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Ole Miss interim head coach Matt Luke discusses the Egg Bowl rivalry, Deontay Anderson, injuries and more.

Last updated: 06-27-2019

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Ole Miss interim head coach Matt Luke discusses the Egg Bowl rivalry, Deontay Anderson, injuries and more.

Opening statement: “Egg bowl week, huge week for us. Big rivalry game on the road. Looking forward to the challenge. Tough turnaround coming off of Saturday for a Thursday game. But having a rivalry game helps your focus. Looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity.”

On the Egg Bowl rivalry: “It’s always been a big game for as long as I can remember. For the people of the state of Mississippi, it’s bragging rights. It’s always a big game, no mater the situation.”

On what the rivalry means to him: “I’m 41, so it’s really Egg Bowl 41. I thought one of the cool things (I remember) was my brother when we played in Jackson. I remember being at that game and him running for a couple of touchdowns. The Clarion-Ledger the next day had something like, ‘The Gospel According to Luke.’ That’s always been something I remember. Playing and coaching in it, it’s a great rivalry. It’s great for the whole state of Mississippi.”

On Mississippi State: “Obviously they do a great job of running the football and that’s something we’ve struggled with. We have our work cut out for us, and they’ve done a great job on defense. I think we have to do a good job of handling crowd noise first and foremost. And then we’ve got to play balanced and take advantage of our matchups outside.”

On what went wrong, offensively, in the second half against Texas A&M: “We got behind the chains a bunch; typically we haven’t been very good when we’re behind the chains. You can’t have penalties and negative yardage plays. You can’t turn the ball over, especially for a touchdown. And then maybe the wind a little bit affecting the ball down the field. I think it affected both teams.”

On what led to the improved play defensively: “Watching the tape, we got off blocks better. We weren’t just in our gaps. We made plays, and our DBs pressed a little bit more and challenged the receivers a little bit more. Really pleased with the strides. The challenge this week is let’s go play our best game, collectively, this week.”

On how his uncertain future plays into the game: “I think this game is emotional for a lot of different reasons. My job is to focus on these players and give them the best chance to win this game. I’ve be a part of teams with a better record, but I’m really, really proud of what this team has accomplished considering all they’ve been through. We’re going to enjoy these four days together.”

On injuries: “Alex (Givens) is going to be out. He’s in concussion protocol and because of the quick turnaround, there’s not enough time. (D’Vaughn) Pennamon is probably going to have surgery in the next two or three weeks. It’s a significant injury. (Jordan) Ta’amu’s fine. He was hit around the throat, but he came back and he’s been fine. Jalen Julius is in concussion protocol. Markel Pack, it looks like he’s going to be probable for the game. With the injury to Van (Jefferson), that’s big for us. I think (Jefferson is out for the Egg Bowl). He didn’t practice yesterday. I don’t want to rule him all the way out, but he’s questionable at best.

On Braylon Sanders emerging: “No doubt. In the slot behind A.J. (Brown), he’s the next guy up. Braylon’s going to go in there, and I’m really, really proud of him. He was one of the pleasant surprises of fall camp. He’s got a bright future in front of him.”

On A.J. Brown returning to his hometown, Starkville: “A.J.’s not only one of our leaders and top players, but he’s one of the top players in the country. He’ll be a focal point for us to get him the ball. I’m sure it’ll be a big game for him, emotional, going home. He’s got all of his teammates behind him. We’re looking forward to the opportunity and the challenge.”

On Deontay Anderson transferring: “Deontay, in all my dealings with him, is a great kid. We wish him the best. There’s as standard operating procedure you have to go through with all that. With me, he’s been nothing but great. Been on the scout team taking his redshirt. As far as the transfer stuff, that has to go through compliance.”

On the NCAA mess and MSU’s role in it playing a part in the game: “I think what the players are focused on is winning football games. Allegations, nothing like that affects what happens in the game Thursday night. We’re focused on going out and getting a win.”

More on the rivalry: “If you’re a coach at Ole Miss, there’s always pressure to win this game. It’s always one of the most important games of the season, and me being from Mississippi, I understand that better than anybody.”

On coaching the players to avoid pregame fights: “Nobody wants that. You want to play and compete between the whistles. You’re going to be on edge and emotions will be high. But there’s a fine line there. You want to make sure you handle things the right way.”

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