Rebels Turn Attention to Kentucky
Oct. 30, 2017

  By Brian Scott Rippee, OleMissSports.com

After absorbing what head coach Matt Luke described as a 'punch to the gut' in last Saturday’s 38-37 defeat to Arkansas, Ole Miss is now tasked with moving forward and trying to prepare for its first road game in over a month at Kentucky. 

The team watched film on Sunday as they tried to re-evaluate things and Luke was pleased with the energy they brought into the building; something that can be tough after multiple doses of adversity. 

“They are a very resilient group of kids,” head coach Matt Luke said. “After watching the tape, really pleased that they continue to fight and keep battling. We'll have to do that again this week--get back up off the mat and keep fighting.”

The ever-evolving injury report changed a bit this week, somewhat in the Rebels favor. The team will welcome back center Sean Rawlings, who missed the last game due to a concussion he suffered against LSU. Defensive back Ken Webster was a late scratch last week with a hamstring issue, but Luke was optimistic that he could see some action at Kentucky. Javien Hamilton and Zedrick Woods’ suffered concussions against Arkansas. Both are questionable vs. Kentucky

Ole Miss will face a 6-2 Kentucky team that survived Tennessee last week despite four turnovers. The Wildcats feature a dangerous offensive backfield with running back Benny Snell and dual-threat quarterback Stephen Johnson. Snell has run for 721 yards this season. Johnson has completed just under 60 percent of his passes and has only thrown four interceptions this season compared to nine touchdowns. 

“Benny Snell is one of the better running backs that we'll face all season,” Luke said. “They do a great job in the running game. It's complimented by Stephen Johnson, their quarterback. He can run it and throw it.”

Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff is aware of what will be thrown at his defense this week. Ole Miss has struggled to stop the run all season and Kentucky will undoubtedly try to slam the Rebels in between the tackles. Until it can neutralize an opponent on the ground, this is where teams will go to gain yardage on this defense. Kentucky has run it 294 times this year compared to 207 passes. The Wildcats will likely sway even heavier towards the running game on Saturday afternoon

The Rebels flashed a five-man front at times against Arkansas in an effort to get larger bodies on the field. That is something that the team will likely do more of going forward.

“It was good to see Breeland (Speaks) get out on the edge and get a sack,” McGriff said. “It was good to get some run stops in that five-man front. It is not going to go away.”

Jordan Ta’amu had an interesting debut at quarterback for the Rebels last week. He totaled 400 yards of offense and completed 20-of-30 pas attempts There were some mistakes mixed in, but the junior signal caller ran the offense well and executed throws down the field pretty well for his first SEC start.

Jordan Ta’amu had an interesting debut at quarterback for the Rebels last week. He totaled 400 yards of offense and completed 20-30 throws. There were some mistakes mixed in, but the junior signal caller ran the offense well and executed throws down the field pretty well for his first SEC start.
“Really impressed with Jordan Ta’amu’s performance,” Luke said. “He had a couple of mistakes, but very impressive for his first start in the SEC. Going to continue to build off of that.”

Overall, this week will be telling in terms of the mental state of this team. They’ve endured a lot together and have been knocked down a few times. Luke didn’t seem to have any doubt as to whether his players will get back up again.

“I think we're a closer team because of all the things we've gone through,” Luke said. “And we're going to continue to work to get better."

 


 

 

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