Defense more prepared for Southern Miss. this season


Kentucky Wildcats defensive coordinator Matt House coaches the defense during the blue white spring game at Commonwealth Stadium on Friday, April 14, 2017 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Addison Coffey | Staff.

Chris Leach

As the football season opener against Southern Mississippi nears, many wonder how the Cats are going to react after last year’s disappointing season-opening loss.

In last year’s contest, UK, at one point, led 35-10 before giving up 34 straight points to lose to the Golden Eagles. Many blamed the defense for the loss, which let Southern Mississippi’s offense gain complete control of the game in the second half.

Now with last year’s loss in the rear view mirror, the Cats are making sure they are ready for Southern Miss this year. 

“We’re more prepared, we know what to expect now, were more comfortable with our system of play now,” linebacker Josh Allen said after Wednesday’s practice.

Southern Miss. returns a lot of key players in last year’s game, including star running back Ito Smith, who rushed for 179 yards and a touchdown in that game.

Smith is on defensive coordinator Matt House’s scouting report, but there are other players who could cause the Cats some problems.

“I think they do a good job running the football, they got explosive playmakers at receiver, I think they do a good job mixing the tempo, they try to formation you with the tempo and give you a lot of eye-candies with motions,” House said. 

Getting to experience Southern Miss’s offense will help the Cats this year, especially since the offense is full of playmakers like Smith.

Smith might’ve surprised the Cats, but this year UK has their eye on him, making sure he won’t cause problems for the Cats this year.

“Last year he had a phenomenal game, a phenomenal season, we’re just ready to go against him again and just show that we can stop him,” linebacker Courtney Love said.

Stopping Smith will be difficult, but if the Cats can achieve that goal, they’ll give themselves a good chance of winning the game. After playing against Smith last year, Allen knows what it takes to slow him down.

“Just hit him, hit him hard,” Allen said. “He’s a good back, but we got talent ourselves, we just not have one person, we have a whole defense.”

Preparing for Smith has been one of UK’s top priorities, but overall the Cats seem ready to just play a football game, something they haven’t done since December.

“You finish the Georgia Tech game and you get on the bus and you’re not satisfied and you’re chomping at the bit,” House said. “I think every player, every coach, anybody that’s a competitor is ready for the game.”