Ole Miss

Ole Miss tries to focus on the positives as losses pile up

Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke is trying to keep things positive in Oxford.
Ole Miss head coach Matt Luke is trying to keep things positive in Oxford. Associated Press

Ole Miss coach Matt Luke says he’ll emphasize the positives with the Rebels as they try to rebound from a loss that could be mentally draining.

The Rebels were tied – briefly – or ahead for 59 minutes, 56 seconds against Arkansas only to lose 38-37 on a late, short field goal by Razorbacks kicker Connor Limpert.

During a three-game homestand in which the Rebels hoped to build momentum they lost twice and had their starting quarterback sustain a season-ending knee injury.

Luke described his players as “very resilient” after observing them in Sunday’s workout. The Rebels play at Kentucky Saturday at 3.

Two late mistakes sealed the Rebels’ fate against a vulnerable Arkansas team. Quarterback Jordan Ta’amu’s fumble was returned for a touchdown to get the Razorbacks within two points. The 62-yard drive that resulted in Limpert’s 34-yard field goal was kept alive after an apparent fourth-down stop when cornerback Myles Hartsfield was called for pass interference.

“I’m really proud of Jordan, and I’m really proud of Myles,” Luke said. “There is improvement, and we’re going to choose to build on the positives. We’re going to continue to get better and keep working, and the ball’s going to bounce our way.”

The Rebels last played Kentucky in 2011, a 30-13 loss. They go to Lexington this time ranked No. 116 in total defense and No. 126 in rushing defense.

Arkansas had success running between the tackles and averaged 5.0 yards on 53 attempts.

Linebacker DeMarquis Gates led Ole Miss with 15 tackles, three tackles for loss and a fumble recovery. Hartsfield had 10 tackles, eight solos.

Luke does not anticipate personnel changes on defense.

“Focus is the key in doing things consistently. If we’re not in the right place at the right time every time ... we’re not good enough to overcome that. The mistake gets magnified. For us the margin of error is very small.”

Injury update: Defensive backs Javien Hamilton and Zedrick Woods will be in concussion protocol this week. That makes them questionable for the game.

Center Sean Rawlings, in concussion protocol last week, was not cleared in time to play against Arkansas but is expected to practice this week and play against Kentucky.

Cornerback Kendarius Webster (hamstring) is questionable.

Running back Jordan Wilkins did not further damage his ankle, but there is soreness. He is expected to practice very little this week but should play at Kentucky.

Rare SEC foe: Ole Miss and Kentucky have played just 42 times. The last time was 2011 in Lexington. Kentucky won 30-13 and Houston Nutt was relieved as head coach the next week.

Ole Miss leads the series 27-14-1. The Rebels are 11-9-1 in Lexington.

Haynes coming on: After a slow start senior defensive end Marquise Haynes has at least one sack in the last four games and has six during that span with three coming against Vanderbilt on Oct. 7.

The Rebels’ career sack leader, Haynes had just a half sack through the first four games. He now is third in the SEC and 16th nationally with 6 ½ sacks.

Early again: The Rebels’ Nov. 11 home game against Louisiana-Lafayette has been set for an 11 a.m. kickoff and will be televised by The SEC Network.

Game plan

Who: Ole Miss vs. Kentucky

When: 3 p.m., Saturday

Where: Lexington, Ky.

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 103.1 FM