After the injury-plagued struggles of the early season derailed Kentucky's veteran offensive line, Larry Warford believes the Cats' line now has the train back on the track.
After giving up 21 sacks in the first five games, the Kentucky front has gone the past two games without surrendering any. Last Saturday against Jacksonville State of the Football Championship Subdivision, the line opened enough holes that UK ran for 340 yards.
"I just really feel like we're back," said Warford, a pre-season All-Southeastern Conference guard. "We've really come together. We understand each other. We understand what the coach is trying to teach us. We understand all the schemes and everything."
The Cats' regular offensive line starters — tackles Chandler Burden and Billy Joe Murphy, guards Stuart Hines and Warford, center Matt Smith — have played the past four games after not starting together as a unit in the first three contests of the season.
The group consists of three seniors and two juniors (Warford and Smith) all of whom had started before this season.
"Getting back used to each other has really been great for us," Warford said. "It showed up in the Jacksonville game. No, they're not an SEC school, but the way we played against them really showed how far we've come since the beginning of the season."
Mississippi State, which boasts a rugged defensive front, will be a prime test for the Cats up front.
"Last year when I played them, they were definitely the most physical team we played as far as the defensive line," Warford said. "Matching up with them and being able to block them and doing well at it would be a great accomplishment for our offensive line."
Kentucky running back CoShik Williams, who ran for 148 yards last week against Jacksonville State, sometimes carries a Spider-Man backpack.
From the time he was little, he says his identity has been linked with the Webslinger.
"My momma said I used to jump around and do back flips off the walls and everything," Williams said. "She always called me 'My Little Amazing Spider-Man.' "
Former UK star cornerback Trevard Lindley was cut by the Philadelphia Eagles the week before the 2011 NFL season began.
Since that time, the Hiram, Ga., product has been trying to stay in top physical condition and hoping to hook on with another NFL team, says Andy Dorsey, head football coach at Hiram High School.
"He's still living in Philadelphia and training to stay in shape," Dorsey said. "He's had some tryouts, but so far nothing has worked out."
Kentucky running back Raymond Sanders (high-ankle sprain) will not dress for Saturday's game. True freshman cornerback/return man Daylen Hall is also out.
Starting fullback D.J. Warren did not have contact in practice this week but is expected to try to play against Mississippi State. If he can't go, UK Coach Joker Phillips said the Cats could use more two tight end sets instead of using a fullback.
After missing three games with a shoulder injury and playing sparingly against Jacksonville State, defensive end Collins Ukwu will return as a starter this week.
Redshirt freshman tailback Brandon Gainer missed Thursday's practice with the flu, but Phillips hoped he would be able to play Saturday.
"It seems like every time he starts moving up the depth chart, something pulls him back," Phillips said. "We've got to get him healthy and get him ready for Saturday because we're going to need him. It's hard to go into this game with just two backs (CoShik Williams and Jonathan George). We're going to need (Gainer)."
For the first time in its history, a UK football team will wear black uniforms Saturday night. Kentucky is also encouraging its fans to wear all black.
What UK doesn't want its fans wearing to Commonwealth Stadium are Halloween masks/costumes. According to the university, a Lexington city ordinance prohibits the wearing of masks in public.
Fans wishing to cheer the Kentucky football team as it enters Commonwealth Stadium for the game should be at Gate One at 4:45 p.m.