Ground game, so often decisive, could be key against Gators

Warren Taylor, Staff Writer
Cats Illustrated

Talk of ending a three-decade losing streak was not on Mark Stoops' mind when met with the press earlier this evening. The run game was.

Specifically, how successfully establishing it and defending it leads to success in the Southeastern Conference.



"There is some data that supports that. We know that if you rush the ball one more yard against an opponent in a SEC game last year that you had an 80 percent chance of winning the game. If you outrush them by 50 yards, it is 88 percent", he said.

So far this season Kentucky is averaging 156 yards-a-contest on the ground compared to their opponents 57, an astounding 99-yard difference.

In comparison, Saturday's foe, the Florida Gators, is averaging only 90 yards on the ground through two games, a sharp contrast from the near 200 yards they allow.

The stats favor the Cats, but Coach Stoops was quick to compliment the skill level of the Gators' backfield.

"This is a typical Florida team, just some of them are younger and getting their opportunity. Several of those guys can change direction and make plays. I think their backs are really strong", Stoop said.

Kentucky's best chance to shut down Florida's running backs will be their vastly improved offensive line.

Coach Stoops credited defensive line coach Derrick LeBlanc with teaching proper technique to a position group where it matters the most.

"I don't know if there is a more important position to be fundamentally sound. There is a lot that goes into it that people don't understand. Derrick has done a nice job with organizing it, repping it, and getting better."

Even with the improvement--and statistical advantage--Stoops knows that there are no guarantees about his team's impending showdown at Kroger Field. In fact, there is only one guarantee to him.

"We are going to prepare our butts off. That is what we are going to do."

Other Notes

- Stoops indicated that majority of the team had a real focus on the practice field and in the meeting room despite the hype for the game. On the subject of a few players boasting about beating Florida, Stoops said he wished they would not do that because it provides ample ammunition to fire the visitors from the south up.

- Stoops said that junior linebacker Jordan Jones will miss a second straight game due to injury.

- Coach Stoops confirmed reports that the training staff had a tape of last year's beatdown in the Swamp playing in the weight room. He noted that the same tactics angered him during a workout before the Southern Miss game.

- Stoops stated that he is pleased with the play of senior nose tackle Matt Elam so far this fall. Elam's work ethic and consistency are the reason for his rebound, according to Stoops. The Hardin County native just needs to keep his effort level up and play low to augment his unique blend of size and athleticism.

- Stoops revealed he does review and give consent for the helmet/uniform combinations the team wears, though the support staff does majority of the aesthetical prep work. He and the staff will take what the players want under consideration, such as when they wanted to wear all white last week.


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