Struggling Kentucky looks to regroup vs. New Mexico State
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) Kentucky's first 0-2 start in 20 years has forced coach Mark Stoops to go back to basics in an effort to save the Wildcats' season.
Stoops plans to utilize simpler offensive and defensive schemes in Saturday's game against New Mexico State (1-1). The coach's tweaks will emphasize fundamentals to try and stop a freefall in which Southern Mississippi and Florida have outscored Kentucky 79-7 the past six-plus quarters.
''We fundamentally need to go back and get better,'' Stoops said. ''We cannot beat anybody until we stop beating ourselves.''
Kentucky led Southern Miss 35-10 late in the first half before allowing 34 unanswered points in the 44-35 season-opening loss . The Wildcats managed only a fourth-quarter touchdown to avoid being shut out in a 45-7 loss to the Gators last week.
Though Kentucky is favored by 19 points in their first-ever game against the Aggies, the Wildcats can't look past the Sun Belt Conference school. Especially since New Mexico State is riding high from a 32-31 comeback win over in-state rival New Mexico.
The Aggies trailed 14-3 after one quarter and 17-9 at halftime before coming back with two second-half touchdown passes by Tyler Rogers. Xavier Hall rushed for another score and Parker Davidson contributed a career-best four field goals; he has made all five attempts this season.
New Mexico State hopes to add another win but coach Doug Martin acknowledges that will be a tough task against a Kentucky team badly needing a win.
''We'll prepare well and give everything we've got Saturday,'' the fourth-year Aggies coach said.
Stoops meanwhile will try to correct things on defense.
Through two games Kentucky has allowed 1,084 yards, including 564 against the Gators. Stopping the run is a priority after opponents have combined for 548 yards on the ground.
Most important for the Wildcats is forgetting two agonizing weeks and looking ahead to a chance to turn things around.
''Everybody's confidence is still up,'' said Kentucky defensive end/linebacker Denzil Ware. ''We've just got to finish and come out ready to play. We can't take one play off.''
Some other things to watch when Kentucky hosts New Mexico State:
BELIEVING IN BARKER: After throwing for 323 yards and four TDs in the opener, Kentucky quarterback Drew Barker completed just 2 of 10 passes for 10 yards with three interceptions in last week's rout by the Gators. It was his worst performance in three games as the Wildcats starter, but Stoops believes Barker will bounce back against the Aggies. ''He is a resilient guy and that comes with the territory,'' the coach said. ''He has no choice but to go out there and play.''
PITCHING IN: New Mexico State signal caller Tyler Rogers leads the Aggies in passing yards (411) and rushing (84). His running has come in handy with defending Sun Belt rushing champion Larry Rose III (1,651 yards, 14 TDs in 2015) sidelined by a sports hernia. Martin said earlier this week that Rose is ''very doubtful'' for the game.
COMING HOME: Martin played quarterback at Kentucky under Jerry Claiborne from 1981-84 and served as a Wildcats graduate assistant from 1986-87. While guiding Kent State, Martin's Golden Flashes lost 56-20 to the Wildcats in 2007.
HONORING HEROES: Kentucky will recognize active, reserve and veterans of the Armed Forces along with police, firefighters and first responders before kickoff Saturday.
AP College Football: collegefootball.ap.org