Ole Miss

Matt Luke, Ole Miss players enjoying last ‘guaranteed days’ together

Ole Miss interim head coach Matt Luke has a chance to make a case to be given the job on a more permanent basis.
Ole Miss interim head coach Matt Luke has a chance to make a case to be given the job on a more permanent basis. Associated Press

Ole Miss players who in many ways have ridden an emotional roller coaster in 2017 will have their emotions ramped up again this Saturday night.

It’s the final home game for 12 seniors – and perhaps the final home game for the Ole Miss coaching staff – when the Rebels take on Texas A&M Saturday night at 6 at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium.

Vice chancellor for athletics Ross Bjork has said he hopes to move quickly to name a permanent head coach following the games of Nov. 25, the last date in the regular season for most schools.

Interim coach Matt Luke remains a candidate for the job. He could improve his standing with wins against A&M and Mississippi State.

There remains no word on when the school will hear from the NCAA and announce the ruling from its mid-September meeting with the committee on infractions.

Luke began to publicly emphasize the passage of time after the Rebels win at Kentucky on Nov. 4, not in terms of time for him but in terms of “guaranteed days” the players on this Ole Miss team have remaining together.

“We’ve been on teams with better records, but they’ll always remember this season, all the adversity they fought through,” Luke said. “They’ll be proud of this season for the rest of their lives.”

The Rebels, picked last in the Western Division by SEC media, are 5-5 overall, 2-4 in conference play. One more win would guarantee at least a break-even season for Ole Miss, something it did not achieve in 2016, which was the only losing season under former coach Hugh Freeze.

Luke, known for emotional locker room speeches, says he’ll be careful how he tugs at players later this week.

“We’re going to focus on enjoying these last 10 days together, focus on enjoying each other. Let’s go have fun and finish this the right way. Let’s have something that you’ll always remember.”

Rebels Favored: Ole Miss opened as a 2 ½ point favorite over Texas A&M (6-4, 3-3), a line that moved to 3 points on Monday.

Injury List: Luke confirmed that sophomore slot receiver Van Jefferson has a dislocated elbow. He will miss the A&M game, but Luke did not rule out Jefferson playing against Mississippi State.

Reserve cornerback Jalen Julius (concussion protocol) and reserve defensive lineman Ross Donelly (knee) will be evaluated through the week.

Reserve defensive lineman Austrian Robinson (knee) should return this week.

Starting right guard Alex Givens missed last week’s 50-22 win over La.-Lafayette with a concussion. He’s expected to return.

Starting running back Jordan Wilkins (ankle) will be limited this week.

Senior Farewell: Ole Miss will recognize 20 seniors before the game. Among them are defensive end Marquise Haynes, running back Jordan Wilkins, linebacker DeMarquis Gates, defensive back A.J. Moore, kicker Gary Wunderlich and wide receiver Markell Pack.