All Matt Luke could do was laugh.
Or maybe he could have cried.
The interim head football coach at Ole Miss was asked this week about looking at game film of the Alabama Crimson Tide – his team’s opponent this weekend – in its 59-0 victory over Vanderbilt in its last outing.
“They’re good, they’re good,” he said when the laughter died. “I’m very, very impressed.”
The Rebels have to find a way to compete with the undefeated Crimson Tide. Ole Miss was off last weekend after losing at Cal the week before. The Rebels beat South Alabama and Tennessee-Martin by 20 or more points each earlier in the season.
Ole Miss has had to adjust to Luke’s promotion after the sudden firing of Hugh Freeze in July, and also deal with an ongoing NCAA investigation.
Alabama presents a different kind of problem.
“They’re No. 1 in the country for a reason,” he said. “They’re very, very good on offense, defense and special teams.
“We have a huge challenge going on the road at night in Tuscaloosa. But we’re excited for the challenge.”
Luke has probably heard that elephants never forget. That goes for the coach of the Alabama team that has an elephant for its mascot.
“This is a team that has beaten us two out of the last three years,” Nick Saban said, “and we’ve played some really shootout kind of games with them.”
Ole Miss would welcome another one. The Rebels average 36 points per game to Alabama’s league-leading 41.3. The Rebels are tops in passing at 427 yards per game and dead last in rushing at just under 70 yards per outing.
Luke acknowledges his team’s offensive strength and its shortcomings. He admits the Rebels will ride Shea Patterson this weekend, but also that the quarterback will need some help.
“With all the good receivers that you have and with Shea back there … and good pass protection, I think the temptation is to throw it,” he said. “But in this league the teams are too good and they just rush the spot (to get to the quarterback) over and over again. We’ve got to do some things to create some balance.
“I think our strength here will always be throwing the ball … but we do have to do some things to keep some guys honest. … You have to make them respect the run even if you’re not getting yards. But I think if you can go find a way to rush for 100 yards or 80 yards, that’s a good day against Alabama.”
Luke said he’s been impressed with Alabama’s stable of running backs, its receivers and with quarterback Jalen Hurts. He was hoping for some relief going against UA’s defense, but after careful study isn’t optimistic on that front.
“I was excited that they lost six guys to the NFL,” he said, “but then you turn the tape on, it doesn’t really reflect that. They just kind of reloaded.”
Reach Tommy Deas at email@example.com or at 205-722-0224.
Ole Miss at No. 1 Alabama
When: Saturday at 8 p.m.
Where: Bryant-Denny Stadium
Records: Alabama 4-0, 1-0 SEC; Ole Miss 2-1, 0-0 SEC
Radio: 95.3 FM, 102.5 FM