By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops doesn’t have a hard time warning his teams about the explosive plays that South Carolina can make because the Gamecocks did it to UK last year before the Cats rallied to win in Columbia, S.C.
“To their credit they really made some big plays early in that game. They’re tough and they’re explosive as we saw on the opening play of the game (last year when South Carolina scored). But we have to play, and we have to execute,” Stoops said.
“So you always have to have the intensity level up, but as I mentioned that’s all the time. That’s during the week and in our prep and it’s about execution. That’s how we’ve gone about it. Sure, our team has been excited and ready to play, but they’ve be the first one to tell you when you listen they’ve been excited to practice. So, how we execute and the way we play I think is most important.”
Yet Stoops knows explosive plays will be a “big part” of Saturday’s game when UK tries to beat South Carolina for the fifth straight ime.
“Definitely a big part of the storyline because it goes without saying now. With the line of scrimmage, but with the way both teams can run the ball and with numbers the way they are, it’s definitely going to be a lot on the perimeter this week. Who makes the explosive plays and who defends the explosive plays. It’ll be a big piece of the game,” the Kentucky coach said.
South Carolina quarterback Jake Bentley seems like a more mature, confident player to Stoops than he was last year.
“He could be confident with those guys he’s got around. He’s got some real talented players and they’re a real talented offensive team. You can see they’re more physical with Eric Wolford, their offensive line coach there. I know his mentality. They’re doing a really good job,” Stoops said.
The Gamecocks have a more up tempo offense this year, something the UK defense has not faced this season. However, UK’s veteran defense has played against fast-paced defenses in prior years.
“The experience always helps. It’ll help if you get off the field, so hopefully we’ll play good and get effective and get some stops because if they get rolling it puts a lot of pressure on you,” Stoops said. “So we practice it; we practice against our offense with it.
“The guys have been good, but you have to execute, be effective and try to get them behind the chains. When they’re going that fast, obviously they try to steal some off of you.”