Two years ago, Mississippi State came into Commonwealth Stadium, took advantage of a banged-up Kentucky team and walked away with a rather easy 31-14 win.
Mississippi State returns to Lexington this weekend, and once again the Cats are battered and bruised.
Brooks said on Sunday that senior linebacker Micah Johnson has a strained MCL and his status is unknown for Saturday's game. Also, senior cornerback Trevard Lindley remains doubtful with a high ankle sprain, and quarterback Mike Hartline remains on the shelf with a knee injury. The Wildcats have other assorted bumps and bruises that will keep players out of practice for a day or two, including defensive linemen Corey Peters (strained shoulder) and DeQuin Evans (ankle, ribs) and linebacker Sam Maxwell (strained shoulder).
"I'm without my starting cornerback, I'm without my quarterback, and I'm without my middle linebacker," Brooks said. "We could be in a lot better shape physically."
A lot has changed in Starkville since that 2007 game. Sylvester Croom is out as head coach, and ex-Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen is in. And while the Bulldogs qualified for a bowl after beating UK a couple of years ago, Brooks thinks MSU is actually better this year despite a 3-5 record and 1-3 start in the SEC.
The Bulldogs were competitive in losses to ranked teams LSU, Georgia Tech and Houston, and State pushed top-ranked Florida to the limit on Saturday before falling 29-19. Brooks said that alone should capture the attention of his team, which will be looking to improve to 5-3 after beating Louisiana-Monroe 36-13 on Saturday.
"Florida killed us, and Mississippi State was totally in the ball game and had a chance," Brooks said. "And I understand there was an official call (negating a Mississippi State fumble recovery in the end zone) that had an impact on the game that went Florida's way."
Florida (7-0, 5-0) and Alabama (8-0, 5-0) have strangleholds on the SEC Eastern and Western Division crowns. But after those two, UK and Mississippi State are among several teams jumbled up in the standings with anywhere from one to three conference losses. Like the Gators, the Crimson Tide struggled as heavy favorites and needed a last-second field goal block by Terrence Cody to escape an upset by Tennessee.
"This is a tough league," Brooks said. "The teams, as you go through a full game, most teams are going to have a bad game or two or not play as well as they should. Florida and Alabama are winning games where they aren't playing very well, where the rest of us aren't. With this being a league contest against a team that could do some damage and finish up ahead of us in the SEC, it's a huge, huge football game."
As for Lindley, Brooks said he was scheduled to run on Sunday and see how the ankle responds on Monday before any firm prognosis can be made on his recovery. Hartline has begun conditioning in the exercise pool, but Brooks said it's still too early to tell when Hartline will be able to jog or run.
Brooks also gave updates on two players who have been on the shelf the entire season due to injury. True freshman linebacker Qua Huzzie is into rehab after suffering a shoulder injury in fall camp. Huzzie will redshirt the 2009 season. Also, redshirt freshman receiver E.J. Fields (torn foot ligament) will wear a protective boot for about two more weeks with an outside chance of returning for UK's regular-season finale against Tennessee or a bowl game if the Cats qualify.
Cobb, Burden honored
Wide receiver Randall Cobb and cornerback Randall Burden have been honored for their efforts in UK's win over Louisiana-Monroe.
The College Football Performance Awards selected Cobb as the National Punt Returner of the Week and Burden was an honorable mention National Defensive Back of the Week.