There are NCAA undertones to Mississippi’s SEC rivalry, but nothing makes the Ole Miss-Mississippi State game bigger than it already is, says the Rebels’ interim coach.
Matt Luke, a former player and assistant coach, will be a direct participant in the Egg Bowl for the 15th time.
However, some of his best memories are from sitting in the stands in Jackson.
“I remember being at the game when my brother (Tom Luke) ran for a couple of touchdowns, and the headline in The Clarion-Ledger the next day was, ‘The gospel according to Luke.’ What a great memory. I was at the game with the field goal and the wind, but I think I had my head down. I wasn’t looking,” Luke said.
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Ole Miss has self-imposed some sanctions – including a bowl ban for this season – and there could be more sanctions when the NCAA’s ruling is finally made public. Since that announcement has not yet come chances are it will be some time after Thursday’s game. No. 16 MSU and Ole Miss kick off at Davis-Wade Stadium in Starkville at 6:30 p.m.
Two MSU players provided testimony against Ole Miss to the NCAA with the promise of immunity from NCAA prosecution for themselves.
That doesn’t change anything relative to focus and preparation, Ole Miss players say.
“We always take this game personal regardless of the situation,” defensive lineman Breeland Speaks said.
Added offensive lineman Javon Patterson: “We’re in the SEC. We’re trying to win an SEC game. That’s what’s at stake.”
So is Luke’s future as coach. A win would guarantee the Rebels a break-even season and would give Luke three wins in his last four games.
“All the allegations and stuff, nothing affects what happens on Thursday night,” Luke said. “If you’re a coach at Ole Miss there’s pressure to win this game no matter what. Me being from Mississippi, I know that more than anybody.”
Seeking 1,000: Ole Miss running back Jordan Wilkins needs 99 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season. He will face a challenge against an MSU defense ranked No. 25 nationally against the run, but Wilkins has surpassed 100 yards in a game five times this season. He averages 6.39 yards per carry to rank second in the SEC and No. 17 nationally.
Injury Update: Starting right guard Alex Givens will miss the game as he enters concussion protocol for the second time.
Slot receiver Markell Pack has been in concussion protocol but is listed as probable, a boost for the Rebels who will be without sophomore slot receiver Van Jefferson for the second-straight game.
Sophomore running back D’Vaughn Pennamon sustained major damage to his knee in the second half against Texas A&M. He will have surgery within three weeks, Luke said.
Anderson hires legal help: Sophomore safety Deontay Anderson has announced his intention to transfer and has taken the extra step of hiring legal help – Thomas Mars, the Little Rock-based attorney who recently represented former coach Houston Nutt against Ole Miss.
USA Today quoted Mars in a story posted to its website late Sunday night.
A consensus four-star recruit and the No. 1- safety in the 2016 class according to ESPN, Anderson is seeking to transfer without the restriction of sitting out his first season. He is contending that he was recruited to Ole Miss under false pretenses relative to the NCAA investigation.
Anderson, of Houston, Texas, played little as an Ole Miss freshman and is redshirting this season. If he sits out at his next school he’ll lose a year of eligibility.
Who: Ole Miss vs. Mississippi State
When: 6:30 p.m., Thursday