Mark Stoops talks Chris Rodriguez return, Ole Miss ground game, early pressure at Kentucky
No. 7 Kentucky heads to No. 14 Ole Miss on Saturday for a huge SEC matchup.
The Wildcats are 4-0 on the season and already have a big SEC road win under their belts, as they won at Florida on Sept. 10.
Kentucky will have one of its top players available for the first time this season Saturday.
Chris Rodriguez, who rushed for nearly 1,400 yards a year ago, has not played in 2022 after being suspended for 4 games.
But the senior running back will return against Ole Miss.
We’re excited to get Chris back,” Wildcats coach Mark Stoops said Wednesday during the SEC coaches teleconference. “He’s a really good football player who has a lot of experience. And we’ve had inconsistency in the running game. … Chris just needs to be him. … He shouldn’t be too rusty. … He has a lot of experience, so hopefully he’ll hit the ground running this week.”
While Rodriguez should inject some life into Kentucky’s ground game, Stoops is equally concerned about stopping the Rebels’ rushing attack, which is averaging more than 280 yards per game.
“That’s difficult,” said Stoops when asked how his team can slow down the Ole Miss running game “They’re committed to it and they’re powerful runners with an offensive line that’s doing a very good job of working together. … They put a lot of stress on you. … You have to win some one-on-ones, the way they put you in space. … It’s definitely a very big challenge.”
Stoops was just 12-24 in his first 3 seasons at Kentucky but he has now won 14 of his last 17 games and is 63-53 overall in Lexington.
He was asked Wednesday if he felt pressure about his job security early in his Kentucky tenure.
“Not a bit as far as my future,” Stoops said. “How did I feel? Obviously you always feel a little pressure because you want to deliver. … That narrative gets a little old because anybody who had any idea what we were doing around here knows we were making progress. … Back then, with the limitation on signing classes and the transfer situation not being as open as it is, it was going to take time. Fortunately for me, I worked with an administration and president who understood.”
The Wildcats and Rebels face off at noon (ET) Saturday on ESPN. Ole Miss is currently a 6.5-point favorite.