Cats Look To Continue Momentum
With their SEC season over for 2021, the Kentucky football team closes out the year with two straight non-conference games. Like many SEC schools the weekend before the “rivalry games” are littered with what on paper should be easy wins. The Cats are no exception as they host one of the worst teams in college football on Senior Day who has a familiar face on the sidelines. Let’s get you ready for Saturday’s game at NOON on the SEC Network with our New Mexico State versus Kentucky preview.
Out On A Winning Note
Kentucky’s 34-17 victory over Vanderbilt, was a tale of two halves. The Cats jumped out to a 31-3 lead playing some of their best football of the year. However, in the second half the Cats led up off the gas and the Commodores were able to make to score much closer than the game really was. UK finished 5-3 in league play and for as much as fans wanted to complain about the game and what could have been in 2021 finishing above .500 is a rare accomplishment.
Kentucky finishes the season with a winning record in SEC play for just the 9th time since SEC play began in 1933 (1949, 1950, 1953, 1954, 1964, 1976, 1977, 2018, 2021)
— Corey Price (@coreyp08) November 14, 2021
The class of 2021 will have finished above .500 twice in the SEC and gone to four straight bowl games. As we say all the time it shows how far Mark Stoops has brought this program forward over the last nine years.
Saturday is “Senior Day” where 22 Wildcats will take place in ceremonies. Three players, center Luke Fortner, wide receiver Josh Ali and tight end Justin Rigg went through Senior Day last fall so they’ll sit this one out. As far as the game goes look for Kentucky to do what they do best: run the ball with Chris Rodriguez to set up the passing game.
Will Levis has been really good in the last couple of games and he and Wan’Dale Robinson should put up big numbers, even if they don’t play more than a half. Speaking of the running game the biggest member of the “Big Blue Wall” Darian Kinnard picked up a big accolade today.
Six standout interior linemen have been named semifinalists by @TheFWAA for college football's third-oldest award, the Outland Trophy. The list includes five offensive lineman and one defensive lineman. The three finalists will be announced Nov. 23. https://t.co/V00b19rTmq pic.twitter.com/TyfBSzLqBX
— Outland Trophy (@outlandtrophy) November 18, 2021
Scouting The Aggies
New Mexico State comes into Saturday with a 1-9 record on the season and losers of six straight. Although, they haven’t beaten an FBS school as their only win came against South Carolina State 43-35 back on September 18th. It’s their second straight game against an SEC opponent as they lost at Alabama 59-3 last Saturday. The Aggies actually took an early 3-0 lead only to see the second-ranked Crimson Tide roll-off 59 unanswered points.
Their head coach is a name very familiar to the Big Blue Nation. Doug Martin, who is in his ninth season in Las Cruces, played at Kentucky from 1981-1984. Martin was a four-year letter winner and quarterback for the Cats. He’s in his ninth year at New Mexico State and led the Aggies to their first bowl game in 57 years when they won the 2017 Arizona Bowl over Utah State 26-20. Meanwhile, in the last few years, the program has struggled to go 7-29 since then.
Junior quarterback Jonah Johnson leads the offense. So far in 2021, Johnson has completed 215 of 371 passes for 2,104 yards and eight touchdowns. He does have seven interceptions as well. In addition, he’s run for 366 yards and four more scores. Redshirt freshman Juwuan Price is the main man in the backfield. Price has rushed for 517 yards and six touchdowns. When the Aggies throw the ball Jared Wyatt is the main target. He has 42 receptions for 486 yards and two touchdowns.
Now that we’ve introduced you to the Aggies as we do every week let’s check out the history between the two schools.
The two schools have only met once in history, but it was a memorable game. The Aggies jumped out to a 21-14 first-quarter lead and the two teams were tied 35 all at the half. In fact, the Cats outscored NMSU 27-7 in the second stanza finally pulling away for a 62-42 win. The two schools combined for 1,192 yards and it was the coming-out party for UK quarterback Stephen Johnson. Coming in after Drew Barker was injured Johnson threw for 310 yards and three touchdowns. In addition, the Cats ran for 381 yards behind 181 from Boom Williams and 136 from Benny Snell. For the latter, it was the first of what would become a school-record 48 rushing touchdowns. If things go as expected it won’t be nearly this close on Saturday. As win finish our New Mexico State versus Kentucky preview it’s prediction time.
Who Wins On Saturday?
If we are being honest New Mexico State is one of the worst teams in college football. This is one of those games where in a perfect world you play your starters for the first half then let them rest up for next week. Stoops and offensive coordinator Liam Coen would love to see Beau Allen gets some reps at quarterback. Unfortunately other than the first game against Louisiana-Monroe it hasn’t happened so far in 2021.
If you go through history the Cats have sometimes struggled in games where they are a huge favorite. One needs to only go back to week three where Chattanooga gave Kentucky all they wanted before pulling it out in the fourth quarter. However, with the hopes of a New Year’s Bowl still very much in play look for UK to do what they need to in order to win. The Cats opened as a 36 point favorite and that seems about right.
Kentucky 49 New Mexico State 13
Thanks for checking out our New Mexico State versus Kentucky preview with us here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back after the game with a recap and then get you ready for the return of the “Battle For The Governor’s Cup” against Louisville.