KENTUCKY vs. NEW MEXICO STATE
WHEN: SATURDAY, SEPT. 17, 4 ET
WHERE: COMMONWEALTH STADIUM (61,000) LEXINGTON, KY
TV: SEC NETWORK ALTERNATE
Record: 0-2 (0-1 SEC)
Ranking: Not ranked
Head Coach: Mark Stoops (Iowa 1989) 4th Year Overall,4th Year at UK (12-26, 0-0 vs New Mexico State)
Last Game: Lost 45-7 on Sept. 10 at Florida
NEW MEXICO STATE AGGIES
Record: 1-1 (0-0 Sun Belt)
Ranking: Not ranked
Head Coach: Doug Martin (Kentucky 1985) 11th Year Overall, 4th Year at NMST (0-1 vs UK)
Last Game: Won 32-31 on Sept. 10 vs. New Mexico
Series Record: First Meeting
BIG BLUE KEYS TO THE GAME:
When Kentucky has the ball… After scoring only seven points and turning the ball over seven times since halftime of the first game, Kentucky is desperately seeking the rhythm it displayed in the first half of the opener when the Cats scored 35 points against Southern Miss. The coaching staff has preached "simplifying" the offense all week at practice, cutting down the size of the package they're asking Drew Barker & Co. to execute. That would suggest a heavy dose of run and perhaps a huge game for Boom Williams, who has been one of the lone bright spots for the unit to date. The junior running back from Georgia is averaging a robust 6.4 yards per carry, but has only toted the ball 25 times through the first two weeks. New Mexico State has allowed 5.4 yards per carry and six rushing touchdowns through two games, so if UK struggles to run the ball against this opponent, it's a really bad sign for the remainder of the season. Middle linebacker Rodney Butler (No. 53, 6-1, 240, Sr.) has recorded 39 tackles and 3.5 TFL to lead the Aggies' defense. Strongside backer Terrill Hanks (No. 2, 6-3, 230, Soph.) has also been good with 26 tackles, 4.5 TFL and one interception. New Mexico State has not been able to generate much pressure on the quarterback, recording just two sacks this season. Barker should have opportunities to make plays down the field when the Cats aren't grinding it out on the ground.
When New Mexico State has the ball… UK fans nervous about this one may not want to read this: the Aggies have a running quarterback. Tyler Rogers (No. 8, 6-3, 218, Sr.) has rushed for 42 yards per game to go along with his 206-yard passing average. The Cats haven't had any answers for this type of quarterback since Mark Stoops arrived in Lexington, so it will be interesting to see what they have planned for Rogers. New Mexico State hasn't run the ball well this season (3.7 ypc) and the Aggies will be without last year's leading rusher, injured Larry Rose. But Kentucky hasn't come close to stopping the run (253 ypg) so something has to give. The UK staff has stressed the importance of winning one-on-one battles along the line of scrimmage and not attempting to compensate for teammates. Weakside backer Jordan Jones (No. 34, 6-2, 220, Soph.) has been the lone bright spot for the Cats on that side of the ball with 28 tackles and 3.0 TFL. Keep an eye on juco transfer linebacker/end Jordan Bonner (No. 47, 6-5, 220, Jr.) who may see his first action on the defensive side of the ball. He's been limited to special teams action after enrolling late in August, but the staff thinks he's picked up enough of the defense to contribute now. Cornerback Derrick Baity (No. 29, 6-3, 182, Soph.) will be looking to bounce back after allowing long touchdown passes in each of the first two games.
Senior wide receiver Ryan Timmons needs just 12 yards to become the 26th player in school history to reach 1,000 career receiving yards.
ON THIS DAY IN UK HISTORY:
Kentucky last won a Sept. 17 game in 1983, a 24-13 victory over Indiana at Commonwealth Stadium. Quarterback Randy Jenkins rushed for a pair of touchdowns, star tailback George Adams added another TD on the ground, and Chris Candell booted a 27-yard field goal to account for the Cats' scoring. Meanwhile, Paul Calhoun set a school record with an 80-yard punt.
- New Mexico State has nine starters back from last season on both sides of the ball.
- Kentucky is 5-1 all-time versus Sun Belt opponents; NMSU is 0-19 versus the SEC.
- Aggies head coach Doug Martin played quarterback at UK from 1981-84 and was a graduate assistant under Jerry Claiborne from 1986-87.
- UK leads the SEC with four interceptions this season.
- Saturday is the annual "Heroes Day" at CWS with all active, reserve and veteran members of the armed forces, as well as police, firefighters and first responders eligible to receive two complimentary tickets to the game.