Ole Miss coach Matt Luke wouldn’t bite when asked to elevate the significance of this week’s game against Vanderbilt.
The Rebels and Commodores are both looking for their first SEC win, and there are similarities in the losing streaks.
They were both hammered by Alabama, losing by a combined 125-3. This past weekend they were both soundly beaten by two of the better teams in the conference. Vanderbilt lost 45-14 at home to Georgia. Auburn scored touchdowns on its first five possessions and defeated Ole Miss 44-23.
Vanderbilt (3-3, 0-3 SEC) also lost while Ole Miss (2-3, 0-2 SEC) had an open date, falling 38-24 at Florida.
Vanderbilt does have a win over a Power Five opponent. Kansas State, of the Big 12, was ranked No. 18 when the Commodores won 14-7 in Nashville in Week 3.
There are reasons for a heightened sense of awareness for the Rebels. Aside from the second half at Auburn they’ve been barely competitive for most of their three losses.
“I think this the most important game because it’s the next one. That’s why it’s the most important game,” Luke said.
It’s also the first of three-straight home games against unranked SEC opposition.
The Rebels will play at home for the first time since Sept. 9 against Tennessee-Martin and have the chance to show the last two quarters at Auburn mattered.
Ole Miss trailed 35-3 at halftime, and Luke challenged the Rebels to play hard and not mail it in the rest of the way. They showed more emotion and outscored Auburn 20-9.
“If there was ever a time to quit it was right then, and they didn’t,” Luke said. “They didn’t throw in the towel, didn’t go in a corner and cover up. They went out and fought. I’m excited to build on that moving forward.”
Injury update: Tight end Ty Quick sustained a sprained MCL and could be out for about three weeks, Luke said. Kicker Gary Wunderlich continues to nurse a sore hamstring and will be a game-time decision for Vanderbilt. Tight end Dawson Knox and center Sean Rawlings, playing through foot and ankle injuries, left Auburn with no additional damage.
No change likely: Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff said he and his staff showed players each big play made by Auburn in the first half when the Rebels went in for halftime. The purpose was to confirm to himself that the right plays were being called and to show players what could happen if they execute.
McGriff said he will look at scheme again this week – making sure the players are capable of doing what’s asked of them – but doesn’t anticipate any changes.
Middle Linebacker shuffle: McGriff said it’s possible that outside linebacker DeMarquis Gates will move to the middle of reserve outside backer Jarrion Street continues to progress. Gates is the team’s second-leading tackler with 37.
Series Info: Ole Miss leads the series with Vanderbilt 50-39-2 and 23-6 in Oxford. The Rebels had won three straight against the Commodores before losing 38-17 in Nashville last year.
Who: Vanderbilt vs. Ole Miss
When: 2:30 p.m., Saturday
Radio: 103.1 FM
TV: SEC Network