Keeping the Faith

The Ole Miss offensive line hasn't been at its best lately. In games at Alabama and Auburn, the Rebels in the offensive trenches found the going rough.

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But offensive line coach Matt Luke knows there's plenty of football and opportunities left this season. Texas A&M is up next, and the Rebels are at long last playing a home game again.

The Aggies are ranked as one of the nation's best teams, and Luke remains upbeat about his troops despite back to back losses.

"We didn't have our best game (at Auburn in a 30-22 loss to the Tigers)," Luke said. "We had some guys maybe more in this game lose some one on one matchups in some areas. There were some good things, obviously on tape. We moved the ball much better. We had some stuff go on as far as just turning the ball over and not scoring in the red zone. That was probably the biggest disappointment."

Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze mentioned in Monday's press conference that any team will have a tough time winning in the Southeastern Conference when faced with many third and longs. Luke reiterated that Wednesday.

"If you're in big third and longs, (opposing) guys can just lay their ears back and come after you," he said. "It's going to be much tougher on the O-Line that way. We lost some one on one matchups, and that's going to happen at times, especially when you have some young guys. But the good news is they really responded and had a good week of practice."

Freshman Laremy Tunsil continues to progress, according to Luke, and he likes what he's seen so far.

"He did well (at Auburn)," Luke said. "I think he may have gotten tired and winded a little bit toward the end of the game. Obviously he's been progressing, and he graded out very, very well. I think he may have gotten beat one time, but he won a lot more than he lost and played really, really well."

Luke said he will try to use Emmanuel McCray more at guard this week.

Emmanuel McCray
Bruce Newman

"I do (believe he will try to do that)," he said. "I'm trying to put him in a situation to be successful, because guard and tackle are different. He did very, very well on the pass pro stuff. He was really, really good. And in the run game stuff, it's just getting situated to pulling and things where a tackle doesn't do as much. He's really responded. He's a senior, so he can handle some of those things and was really good assignment-wise. You'll see Emmanuel at left tackle, right tackle, and guard Saturday. He'll be playing several different spots."

Luke said the offensive line remains confident. It was only a couple of games ago the Rebels were averaging 38 points per contest. Then came a shutout at the hands of Alabama and another loss at Auburn, clearly the two best Ole Miss has faced as a team to date this season.

"I think it's been just about going back to work and getting after it," Luke said. "I think they understand they made some mistakes. They're young but just keep competing. When you watch the tape, they did some really good things. But they did some bad things. You want to build on the good, and learn from the bad and move forward. When you're dealing with young guys, that what you do and that's what experience is in learning how to deal with it. But you can't let one play affect the next play. You have to move and keep working to get better."

So they press on and try to become a more solid unit halfway through the regular season.

"I thought there were some good things," Luke said. "Obviously we've got to stay out of third and long, and take advantage and stay on schedule. Our run game was better. We've got to keep building on it and move forward."

But the Texas A&M defenders are up next, and Luke said it's another contest in the difficult SEC.

"They do a lot of movement, lot of stunting, lot of blitzing," he said of the Aggie defense. "Obviously they present a big challenge for us."

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