Kentucky will host No. 14 Mississippi State on Saturday night at 7:00. Both teams are currently 3-0 heading into the game although UK is 1-0 in SEC play and it’s the first league game for the Bulldogs.
First-year MSU Coach, Joe Moorhead, talked about the Wildcats heading into the match-up.
“Moving on to Kentucky, it’s going to be a huge challenge for us, obviously. Coach Mark Stoops, I have an unbelievable amount of respect of him, and I’ve gotten to know him from the SEC meetings. He’s another Midwest guy and a Youngstown native – Cardinal Mooney, a great high school there. Certainly, they are a huge challenge. They will be 3-0 and 1-0 with the win over Florida, so 1-0 in SEC play. You can see by their roster that they’ve recruited size, speed, length and athleticism. Not just that part of the roster, but they’ve done an excellent job developing talent. Their mindset is toughness, physicality, aggressiveness and explosiveness, and right now, they’re playing with a ton of confidence.
Their offense is led by Eddie Gran, their coordinator. They’re a spread team, averaging 37 points a game with 470 yards. Their best players, we believe, are the quarterback Terry Wilson. He’s a transfer from Oregon and a junior college kid. He’s very dynamic, very athletic and can make plays by design or improvisation. He extends plays with his feet and does a great job there. He has really done a great job as a passer this year, so they’re doing an awesome job with him. Certainly, running back Benny Snell. His talent production kind of speaks for itself. He’s an All-SEC player, 5-11 and 225 pounds. In a lot of ways, he’s similar to some of our guys. He can run between the tackles. He can break it out in the open. He’s a good receiver out in the back field. Wide receiver Lynn Bowden was All-Freshman SEC last year. He’s really kind of coming into his own. He’s a guy we recruited at Penn State. We think Lynn’s an excellent player and provides a great legitimate deep threat on the outside for them.
Defensively, Matt House is their defensive coordinator. They are a multiple 3-4 unit. They have given up 15 points and 305 yards a game, so very stout in their first three performances. They are big, strong and physical up front. They have two great linebackers on the inside that can run and make plays. They do a great job avoiding blocks and have a lot of size, length and athleticism on the back end. We think their best guys up front are Josh Allen, No. 41, who kind of plays an outside linebacker and defensive end position. A lot of people project him as a top-round NFL talent. Jordan Jones, the linebacker, No. 34, and Mike Edwards, No. 7, the defensive back.
Special teams is led by Dean Hood, and they had three blocked punts and a blocked field goal last year. Certainly, that’s something we’re going to have to be ready for with all the looks that they give. They have a couple of dynamic return men.
Keys to victory, as always, will be how well we prepare, how hard we play and how well we execute. One play at a time with a Championship Standard. I’m excited to get into SEC play, the first one on the road. It’s going to be a great challenge, and we will be ready for it.”
On preparing for Kentucky’s different fronts…
“It’s a little similar to what Louisiana did. It’s a three-down front with some four eyes. No. 41 is kind of the rush-backer to the boundary. He’s real athletic, long and physical guy. He’s a guy that we have to be certainly aware of. It doesn’t change the plays necessarily, but changes some of the blocking rules and some of the angles. When you talk about the run game, where can you find your best numbers? Where are the angles for the linemen to block them most effectively? Where can you get your guys into open space and grass? More than anything, it changes the angles more than the numbers.”
On defensive success against Benny Snell last year…
“I watched all the games from last year, so I saw that one when I initially got here. I think Coach (Bob) Shoop and his staff do a real good job exhausting all of the possible scenarios and ways to bottle up a guy like that. He’s a guy that, I think, you’re not necessarily going to stop him, but you’re just looking for ways to contain him because he is talented. I think their offensive line averages over 315 pounds across the board. It’s another team, like us, that I think prides themselves on their physicality, their effort and how hard they play. I think that’s something that you see across the board with Kentucky. Like with any great back, you got to make sure you have great gap integrity, make sure you do a great job with your gang tackling and getting a bunch of hats to the ball. With this guy and how physical he is and guys bounce off tackles, you can’t be on the edge of him. If you’re going to arm-tackle him, he’s going to run through it.”
On the history of the series…
“When we look at it, it sounds cliché, but it’s a bunch of one-game seasons. I told them last week doesn’t matter this week relative to the Louisiana game, and last year doesn’t matter this year relative to the 45-7, I believe was the score. Last week’s game’s not going to have any bearing on the outcome of this one, nor is last year’s game against them. Every year is a new team, and they’re playing with a ton of confidence. Rightfully so, they’ve done a great job in all three phases. The kids are wired in. They’re excited for SEC play to start, and I think we will have a great week of preparation.”