New Mexico State coming into Commonwealth Stadium was supposed to be a cakewalk. When I first started mapping out the Key to Victory posts a month ago, I had listed this one as "What We Want to See" instead of "Keys to Victory" because I thought this one was in the bag. I figured it to be more of a tune-up before another division game. Boy, was I wrong about that.
For six quarters the Kentucky Wildcats have looked about as bad as any team in the country. They rank near the bottom of the NCAA in defense and in offense. The Wildcats are a team without an identity on offense and their identity on defense can be summed up in one word: civ.
The New Mexico State Aggies aren't considered a good team, but they are coming into CWS fresh off of a win over their rival New Mexico Lobos, 32-31. They also defeated Louisiana-Lafayette last season on the road by three. The exact same Ragin' Cajun team that the ‘Cats had to hold off in the fourth quarter at home. That game ended 40-33 if you recall.
In short, I took this post seriously when I didn't think I would have to.
5 Keys to Victory
- Put Big Points on the Board- Kentucky again needs to get this offense humming. New Mexico State has one of the worst defenses that Kentucky will face all season. They are allowing 34.5 points per game. Eddie Gran needs to get the offense back on track because there is more talent and depth on that side of the ball than there is on defense. If this team wants to win more than two or three games all season, then the tone needs to be set in this game.
- Mix it Up with Stephen Johnson and Jojo Kemp- The packages with Johnson and Kemp were effective against Florida. Well, more effective than the traditional offense. And yes I realize that Florida had in their reserves, but they also had them in at times when Drew Barker was in the game yet he could nothing against them. I am not advocated for Barker to be benched nor am I suggesting that Jojo Kemp replace Boom Williams as the main back. But what I am saying is that it is evident that there will be situations going forward that Barker may have to take a little time on the bench or where teams may be vulnerable against that style. This is the game to hone that type of offense and to prepare Johnson for a much bigger role.
- Do Your Thing, Mark Stoops- I want to see what a Mark Stoops run defense looks like. He alluded to taking more control away from DJ Eliot when the head coach was asked about it on his radio call-in show. He didn't come out and say that specifically, but I think we can all read between the lines. Eliot has been a disaster as the defensive coordinator. He's been in the coaches box, he's been on the field, but no matter where he is calling plays from, his defense still stinks. Stoops made his way to Kentucky based on his prowess as a defensive guy. With that unit as bad as they are, it's time for Stoops to take over against the Aggies and their dreadful pass/run averages.
- Play with a Winning Attitude- This has nothing to do with X's and O's, but it leads to breakdowns in Xs and Os. Right now this team appears to have a losing mentality. The moment adversity rears its head; it seems like they quit. Do they give max effort? A few players do. Right now the attitude of the team stinks. Denzil Ware called a players-only meeting before the Florida game and I don't think anything improved. In fact, I think their effort and attitude were worse. If they do not come out with a better attitude and play with more effort, New Mexico State could very well win the game and the season will be over.
- Play Like the Aggies are Really Good- There is no margin for error here and the Aggies cannot be taken lightly. The Wildcats have not earned the right to take any team lightly. This game has to mean something to them. They have to come to play like the season is on the line because it is.
In order to restore the faith fan's faith in this team and the coaches, Kentucky has to win, and they have to do it in convincing fashion. They are a 20-point favorite in this game. Anything less than that margin of victory will be a let-down.
‘Cats 48-Aggies 24