Cats gearing up for big showdown with Miss. State


Head Coach Mark Stoops talks to the media about tonight’s victory against Vanderbilt at Commonwealth on Saturday, October 8, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Vanderbilt 20-13. Photo by Lydia Emeric | Staff 

By Chris Angolia

When the Mississippi State Bulldogs come to town Saturday night for their matchup with UK, there will most likely be a different vibe throughout the Commonwealth come kickoff.

The different vibe in the air will be due to the recent improvement in how the Cats have played over their past four games going 3-1 with their only loss coming to No. 1 Alabama in Tuscaloosa. And while the Cats have played good football as of late, the Bulldogs come in with a 2-4 record and have lost 3 of their last 4 with the one victory coming over UMass.

Despite the Bulldogs’ sub-.500 record, Dan Mullen is 7-0 against UK in his career and as always will be bringing in a very talented defense with him to counter offensive coordinator Eddie Gran and quarterback Stephen Johnson.

“They have a great defense, a really phenomenal defense. Their record does not show exactly how good they are,” Johnson said of the MSU defense.

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Although the Bulldogs will be bringing a talented defense to town come Saturday, they have struggled through their first six games allowing 21 or more points in every game except one.

With the Cats offense grabbing hold of a new identity courtesy of the run game, it will be very important for UK to exploit the Bulldogs struggles in stopping the run with that identity. Through its first six games this year, opponents are averaging just over 135 rushing yards per game against MSU.

Coming off of a much needed bye-week, things are looking as if the Cats will come into this game in much better physical condition then they have been all season.

“So, I felt like (the bye) really came at a good time. Our players seem fresh and recharged and ready to go,” head coach Mark Stoops said Monday. “That just helps with the wear and tear on our player’s bodies.”

As UK was able to heal up over the bye week, it also gave the Cats an extra week to prepare for the Bulldogs offense that brings yet another physical QB to the table. Luckily for UK, it is not Dak Prescott who will be under center this year, but instead 6-foot 5-inch sophomore Nick Fitzgerald.

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Fitzgerald leads the Bulldogs in both rushing and passing and with his dual threat abilities it will be important for UK’s top two pass rushers, Denzil Ware and Josh Allen to come up big on Saturday.

“He can run, but we just need to keep him contained. Our d-line has to get a good push so that me and Denzil can take over on the outside,” Allen said Wednesday.

At 3-3 overall and 2-2 in the SEC, this game looks to be the biggest game of the year so far for the Cats on their road to bowl eligibility. Not only does the fact that this is another tough SEC opponent coming to town, but the SEC Network has added some extra hype sending their own version of CollegeGameday, SEC Nation, to town Saturday morning.

Regardless of the fact that SEC Nation will be here or not, the coaches and players are all eager to get back out there after the bye week.

“Looking forward to the challenge of playing Mississippi State and being at home for a night game,” Stoops said. It should be a beautiful weekend and I am really looking forward to this game.”