Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky-Ole Miss football scouting reports from those who know

Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops calls out instructions during UK’s 29-26 win over the Tennessee Volunteers at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017.
Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops calls out instructions during UK’s 29-26 win over the Tennessee Volunteers at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017. aslitz@herald-leader.com

After last Saturday’s 29-26 win over border rival Tennessee, Kentucky tries to improve on its 6-2 overall mark and 3-2 SEC record when Mark Stoops’ Cats welcome Ole Miss to Kroger Field for a 4 p.m. kickoff on the SEC Network.

To get a scouting report on the Rebels, I talked to Parrish Alford of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal. We talked about head coach Hugh Freeze being forced out before the season because of improper conduct and the ongoing NCAA investigation into the football program. Interim coach Matt Luke has led the team to a 3-5 record with a 1-4 conference mark after last week’s 38-37 loss to Arkansas.

Despite the loss of quarterback Shea Patterson for the season to an ACL injury, backup Jordan Ta’amu played well against Arkansas. The Rebels also have a trio of dangerous wide receivers who will challenge Kentucky’s secondary. Defense, especially run defense, has been Mississippi’s major problem.

Meanwhile, Kentucky needs to win two of its final three conference games to post its first winning SEC record since 1977. The Cats need three more victories for their first nine-win season since 1984 when Jerry Claiborne’s club went 9-3 with a win over Wisconsin in the Hall of Fame Bowl.

Running back Benny Snell is coming off his best game of the season, rushing for 180 yards on 27 carries against Tennessee. Snell needs 279 yards to become the first player in Kentucky history to rush for 1,000 yards in back-to-back seasons. Snell set the school’s freshman single-season rushing record last year with 1,091 yards. He’s at 721 so far this year.

I talked with my colleague Jennifer Smith about UK’s preparations for Saturday. We discussed Snell, Lonnie Johnson, Tavin Richardson and Jordan Jones, who spoke to the media for the first time all season after the Tennessee game.

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Ole Miss at Kentucky

When: Saturday, 4 p.m.

Where: Kroger Field in Lexington

TV: SEC Network with Dave Neal, Matt Stinchcomb and Dawn Davenport

Radio: UK Radio Network with Tom Leach, Jeff Piecoro and Dick Gabriel

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