By Matt Overing | Football beat writer
Alabama State University junior running back Malcolm Cyrus doesn’t want his team to be intimidated by playing UK.
Alabama State has never played a team from the SEC, and UK has never played a team from the SWAC.
His team may be an underdog on paper, he said, but they aren’t thinking that way.
“They’re an SEC team and they may be projected to beat us, but we’re going to go out there and play,” Cyrus said in an interview with the Kernel. “We have players on our team that feel like they should have played or should have been recruited in the SEC. It’s a chance for us to measure up.”
Cyrus has played in all eight games for Alabama State this year. He has rushed the ball 112 times for 740 yards and six touchdowns, averaging 92.5 yards per game.
He is second on the depth chart to junior running back Isaiah Crowell. Crowell started for the University of Georgia in 2011, gaining a team-high 850 rushing yards and five touchdowns.
“We recruited him quite hard during my time at Florida State,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said on Monday in a press conference. “He was a fantastic player, one of the top players in the country coming out of high school, just a very hard runner and elusive.”
Crowell leads Alabama State with 123 rushes, 833 rushing yards and 12 rushing touchdowns. He averages 104.1 rushing yards per game.
Cyrus said Crowell has been advising the team this week.
“In the SEC, the games are a little bit faster,” Cyrus said. “They play tough in the trenches.”
He said his team is well-equipped on the offensive line to combat UK’s size.
“This is the best offensive line I’ve had since I have been at Alabama State,” Cyrus said. “We have some big guys too, so we’ll see how they size up. We have some things that will counter (UK’s) speed on defense.”
Alabama State players will treat this game differently than regular conference games, Cyrus said.
“This game, we want to win for us as players,” Cyrus said. “We want to pull an upset on an SEC team. Our players are going out there and play hard individually and make a name for themselves. We still want to play well as a team.”
This will be the third Division-I school that Alabama State (6-2, 6-1 SWAC) has played. Cyrus said the game will be good publicity for the team, players and the SWAC conference.
Cyrus had one final message about the game on Saturday toward his opponent.
“Just let UK know we’re coming.”