Bowling And More

Matt Luke stood in for Hugh Freeze at Monday's weekly press gather in the Manning Center. He talked Arkansas, Troy, and bowl eligibility, after a brief explanation of why he was there.

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"Coach Freeze asked me to do the press conference today. He's taking care of some personal business and will be back first thing in the morning," Luke said. "We're very, very excited to be bowl eligible. Excited for our players and fans, being bowl eligible two years in a row. We're not satisfied but obviously very excited about that

"Some areas of the Arkansas game, we played as little bit sluggish. But the guys stepped up and made enough plays to win. Any victory in the SEC is a good victory. So we're very, very proud of that."

As far as injuries, Luke said the Rebels are in decent shape. But they'll further evaluate as the week moves ahead.

"We came out of the game relatively healthy. I believe (John) Youngblood got banged up early. He's probably questionable. Chief Brown got a stinger. He's probable/ We'll look at Jeff Scott and see if he can practice tomorrow. Coach Freeze will be back to answer any questions about injuries tomorrow after practice. We'll know more then."

The Trojans are 5-5 overall and have lost their last two games – 49-37 to Louisiana-Monroe and 41-36 to Louisiana-Lafayette. Earlier in the season they lost at Mississippi State 62-7. Their last victory was Oct. 26 when they got past Western Kentucky 32-26. They are 3-3 in the Sun Belt Conference.

"We're excited about playing Troy. We've got a lot of respect for Troy. Coach (Larry) Blakeney always has a great program and does a great job."

More from Matt:

* On Laremy Tunsil, who was named SEC offensive lineman of the week: "He's ultra talented. He fought through being sick all week and hardly practiced. We watched the tape and saw very little drop off. Very fortunate to coach a guy like that. Guys like that don't come along very often. Great young man. Doesn't feel entitled Great player. Comes to work every day. Great that he's getting some recognition."

* On Donte Moncrief seemingly playing better now than earlier in the season: "I don't think anything has changed other than the fact that a lot of people are trying to take him away in coverage. So we've had to do some things, and obviously with the run game getting better, they have to play some single high coverages, which gets him into some man to man situations. And he's winning those. So we have to be balanced offensively. Run the football, and if we can do that it will create some opportunities for him and other receivers to make plays in the passing game."

* On Bo Wallace on third down this year: "The first thing he has to do is manage the protections and get the protections right on third down. He's done a good job with that all year. He's stepping in there and making some throws. He makes some plays with his legs, and runs for some big first downs. When they bring one more than we can block, like Arkansas did Saturday, he stepped up and made the throw under pressure. And it was a big first down on the last drive. He has done well. He has to handle the protection, step up and make the throw, and if the play breaks down, get the first down with his legs. I've been very pleased with that."

* On the OL Saturday: "We were pretty good. No. 91 for Arkansas is very talented and gave us some problems inside. Overall I thought we played well but at times sluggish. Not our best game but played pretty well."

Donte Moncrief
Bruce Newman

* On team's confidence: "I think it's good. The guys are excited about a bowl game but not satisfied. They expect more of themselves and we're trying to finish the season playing our best football. That's our challenge this week in practice. Hopefully we'll play our best football these next three games of the regular season."

* On the passing game: "Obviously very excited. We want to be balanced and try to hurt (opponents) both ways. When they take away our passing game by playing two safeties, we've got to run it. And when they crowd the box, we've got to be able to throw it. We've got to make sure we do a good job of taking advantage of the opportunities that we have."

* On false starts: "There were some things where their defensive line was moving right before the snap, and I don't know if they were simulating the snap count or something or not. Our guys were getting a little bit antsy, and that's something we will work in practice and try to get that corrected."

* On the quality of the receivers: "We're really fortunate to have all those guys. Coach (Grant) Heard does a great job. They play hard. They're very unselfish. It's good to see those guys step up and make plays. They're all good young men and great players. It creates some matchup problems for defenses."

* On why the team's sluggishness against Arkansas: I don't know. Might have been the early morning kickoff. But we did step up and get the win. I thought our guys energized the crowd. We needed some guys to step up and make some plays, which they did, to get us going."

* On Jaylen Walton: "My (OL) guys like it the way he hits it in there (up the middle). For his size, he has no fear. He is a guy that offensive linemen love to block for. We have several backs that can help us. Pleased with all of them."

* On Mark Dodson: "He works hard and I was really excited about how physical he's running, getting yards after contact, running through tackles. That adds a dimension to us. I was pleased with that. We saw that in practice and in the Idaho game, him running physical. That's obviously something everybody likes to see."

* On the players expecting to go to a bowl and the momentum of getting eligible early: "That's always a goal, to play in the postseason. You get several extra practices and get to work with the young guys. It's almost like an extra spring practice. That's very exciting. The expectation level has risen, and they're not satisfied with six wins. We all want to take this program to where we want it to be."

* On playing six games at home in a row: "We've got great fans. It's always good to play at home. Coach Freeze always does a great job emphasizing how important it is to play in Vaught-Hemingway and to play at home in front of our great fans. That's why they call it a home-field advantage.When we play here, it is an advantage. The fans have showed up every week."

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