The Kentucky football squad is within 48 hours of taking on Auburn in Jordan Hare Stadium for their first season opener against an SEC opponent since 1960. UK Head Coach Mark Stoops met with the media for one final time before the team takes off on Friday, and described the team as healthy, Covid-19 tested and ready to go.
“The players have been working for a long time, and we’re excited about this opportunity to go and get the season started,” he said.
Going to Auburn, who is ranked No. 8 nationally in the AP poll, is a tough season-opening task. Stoops knows that mistakes will have to be limited in order for them to pull off the upset.
“When you’re playing such a quality opponent on the road, there’s no room for error,” he said. “So we have to be ready to go and play a very good football game to have an opportunity to win.”
The Tigers are known to make big plays with sophomore quarterback Bo Nix at the helm of the offense along with wideouts Seth Williams and Anthony Schwartz. Stoops feels the secondary will have to step up and prove their worth if they are going to be able to stop the Auburn passing game.
“We have to be locked in, and play with a great edge and a great attitude and great eye discipline, and a great sense of urgency,” he said. “I think when you correlate last year to this year, the only thing that carries over is our guys have some experience, but they have to put that to use and be locked in each and every week.”
As for Kentucky’s passing game, it is kind of flying under the radar as the Cats have had to almost exclusively run the ball in the past two seasons. Stoops is confident not only in senior quarterback Terry Wilson, but that the wideouts will be ready to play on Saturday.
“I know they’re hungry and I think they wanna help,” he said. “They wanna prove their worth to their teammates, and competing in this league — it’s extremely challenging, difficult — we play great defenses every week. But I think they’re up to the challenge.”
The Cats have been waiting a long time to hear from the NCAA whether Auburn transfer Joey Gatewood would be eligible to play this season or not, and Stoops is not really expecting to hear a decision before the game on Saturday.
“I’m not optimistic that I’ll get an answer in the next 24 hours, no,” he said.
Regardless of whether Gatewood is eligible or not, the Cats will take a fully healthy and confident roster to Auburn this weekend. If they could pull off the upset, it would be one for the ages considering the rank and prestige of the Tigers. With that said, I don’t think the team will be afraid to attempt to pull off such a daunting task in a season opener.