Winning SEC mark assured, Kentucky meets NMSU

Field Level Media

November 18, 2021 at 8:51 am.

Having wrapped up Southeastern Conference play with a win over Vanderbilt, Kentucky finishes the regular season with a pair of nonleague affairs, starting with the home finale against New Mexico State on Saturday.

With their 5-3 league record, the Wildcats (7-3) are assured of sole possession of second place in the SEC East for the first time and have a shot at 10 wins for the fourth time in program history.

After facing the Aggies (1-9), the Wildcats play at Louisville on Thanksgiving weekend, with a bowl game to follow.

“I’m proud of the team, the fact that our team will have a winning SEC record,” Wildcats coach Mark Stoops said. “At the end of the day, there’s going to be four or five teams in our league, maybe six, but highly unlikely, probably four or five, that will have a winning record in the SEC. It’s hard.”

For New Mexico State, the game will be a homecoming for Doug Martin. The coach was a backup quarterback at Kentucky in the early 1980s and calls himself a “proud alum.” Kentucky is where he met his wife, Molly, and it’s where he began his coaching career as a graduate assistant.

Martin is bringing his Aggies to Lexington for a second time, having lost to the Wildcats 62-42 in 2016. The 42 points were the second most the Aggies scored that season.

“It was a pretty competitive game,” Martin said. “I know we had a hard time stopping Kentucky, too. They had a good offensive team also. I remember our guys played really hard and competed. It was a good football game.”

Stoops agrees, saying the Aggies gave the Wildcats all they could handle.

“They really had an opportunity to beat us,” the Kentucky coach said, “so we better be locked in.”

The Wildcats must ignore the 59-3 pounding that New Mexico State absorbed at Alabama last week, Stoops said.

“We always talk about ourselves, no matter who we’re playing,” Stoops said. “We could be playing the No. 1 team in the country or somebody that’s struggling, it doesn’t matter.”

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