Egg Bowl Luke

Ole Miss Coach Hugh Freeze says he wants his players and staff to take the same approach to every game - even-keeled and calm. But he knows the Egg Bowl has a different meaning for Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke, who heroically played despite a knee injury in the Rebs' 1997 15-14 win.

In the 1997 Egg Bowl, then junior Ole Miss Center Matt Luke tore an MCL in his knee in a tight game.

Luke, recalls brother Tom, was sitting on the bench next to another wounded Rebel lineman when then OL Coach Hugh Nall yelled in their direction.

"You ain't hurt - get back in there!" Nall bellowed, as only Nall could.

Luke thought Nall was talking to him. He wasn't, but Luke went back in the tight game anyway.

The Rebs drove down the field and scored late in the game to make it 14-13 Bulldogs.

Coach Tommy Tuberville called for the two-point conversion for the win. QB Stewart Patridge threw a bullet to WR Cory Peterson and the rest is Rebel lore.

But the whole story, Tom tells, is that on the two-point conversion, a pass thrown right over Matt May not have been thrown or completed had something out of the ordinary not happened.

Matt could not fire out normally because of the knee injury, so instead, he went for Bulldog Noseguard Eric Dotson's ankles, cutting him and clearing the passing lane to Peterson.

Quirk or not, linemen never get the credit, but that's a story for a different day.

The Egg Bowl still boils in Matt Luke's veins.

Just ask Freeze.

"Matt prepares the same every week with his gameplans and his focus and intensity, but the week of the Egg Bowl, he wears what this game means to him on his sleeve," Hugh smiled. "I like it. This game means more to a lot of us, coaches, players and fans."

Matt Luke
Chuck Rounsaville

Witness this week's round with the media and Luke.

As the co-offensive coordinator, Luke and Dan Werner take turns giving a brief weekly interview about the opposing team's defense.

As fate would have it, this week was Luke's turn.

Matt, usually very talkative in these interviews, was in a another zone Tuesday afternoon, far removed from giving two flips about the media as the Egg Bowl rapidly approached.

He answered all questions professionally, but it was obvious his mind was spinning toward Thursday night.

Matt was asked about the difference in playing in Oxford and Starkville.

"It's a hostile environment. . . Nobody likes you and you don't like anybody over there," he said. "It's just you versus the whole stadium."

Luke answered all the obligatory questions as well.

The Rebels will be facing another active, SEC defensive front. They will have to execute well. Their front four is big, strong and fast. Their middle linebacker - Bernardrick McKinney - is the real deal. Weekly SEC stuff with different names and numbers.

But those are just the nuts and bolts, the usual.

For Luke, the Egg Bowl is a battle of wills. In the end, it won't be about the weather. When all is said and done, the plan and the execution of the plan will be important, but not the end-all factor.

This game will mostly be about the old cliche', who wants it more.

"Nothing will change from what we have been doing. It's about your mental approach and your mental toughness," Luke stated. "It's the same for both teams."

In 1997, Matt Luke wanted it more and he did what it took to get the job done.

He will be tuned in as if he were playing Thursday night.

He trusts and believes his players will feel the same way.

After all, it's the Egg Bowl.

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