LEXINGTON — University of Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops said his Wildcats will be making a big mistake if they take anything for granted when the Alabama State Hornets come to Commonwealth Stadium for a non-conference tilt Saturday night.
Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m., with television coverage on Comcast South.
Alabama State has won six straight games and is 6-2 overall, while Kentucky is 1-6.
The Hornets, of the division formerly called 1-AA, have not remotely played the difficult schedule that the Wildcats have, but there’s reasonable evidence to believe they can make this a game.
Some 20 Hornets originally signed with Division I schools but didn’t stick for various reasons, and none of those reasons have to do with a lack of talent.
Alabama State is averaging 477.8 yards of total offense per game — 261 yards on the ground and 216 through the air.
Running back Isaiah Crowell leads the Hornets’ rushing attack, rushing for 6.8 yards per carry and 104.1 yards per game.
“I’ve known him for a long time,” Stoops said. “We recruited him quite hard during my time at Florida State. He’s a fantastic player. He was one of the top players in the country coming out of high school. He’s a very hard runner, and for his size and strength, he’s elusive.”
Running back Malcolm Cyrus adds 6.6 yards per carry and 92.5 yards per game for the Hornets.
Quarterback Daniel Duhart has completed 102 of 178 passes for Alabama State, for 186.7 yards per game.
Duhart’s favorite targets are Earl Lucas (36 receptions for 54 yards per game) and DeMario Bell (22 catches for 58.1 yards per game).
“I think they’re a very good football team ... a very well-coached team,” Stoops said of Alabama State. “They’re really solid in all phases of the game. They have a lot of balance. They put some pressure on you with the quarterback run game and spread you out. They have good athletes and good schemes.”
The Hornets are coming off a 31-7 win at Alabama A&M, while UK enters off a 28-22 loss at Mississippi State Oct. 24.
Stoops said he remains happy with his players’ attitude and work ethic, and also said the nine days off since the loss at MSU has helped heal up some of his guys.
“I like the team’s attitude and work ethic, and I like the energy,” Stoops said after practice Wednesday.
Stoops indicated Jalen Whitlow will start at quarterback after seeing spot duty in the loss at Mississippi State.
Whitlow has been nursing injuries to his ankle (sprain) and the AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder.
Stoops said Maxwell Smith and Reese Phillips are splitting reps at backup QB.
“I think in a perfect world, we’d keep our quarterbacks healthy and whoever was in there would be running the offense efficiently,” Stoops said. “And in this case, Jalen starting the game, it would be really nice to have him start a game and finish a game, unless we decide to take him out for good reasons.”
The Wildcats return to Southeastern Conference play Nov. 9, hosting Missouri in a noon start.
UK NOTES: The UK Alumni Association is hosting a tailgate tent party starting at 5 p.m. in the red lot, near Gate 4 at Commonwealth Stadium.
The party will include food provided by Texas Roadhouse, along with games, entertainment and giveaways. The cost is $5 for UK Alumni Association members and $10 for others.