Kentucky Defense Ready for NMSU Pass Attack

Kentucky Defense Ready for NMSU Pass Attack

by Tim Letcher

When the Kentucky defense faced Mississippi State in October, the Cats had trouble stopping the Bulldogs and their Air Raid attack. MSU piled up 344 yards passing as quarterback Will Rogers connected on 36 of his 39 passes, leading to the Bulldogs to a 31-17 win in Starkville.

So when UK defensive coordinator Brad White compared New Mexico State to those same Bulldogs this week, he certainly got the attention of his defense.

“If you ask who they’re probably most like, probably most like Mississippi State,” White said. “They are primarily some 10 personnel, they will get into some 11. Primarily four wide receivers. They do tend to pass quite a bit but they are committed to the run game as well.”

NMSU, coached by former Kentucky quarterback Doug Martin, is not quite as pass heavy as Mississippi State, although they definitely pass more than they run. The Aggies have thrown the ball 449 times this season for 2,635 yards in 10 games. They have rushed 308 times for 903 yards on the ground. White knows that New Mexico State has playmakers at several positions.

“They’ve got some talented wideouts, the quarterback can make all of the throws and the running backs are solid players,” White said. “We’ve got to do a good job out there on the perimeter. We’ve got to tackle well and they bring challenges in that regard.”

The Aggies are 1-9 on the season and are coming off a 59-3 loss at Alabama last week. Despite the record, UK defensive back Cedrick Dort Jr. knows that the Cats must be ready for New Mexico State.

“I feel like this team, if you come out lackadaisical, they can jump on you early, no matter what they’re record is,” Dort said. “So, we’ve got to bring it. And it’s time for us, as a DB unit, to rack up that interception total.”

One of the biggest talking points for White and the UK defense prior to the 2021 season was getting pressure on the opposing quarterback. Kentucky has 25 sacks through 10 games, a number that White likes. But there are other numbers he does not like.

“Here’s the bottom line. Are we better in that category right now? Yes. We’ve not as good in the turnover category, which is not good,” White said. “Things ebb and flow within every year. Pleased with the fact that we’ve been able to generate some pressure on the quarterback. But there are times, in crucial moments, where maybe we need to get there faster. But yes, on a whole, it’s been improved since last year.”

The Cats will be looking for win number eight this season on Saturday. In order to get to that number, the UK defense will need to be prepared to defend yet another team that likes to throw the ball with great regularity.


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