Each week Eric Lindsey over at CatScratches.com sits down with the Coach to get his “keys” to the game. This week Joker discusses his game plan for the Bulldogs of Mississippi State:
Offensive keys: “We’ve got to protect the football. It’s been the thing that has been killing us offensively and we have to stay ahead of the count on down-and-distance. We’ve got to win on first and second down so we can have manageable third downs. We’ve got to continue to stress it and we’ve got to get the guys in there that are going to protect the football. We can’t put guys in there that are just careless with the ball. For the most part our guys have been taking care of the football. We’re probably one of the lowest in the league in turnovers but the problem is where we’ve turned it over at. We’ve turned it over with short field. It’s hard for a defense to go in there with not a lot of grass behind it. They’re an attacking, aggressive defense that has done nothing but dominate the line of scrimmage of every game they’ve played. They dominated the line of scrimmage against Florida and Auburn, and those are two really physical football teams.”
Defensive keys: “We’ve got to stop their running game. That’s what they’ve done offensively, not just with their tailback running game but with their quarterback running game. We’ve got to get this into a game where they have to throw the ball. You can’t let them have success on first and second down. You’ve got to get them into throwing situations. So many times, even on third-and-6, they run the football. You’re thinking they’re in a passing mode and they run the quarterback right down your throat to keep the clock moving and the chains moving. We’ve got to get them in some third-and-longs so they can’t run the football on third down and convert it. You have to stack the box. You have to get the safeties involved and then you can’t miss tackles when your safeties are down in the box because then there’s a chance for a big play with nobody behind them.”
Key matchup: “We’ve got to win the line of scrimmage, especially with our offensive and defensive lines on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a dogfight because these are as aggressive of lines as I’ve ever seen. We got hit off the ball last week and that’s the first time this year we haven’t controlled the line of scrimmage. We’ve got to get back to where we are controlling the line of scrimmage.”
On the hostile environment: “It’s going to be a different atmosphere this time. I just explained that to my team. You go down to Starkville in a night game – I’ve seen Thursday night games there and how different they are than when we’ve been there. And then you add the fact that they’re already bowl eligible and those guys are trying to go to the best bowl they can possibly go to. It will be cranking around 6 o’clock Central Time down there.”
UK players that must step up: “We’ll give both (Sanders and Donald Russell) a chance and see who has the hot hand. Last week Sanders had the hot hand. We started off with Russell. He struggled to see some things and also put the ball on the ground. When we went with Sanders, he went in and was productive, so we stayed with him a little bit longer. I think CoShik Williams has had a good week also. We’ll see what he gives us throughout the game. But Raymond Sanders has to have a good game. He’s going to have to be really good in protection, really good in seeing his block setup and also he’s going to have to catch the ball for us.”
Injury report: Locke will miss his third straight game with a serious shoulder stinger. La’Rod King is expected to play after a scary knee injury last week during the Georgia contest.