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Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher not surprised by Wildcats’ rise under coach Mark Stoops

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Jimbo Fisher isn’t surprised Kentucky is one of the top teams in the nation this season.

Fisher’s former defensive coordinator at Florida State — Kentucky coach Mark Stoops — has guided the No 13 Wildcats to a 5-0 start this season, including three consecutive victories in the Southeastern Conference. The fast start against league foes marks the first time Kentucky hasn’t lost against its top three conference opponents since 1977.

“He is one heck of a football coach and comes from a great family of football coaches,” he said earlier this week. “He knows how to win and he knows how to play and does a great job with that team. … I know what kind of coach he is. If you’re around Mark, Mark is a winner. He coaches, he plays and that guy lives, eats and breathes football. He does a great job. It does not surprise me one bit.”

Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher has been impressed with Kentucky’s fast start under Mark Stoops this season. Stoops served as Fisher’s defensive coordinator when the pair were at Florida State. (Kentucky Today/Keith Taylor)

Fisher has been most impressed with the way Stoops has transitioned the Wildcats into a contender in the conference in is his sixth season at the helm.

“He’s built a heck of a team,” Fisher said. “He’s got a very experienced team (and) those guys don’t make many mistakes in what they do. It’s going to be a real challenge and on top of that, they’re playing with a lot of confidence and playing very well. We’ll have our hands full.”

Fisher’s squad ranks as the top rushing defensive team in the league and the Aggies have given up just 85 rushing yards and five touchdowns per game through the first five games of the season. Texas A&M will get its first look at Kentucky running back Benny Snell, the top rusher in the conference. Snell has rushed for 639 yards and is closing in on the school’s all-time rushing record.

“We’re playing the run game really well,” Fisher said. “(This week) we’re going to get challenged because with Snell, there are no yards there and we’ve got him, but it’s second and five. I’ve never seen a guy that can wiggle … He reminds me of the way Emmitt (Smith) used to run. Emmitt had the big plays, but Emmitt had big yards on everything he did.”

Fisher said Snell’s biggest attribute is his patience when he touches the football. Fisher said Snell is “constantly competing.”

“He finds spaces on places there shouldn’t be,” the Texas A&M coach said. “It’s going to be a huge challenge and we’re playing the run really well. We’re going to have to tighten down and make sure those screws are (tight). All the sudden the quarterback (Terry Wilson) is dynamic and you can’t forget that and totally commit there because he’s so explosive and how he moves.”

While Snell is the heart and soul of Kentucky’s offense, Fisher said Kentucky’s defense is another reason why the Wildcats are undefeated so far this season. Fisher has been impressed with Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen, who leads the SEC with six sacks through the first five games.

“They understand what their team is and what they’re doing defensively,” he said “They play outstanding defense. (Josh Allen) is just one heck of a player. He’s athletic, he can play the pass and run, drop back and there’s nothing he can’t do.”

Kentucky and Texas A&M haven’t played in 65 years and Saturday’s contest will be the first time the two teams have played a league encounter.

Gametracker: Kentucky at Texas A&M, 7 p.m., Saturday TV/Radio: 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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