Intimate Knowledge

Ole Miss OL coach Matt Luke won't have to guess when trying to gauge how heated the contest with Mississippi State will be Saturday. He has lived it as a former Rebel player and co-captain.

Matt Luke was a tough-as-nails center for the Rebels from 1995-1998.

During his playing days, the Rebels and the Bulldogs were 2-2 in the Egg Bowl battle.

He hasn't forgotten the feeling or the meaning of this game. He learned it at an early age from his father, Tommy, and older brother, Tom, who were both Ole Miss players with Egg Bowl experience under their belts.

"This game was very different for me. I was raised that way from the time I could crawl," he said. "I approach every game with passion, but this one is different and our guys understand that."

Luke has been removed from this rivalry for a while since he coached at Duke for a few years, but he's always kept an eye on this one game.

"It's bothered me that we've lost three in a row to them," he admitted. "I watched every game Ole Miss played, but especially that one and as a graduate of Ole Miss, it has bothered me, for sure."

He has given the message to his players this week.

"They know how I feel about this game. They understand its importance," he said.

Matt Luke
Bruce Newman

His best memory was 1997, when the Rebels scored on a two-point conversion (Stewart Patride to Corey Peterson) to win 15-14 late in the game.

"That's my fondest memory as a player, period. It's just a huge rivalry," he said. "We just have to play like that team played - with great heart and great passion. We don't need to do too much, but we do need to understand that we have to fight for four quarters.

"We'll be prepared. We'll have an extra incentive this week to comeback from another tough loss last week."

Luke gave standard fare answers when asked about the Bulldogs' defensive line.

"They're good. They have an SEC front. It's like every week except the difference is this is a rivalry game," he said. "They're big, strong and they can run. We'll have to play really well.

"(Mississippi State defensive tackle) Josh Boyd looks to be their leader. He's a senior and experienced, but they have others. (DE) Kaleb Eulls and (DE) Denico Autry, a JUCO transfer, are both good. Their linebackers can run and they're good in the secondary. They're a good defense."

What is the key for the Rebel offensive line?

"We have to execute, do what we do, get our tempo going and stay on schedule," Luke said. "We have to play with confidence like we did at LSU. We have to play with great energy, also like LSU. That'll make a big difference. It's good to know we can play with anyone in the country and carry that confidence over to the next game. We need to carry over that positive feeling from the last game. If you're playing with confidence and a swagger, you can overcome things if they don't go your way."

Luke said his guys are banged and bruised, but they're not the only ones.

"Everyone in the country is going through this right now - it's our 12th game. There are going to be bumps and bruises. We just have to do a good job of taking care of our bodies this week and preparing for another battle," he said.

LT Emmanuel McCray banged his ankle up a little and had to play less against LSU than was planned. Patrick Junen stepped in admirably, Luke said.

"Patrick did a great job. He gave us a little punch and came through when we needed him," Luke closed. "If needed, I feel good about him and Justin Bell and Jared Duke if their number is called.

"Emmanuel is fine, by the way. He's practiced every day this week."

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