Interim coach Matt Luke trying to keep focus on present amid Ole Miss’ coaching search

Published 6:00 am Wednesday, November 8, 2017

It’s no secret Matt Luke wants to be Ole Miss’ next permanent football coach.

The former Ole Miss offensive lineman and third member of his family to play for the Rebels called it his dream job when he took over on an interim basis following Hugh Freeze’s abrupt resignation in the summer and reiterated that sentiment this week as the season enters the home stretch.

Luke could be coaching his final three games at the helm for the Rebels starting Saturday when Ole Miss meets Louisiana at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium (11 a.m., SEC Network). Or he could still be auditioning for the permanent gig, something athletic director Ross Bjork said as recently as last week Luke is still a viable candidate for.

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Luke is trying his best to take it all in stride.

“You can’t let the future creep in your mind. You want it to,” Luke said. “It’s a dream of yours since you were a little kid. You have to focus. That’s what my dad always taught me. You just have to do the best job where you’re at and everything else will take care of itself.”

Luke, who’s led the Rebels to a 4-5 record, may be an underdog at this point. Bjork has already put out feelers to gauge other coaches’ interest while the school has hired the firm Turnkey Search to assist. With college football’s early signing period set to begin Dec. 20, a hire is likely to come sooner rather than later.

Meanwhile, Luke said he’s keeping his focus on a group of players that’s still showing plenty of fight despite having to deal with a postseason ban as part of the school’s self-imposed penalties stemming from the NCAA investigation. A week after blowing a 24-point lead in a loss to Arkansas, the Rebels rallied from 10 points down in the second half to beat Kentucky last weekend and will try for just their second winning streak of the season Saturday against the Ragin’ Cajuns.

“With all the stuff these players have been through, that’s why you do what you do,” Luke said. “Each week, it’s motivating them because everybody’s like, ‘When is this team going to quit?’ I think after the Arkansas game, everybody’s like, ‘Well they’re just going to lay down,’ but they keep showing up and they keep fighting.

“That’s where the focus is is on those players and how much they’ve stuck together through this.”