Matt Luke Weekly Press Conference
Oct. 9, 2017

Ole Miss Football Head Coach Matt Luke met with the media Monday to recap the Auburn game, and preview Saturday’s game versus Vanderbilt (2:30 p.m., SEC Network)


Opening Statement…
“Reviewing the tape, I really saw a lot of positives to pull from the game offensively. I thought our tempo was the best it has been all year. The O-line played by far its best game. In turn, Shea Patterson looked much more comfortable. The biggest thing coming away from that game is we’ve got to finish in the red zone. We had some one-on-one opportunities that we’ve got to make. The space gets tight down there, and we’ve just got to really focus on finishing when we get down there. A lot of positives to take away. Defensively, in the first half, there were way too many explosive plays. Too many chunk plays. It’s just us being a little bit out of position here and there. I thought at halftime, they did a really good job of challenging those guys. They didn’t change anything schematically, but they came out much more focused and played better. I think there were a lot of positives you could take from there, but just too many mental errors and alignment issues in the first half and it cost us. We’ve been on the road for a month now, so we’re excited to get back home and play against a very good Vanderbilt team. I have a lot of respect for coach Derek Mason and the program they have. We’re excited to get back in front of our fans. Coming back, walking through The Grove, playing in Vaught-Hemingway, I think our players are excited about that. We’re going to build on the second half of Auburn. That’s going to be the turning point of our season. We’re excited to get back home three weeks in a row. We’re looking forward to this challenge.”

Injury report…
“Injury wise, Ty Quick will probably be out for a while. He hurt his knee — MCL strain, probably out three weeks. Dawson Knox came out fine. Sean Rawlings played well. Jordan Sims played more, which helped him this week. Benito Jones, Ken Webster, DeMarquis Gates are all a little banged up, but we’ll be fine. Gary Wunderlich, he just keeps tightening his hamstring up. It’s not a major injury, it’s just a nagging hamstring injury. Hopefully he’ll be back this week, but he’ll probably be a game-time decision again.”

On the enthusiasm on the sideline in the second half…
“I really challenged them. I wanted to see a difference. I saw some young guys growing up. I saw Sean Rawlings and Shea Patterson come to the defensive huddle. When guys made tackles, I saw the sideline look like it’s supposed to look. It was probably the best half of football we’ve played since Texas A&M last year. I think they started to see what it can be. We’ve just got to build on that.”

On moving receivers around…
“When I say ‘be simple,’ it means conceptually. You can do things to change the looks but still run the same plays. The more we can do that and give a defense a different look but still run the same play or run the same play with a small variation, I think that makes us better. It made our tempo better. We were in a better rhythm on Saturday against a good defense than we have been. The protection was helped because of it. The ball came out faster because of it. At times, we looked like how a really good offense is supposed to look.”

On getting off to better starts defensively…
“It’s just focusing in and playing with the energy and the focus it takes to win in this league. You can’t give up explosive plays. When we sat down and watched the whole tape together as a defense, it was one guy here, one guy there. You just can’t have those and expect to win on the road in this league. You’ve got to make them earn it all the way down the field. There were countless of opportunities to get off the field on that first drive. Two third downs, had a fourth down where Marquis Haynes had him in the backfield — we just have to make the little plays and just stay the course and keep working and it’ll go in our favor.

On what Vanderbilt did successfully to stop Shea last year…
“We can’t focus on last year. We have to focus on this year. Shea is a different player. They’re a different defense now. They did a good job at mixing up the looks on him though. They had him not knowing where to go with the football. But we’ve got to focus on this year.”

On the Vanderbilt run defense…
“Coach Mason is a good coach and they’re going to be ready to play against us. We’ve got to watch the tape and attack them where we can attack them. But they have a lot of returning players, and we’ll have our work cut out for us.”

On converting on third-and-short…
“The third-and-shorts, we got stopped on one I believe, and it was just a one-on-one where the safety made a good tackle. But we also converted on some fourth-and-shorts. I was happy to see us on the goal line and come in untouched. We got in on third-and-two and ran power a couple times. I was happy to see D’Vaughn Pennamon and Eric Swinney hit some third-and-shorts. We made a lot of improvements on third downs. You saw third and manageable. It wasn’t third-and-15 where you’re taking sacks or having penalties. It was much cleaner. As far as handling the noise, no pre-snap, it just looked better. The thing coming out of it is, when you’re playing against a good defense and you move it down there, you’ve got to score touchdowns. If you move the ball against Auburn and get in the red zone, which we did on the first two drives, it’s got to be 14-14. It can’t be 14-3. That’s the key. If that happens, it’s a different game. We have to finish when we get down there. When you go down there, you have to win one-on-ones. Everything gets tighter. You have to step up. Your focus has to go up and you have to win your one-on-ones when you get down there.”

On the offensive line play against Auburn…
“We challenged them before the game that Auburn’s defensive front was the strength of their team. We just challenged them to play better and they did. They played their best game as a whole. It’s not anybody in particular. They all played pretty well as a unit. I don’t want to single anyone out. I thought they all played well as a unit. Daronte Bouldin really responded and played his best game since he’s been here. He played really physical, got after it.”

On Vanderbilt running back Ralph Webb…
“The best compliment you can give anyone is consistency and he’s been a consistently good player for a long, long time. To take the physical pounding in this league and to keep going, I’ve got a lot of respect for him as a player and a person.”

On what they are focused the most on against Vanderbilt…
“I think building on the second half from the Auburn game. I think some of these young players are starting to grow up and starting to believe. We want to build on that. We want them to walk out there with confidence. We want to build on the positives we saw. Obviously the results aren’t what we wanted, but we have to build on the positives moving forward, and I think that’s what we’ll do this week.”

On the progression of D.K. Metcalf…
“D.K. Metcalf was disappointed in some of the stuff that happened in the first half. He really was one of the guys on the sideline who was very vocal. As a redshirt freshman, that’s very impressive. There was one play on the punt team, he went and got the gunner and took the gunner out. He said, ‘I’m going down there and covering this punt.’ That’s what you want to see. I think that’s the maturing and growing process. In big-time games, you need guys like him to step up. You’re starting to see him get comfortable doing that. I think you’ll see more of that.”

On if the team has found itself…
“I don’t know if they found themselves, but it was definitely a different feell on that sideline in the second half. The result was not what we wanted, but I felt like they thought, ‘If we focus and we play like this, we can play with anybody in the country.’ We said at halftime that this second half is going to be the turning point of the season regardless of what happens. And they responded. If there was ever a time to quit, it was right then, and they didn’t. They didn’t throw in the towel, they didn’t go in the corner and cover up, they came out and they fought. I’m excited to build on that moving forward and finally get back home in front of our home crowd. I saw them having fun playing football.”

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