OXFORD • Matt Luke’s message to fans this week is the same as his message to his Ole Miss players.
Take advantage of your opportunities.
The Rebels are at home Saturday at 3 against struggling New Mexico State. That Aggies are 0-8 and have given up 40-plus points five times, 50-plus points three times.
Ole Miss and New Mexico State have met just one other time, a 52-3 Ole Miss win in 2015. That was the Rebels’ Sugar Bowl-winning team. Times have changed for Ole Miss.
The Rebels, 3-6 overall, 2-4 in SEC play and on a three-game losing streak, have had their own problems to give rise to the idea that there may not be many fans at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium for the last non-conference game.
“It’s the same thing I tell our players. You only get so many opportunities. You work all year for your guaranteed 12 opportunities, and you want to make the best of them because they go fast. There are only 22 days or so left in the regular season,” Luke said.
Complicating matters Saturday is the kickoff time which has the game – which will air on the SEC Network – going head-up against AP No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama in the 2:30 CBS game.
Ole Miss has averaged a paid attendance of 47,572 in five home games. As with many places, those who actually attend and how long they stay is often less.
Luke also points out that it’s the Military Appreciation game for Ole Miss.
On the field the Rebels could be without several starters as running back Scottie Phillips (ankle), offensive lineman Ben Brown (ankle) and cornerback Jaylon Jones (knee) may miss the game.
Phillips and Brown have been slowed with injuries for a few weeks. Jones is a new addition to this week’s injury list.
Luke says his team is working hard to get better, and no matter the opponent that’s gauged by how you execute on the field.
“Whether it’s at practice on air, against New Mexico State, the next opponent or whatever, that’s what the object is, to get better each and every week. That’s what we’re going to try to do this week,” Luke said.
Freshman quarterback Kinkead Dent, a slender 6-foot-4, has been on a path to redshirt and gain weight. With only three games left those goals are still in place, but with freshman Grant Tisdale having announced his intentions to transfer Dent has received more attention in practice.
Luke downplays the idea that getting young players on the field this week will be easy.
“We’ll see, but our focus is on winning the game and on us getting better, the starters getting better. We have a lot of getting better to do,” he said. “The object is to win.”