Luke Updates Injuries, Discusses Kentucky
Nov. 1, 2017
By Brian Scott Rippee, Ole MissSports.com
With a stinging defeat to Arkansas in the rearview mirror, Ole Miss is two practices into its preparation for its first road game in a month at a 6-2 Kentucky team.
The team was banged up a little bit in Saturday's loss, no place more glaring than in the secondary. Head coach Matt Luke said Ken Webster was able to practice on Wednesday and that Javien Hamilton and Zedrick Woods are still in concussion protocol. He is confident that all three will be able to play on Saturday and went as far as to list them as probable based on what he has seen.
Center Sean Rawlings returned to practice this week and will play on Saturday after missing the Arkansas game with a concussion. The junior has been the anchor for the Ole Miss offensive line and will be be crucial in neutralizing a quick Wildcat defensive front.
"They're a really good defense," Rawlings said. "They have two really good nose guards that can play. They have some good edge rushers. It is an SEC defense. They show up every Saturday."
Rawlings is a guy who has played through a lot of injuries this season, including an ankle sprain so violent it required surgery in order to be ready to play two weeks later at Alabama. He's been around this program for a while now and has ridden the rollercoaster of ups and downs the team has endured. He's believes the Rebels will bounce back this week.
"I always tell the guys the quickest way to move on is to get back to work," Rawlings said. "That is exactly what we have done. We had a great day of work. That is the only remedy really is the next one, and not hanging your head on the last one."
Luke has endured tough losses as a player and the coach. He understands the high of winning as well as the low of losing. He has repeatedly pointed out this team has been through a lot together and it takes a lot to get them down. How does Luke continue to motivate his guys when things are tough?
"I talk about how close we are and how much improvement we have made as a team from the first game until now," Luke said. "I love seeing the improvement they have shown and the way they keep competing and bonding together as a team. Just keep showing up and fighting and good things will happen."
One thing that gives Ole Miss a reason to believe this week is the play of quarterback Jordan Ta'amu. In the loss to Arkansas, he totaled 400 yards of offense and was efficient in the vertical passing game. He showed he can play well enough to win an SEC football game. Luke says it is about building off of that.
"We are very pleased," Luke said. "At one point he had seven straight scoring drives going from LSU. to Arkansas. That is really, really impressive. Let's watch the tape and see where we can get better. I have been very impressed with him."
That's not to say it was perfect, but that wouldn't be a feasible request for a seasoned veteran, let alone a guy making his first SEC start. The things Luke wants his junior signal caller to improve on are similar to any quarterback.
"Probably the drop back passing game, looking at your reads and not holding onto it too long," Luke said. "Bad things happen when you hold the ball, whether you make a poor decision or take a sack. I think getting rid of the ball is key, not hanging onto it too long."
Ta'amu's success has given him merited confidence, something invaluable for a quarterback going on the road for the first time in the SEC.
"I was expecting to maybe see some of that and see some of the jitters, but you haven't.," Luke said. "He has kind of taken the bull by the horns. I have been impressed."
Kickoff on Saturday is set for 3 p.m.
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