Luke Knows Bama

Ole Miss Offensive Line Coach Matt Luke gets it. "It" being the prowess of the Alabama Crimson Tide. He not only faced them four times as a Rebel player, but has also coached against them - minus his stint at Duke - for over a decade.

"Obviously, Alabama is the biggest challenge to-date we have had," said Luke in an opening understatement which he went on to clarify.

"They are typical Alabama, that I have faced as a player and a coach many times. They are arguably the best team in the country - a great team. We have to play really well to win."

Luke has his own personal keys to victory in this match of the number 3 and number 11 teams in the country, but they don't vary much from the norm of every game.

"We have to protect the football, when a break comes out way we have to score and we have to be efficient in the Red Zone," Matt continued. "Certainly, we have to minimize negative plays and stay on schedule. You can't afford to have third-and-long against a defense of their caliber.

"Like most games, it will also come down to doing the little things well. Execute your assignment, play focused and don't make mistakes. Those things are important."

Alabama is giving up a stingy 62 yards a game rushing, certainly a challenge for a Rebel offense that has struggled at times to move the ball on the ground.

Matt said there is no secret to their success.

"They are just good," he chuckled sheepishly. "They are big, fast and they have a lot of good players who play within a very good scheme. They mix things up quite a bit and are aggressive players.

"Jarran Reed is a guy who is hard to move around. He's outstanding against the run and D.J. Pettway does a great job of rushing the passer with his quickness, even when they put him at a three-technique matched up against a guard. Their linebackers are in the 240-250 range and do a good job of closing gaps. They are physical, good against the run."

Against Alabama, the Rebs have to be cognizant on two fronts - matchups and scheme.

"This game is as much about matchups as it is scheme. You get your people in the right place, but they still have to get them blocked," he explained. "They have guys who can hurt you even when you do know where they are coming from. The first challenge is getting a hat on a hat, the second challenge is stepping up and getting them blocked."

Luke liked the results of the two-tight end set that worked efficiently against Memphis.

"We run a lot of spread stuff, but I think it helps us a lot to get into some sets where we can run downhill and to maintain that mentality. We feel it's good to be multiple to give defenses a lot to prepare for and we feel it helps our versatility," he noted.

And the progress of his offensive line?

"We played our best game against Memphis. Aaron Morris had his best game. He and Laremy Tunsill graded high. Fahn (Cooper) and (Robert) Conyers also had good grades," he added. "Our task is to get a little bit better each week. Now we are stepping into the meat of our season and the goal is still the same - keep moving forward, keep improving. So far, I am pleased with the progress.

"Our chemistry was lacking at the first of the year, but now we are four games better. Most of the silly penalties have been cut out - the false starts, etc. I'd rather have effort penalties than those. We just need to play hard, finish blocks and continue to get more and more comfortable playing beside each other."

Luke knows he will not have an issue getting his guys emotionally ready to play, but how do they handle the outside influences that come with any "big game?"

"We'll be ready to play, but you know with big games, you have to have experience to know how to handle the external things," he closed. "There will be a lot of media around, social media is booming. This game won't be won on social media.

"It will be won blocking and on the field, not on a Twitter account. As coaches, we have to do a good job of making sure they understand that."

Matt Luke has it pegged, as he should.

He's faced Alabama many times wearing a helmet and wearing a coaching cap.

He knows the challenge first-hand.

He's not backing down from it. In fact, he relishes it.

As it should be.


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