I think the more you can eliminate where guys can just focus, that's what that means,” Luke said. “You take some stuff out, where you can just focus and rep the same thing against everything you could possibly get.”

There was a moment late in the first quarter in which Ole Miss ramped up its temp offensively. A Wilkins run was followed by catches from D.K. Metcalf and DaMarkus Lodge that got the Rebels across midfield and into Alabama territory. It rocked the Tide defense off balance. It’s this kind of tempo the offense would like to maintain more going into Auburn.

“From our standpoint, we are talking about having some more direct play calls,” offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. “You do not have as many choices so maybe you can snap the ball a little quicker and make the play simpler for our quarterback.”

Auburn is fourth in the nation in points allowed at just 11.0 game and will provide another daunting challenge for the Ole Miss offense.

“They are very long in the secondary, so they can cover your receivers and get pressure on the quarterback,” Luke said. “I think we have to play fast and simplify so Shea knows exactly where to go with the football. It is the same recipe: play fast, be simple, know exactly what you are doing and just go and attack them.”

The Tigers are a team that runs the ball effectively and uses quarterback Jarett Stidham to complement that by completing a high percentage of his passes. He has a 72.0 completion percentage and is averaging nine yards per completed pass.

Luke said this week will be about putting their struggles behind them and welcoming a new challenge.

“Throughout my tenure here, we have had a lot of gut punches and a lot of tough losses,” Luke said. “But we have always responded and have always bounced back, and they will again."






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