Truth Elixir

After two poor rushing performances - versus Alabama and Auburn, the Rebels had a Sunday "truth" session and came out of it a little more determined, a little nastier and a little more fundamentally sound.

Every Sunday after a game, the Rebels watch game film as a team and then as a unit and have what they call their "truth" meeting.

It's not personal, it's business, and it's quite candid, where all positives and negatives about the game the night before is aired out.

Everything is put on the table and open for discussion, no holds barred.

After the Alabama and Auburn losses, OL Coach Matt Luke had seen enough, according to senior OL Emmanuel McCray and Jared Duke.

And who could blame him - the Rebs rushed 25 times for a paltry 46 yards against Bama and then 39 times for 124 yards against Auburn. The Auburn total doesn't seem awful, but take into account one rush went for 52 yards, meaning the other 38 gained just 72 yards, less than two yards a carry, similar to the Bama yards per carry output.

"What we were doing was not acceptable," said McCray. "Not only did we not run the ball against Auburn, we gave up six quarterback sacks. Just a bad showing."

McCray said Luke, in a good way, got in the players' grills, challenging them on several different fronts.

"He told us we had to get back to fundamentals for one thing, playing lower, playing with more sound techniques," said Duke. "He also told us we were just had to bow up. It was time to get nastier.

"Not one person in that room disagreed. We knew what he was telling us was the truth. Coach Luke didn't degrade us or belittle us - he challenged us."

Emmanuel McCray
Chuck Rounsaville

Challenge accepted, based on the results of the next two games, Texas A&M and LSU.

In those two outings, the Rebs rushed, respectively, for 133 yards on 33 carries and 176 yards on 43 carries, right at a 4 yard per carry average. Double their production from the previous two games.

"You have to maintain good pad level, you have to execute and you have to get down and dirty in the trenches," McCray said. "I think we were missing some of that, I know we were missing some of that, against Alabama and Auburn.

"The Texas A&M game was better. Not where we wanted it to be, but better. That helped us gain back some confidence, which is huge. Us big guys, no matter what kind of offense we run, want to run the football. When you are not getting that done, it hurts your confidence and overall game. When you are running the ball and blocking people, everyone gets going downhill and we think we can block anyone. That's half the battle."

Duke believes the recent success with the inside run will help everything.

"Teams will have to play us differently. We will continue to go inside, but if we keep having success and moving defenders out, it will also open up the outside run lanes and the passing game more," he explained. "I feel our recent surge up front is going to help us gain back our momentum for the remainder of the season.

"I'm not going to lie - it feels good getting past this murderer's row we've just finished, but we all know that no matter who you play down the line, you have to bring your best every Saturday. Hopefully, playing the Alabamas and LSUs and Auburns of the world will prepare us for the rest of the year."

McCray was used as a tight end against A&M in the Rebs' heavy package. He expects to see more of that now that TE Evan Engram has been lost for the year.

"It adds a different dimension to our offense. I don't look for it to be a staple of our offense, but it is definitely a good option for us to have in," McCray stated.

Against LSU, the pass protection improved dramatically as well against a higher caliber of defensive line than A&M fielded.

"It was a combination of things," McCray mentioned. "We were motivated to perform well, we were motivated to erase that six sack performance against Auburn, we were not going to get beaten one-on-one, Bo (Wallace) slid the protections the right way, he got rid of the ball in a timely way and we were fundamentally sound," noted McCray. "LSU was very talented, but I think our determination was stronger than LSU's.

Engram is out for the year
USA TODAY images

"Last year, we got better as a unit as the year progressed. Now we are on track to do that again as an offensive line unit. That is our goal. If we can do it against LSU, we can do it against anyone."

Duke threw in a sidebar reason the Rebs have improved up front the pasts two games.

"I think Laremy (Tunsil) is playing like a veteran now and he's a special talent, real special," Duke said. "Also, Pierce (Burton) had a great game against LSU and gets better each week. We have a good guard rotation going now and Evan (Swindall) knows his stuff and is experienced.

"We are all getting better and our chemistry is growing. I also think the running backs have turned it up a notch. As a group, we played our best game of the year against LSU and we have to keep that going."

The Rebels face Idaho this week. On paper, it looks like a walk through for the Rebs, a 40-point favorite over the Vandals, but Duke isn't buying into that.

"We came out a little sleepy looking against SEMO earlier and that didn't fly too well with our coaches or with us. We did the same against Auburn," he noted. "I don't think we will make that mistake again.

"We have to be high-energy and passionate in every game. That's who we are. When we aren't, we aren't successful. I think we have learned that lesson."

The truth session after the LSU game was a lot more pleasant, said Duke.

"Our coaches are real good at complimenting when you deserve it and letting you know what you did wrong if you didn't," he closed. "There were a lot of pats on the back Sunday and that felt good.

"I know it motivates me for more Sundays like that."

. . . and the truth will set you free, said the congregation.

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