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Stoops, Cats prep for first meeting against Texas A&M in 65 years


By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Kentucky hasn’t played Texas A&M in more than six decades. That will change Saturday when the two teams meet for the first time in 65 years.

The last time the Wildcats played the Aggies came in 1953 when Texas A&M yanked out a 7-6 victory over a Kentucky squad coached by Paul “Bear” Bryant, who later went on to coach the Aggies before creating a legacy for himself at Alabama.

“It will be different for me and definitely new and fresh,” Stoops said. “I’m definitely not very familiar with them. It’s no different than playing a non-conference opponent. You look at it and see what we’re going to do and what we do is what we do for the most part.”

Kentucky (5-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) is ranked No. 13 in this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll and closed out a three-game homestand with a 24-10 win over South Carolina, giving the Wildcats their first 3-0 start in league play for the first time since 1977. It marked the team’s first 5-0 start in 11 years. Kentucky is just one of 14 schools at the FBS level haven’t lost five weeks into the season.

Stoops hasn’t been surprised by his team’s unblemished start.

“I was very confident in the team in just what we were doing (during the preseason) and the way we were going about our business,” he said. “We have some good players that were working hard and focused and we have some good leadership. My thoughts weren’t on the record, but on the preparation and where we were at (at the time).”

Kentucky running back Benny Snell rushes for a touchdown in last week’s win over South Carolina. The Wildcats are at Texas A&M this weekend. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at College Station. (Kentucky Today/Tammie Brown)

The Wildcats are playing just their second road game of the year and first since a 27-16 win at Florida on Sept. 8 in Gainesville. Despite the lack of road games this season, Stoops isn’t worried about his team’s demeanor in what will be the team’s first visit to Kyle Field at College Station.

“We knew South Carolina was going to be a hungry football team,” Stoops said. “… You knew they were going to come in here with an attitude and an edge and we didn’t need any extra motivation last week. We knew we needed to play cleaner football and we could have put that game away a little earlier than we did. It’s going to be the same this week. We have great respect for Texas A&M and playing in that environment, it’s going to be a real challenge for our players, but we don’t need any extra motivation. We want to try to get a win.

“We’ve got to be able to handle that situation, handle that environment, handle the fact that it’s a big game on national television and we’ve got to get down to executing and playing good football.”

While playing the Aggies will be something new for the Wildcats, Stoops also will face former boss Jimbo Fisher for the first time. Stoops served as Fisher’s defensive coordinator at Florida State from 2010-12 before Stoops left for Lexington. Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran was Fisher’s associate head coach and offensive coordinator from 2010-12.

Although Fisher was in his first stint as a head coach while the two were at Florida State, Stoops was impressed with the way the first-year Texas A&M coach ran the program from top to bottom.

“For a first-time head coach, he was extremely organized and very talented with what he was doing,” Stoops said. “There are many things (I learned from him). I can’t get into all of the specifics andI’ve talked about that for years and I learned different things from him.

Stoops said it “won’t be any “different” when the two meet for the first time this weekend and reflected on his time in Tallahassee on Monday.

“I have really good memories of coaching under him and clearly it was not easy,” he said. “There were some hard times there. I was there from Day 1 when he took that job over and it’s tough going through that and a lot of tough, competitive days, long hours and a steady grind. I look back at it with fond memories. I learned a lot.”

In looking back at last week’s win over the Gamecocks, aside from a couple of mental errors in the early in the first quarter, Stoops said the first half was one of the best performances of his six-year tenure as head coach at Kentucky.

“It was as good of football we’ve played since I’ve been here for a good portion of that first half,” he said. “We just very good things … there was some very good football and how well we played there for a stretch.”

ALLEN, ASAFO-ADJEI HONORED

Kentucky defensive end Josh Allen and George Asafo-Adjei were on honored by the SEC Monday.

It marked the third time this season and the second consecutive week Allen has been named conference Defensive Player of the Week. Allen collected eight tackles, including four for a loss and a forced fumble against the Gamecocks.

In the past two weeks, Allen has totaled 14 tackles, collected four sacks, six tackles for a loss, two quarterback hurries, forced a fumble and a pass breakup.

“Josh made a very detailed decision (into coming back) and he put a lot of thought into it,” he said. “He and I had many conversations and he most definitely would be on an NFL roster this year, but he decided to come back and make a difference for the rest of his life.

“He’s doing that and playing some incredible football. He’s is playing some outstanding football, as good as I’ve seen with all the things he does, with how versatile he is and how hard he’s playing and how dynamic he is with his pass rushes, coverages and he’s just doing a lot of things good.”

Asafo-Adjei, an offensive tackles, helped the Wildcats pile up 195 yards and three touchdowns rushing. He graded at 90 percent and didn’t miss an assignment. Asafo-Adjei had a pair of knockdown blocks and 19 blocks at the point of attack and didn’t give up a sack.

Gametracker: Kentucky at Texas A&M, Saturday, 7 p.m., ESPN, UK Radio Network.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.


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