October 21, 2013 9:25:09 AM
Matthew Stevens - firstname.lastname@example.org
STARKVILLE -- This isn't the same Kentucky football team Dan Mullen and Mississippi State have beaten each of the past four years.
The MSU coach said Sunday he sees a different program on film than he has faced in previous years thanks to an energy brought by new coach Mark Stoops.
Kentucky (1-5, 0-3 Southeastern Conference) will face MSU at 6:30 p.m. Thursday (ESPN) at Davis Wade Stadium. The Wildcats haven't beaten Mullen since he became coach at MSU. Kentucky's last victory in the series was a 14-13 decision on Nov. 1, 2008, in Starkville. Current Green Bay Packers wideout Randall Cobb was 7 of 13 for 56 yards and a touchdown in his first college start. He also ran for a 5-yard touchdown.
Even though Kentucky has lost its last 11 SEC games dating back to a season-ending victory against Tennessee on Nov. 26, 2011, Mullen has seen many changes Stoops, a former defensive coordinator at Arizona and Florida State, has brought to the rebuilding project in his first season as a head coach.
"Anytime you take over a program there's that excitement in guys believing in what they're doing," Mullen said in his weekly media teleconference.
The Wildcats haven't won a road game since they beat Louisville on Sept. 4, 2010, and have lost their last 13 SEC road games dating back to a 34-27 victory against Georgia on Nov. 21, 2009.
"It's not really the success of the unsuccessful teams that really gets us motivated," Kentucky defensive tackle Mister Cobble said. "It's just our improvement as a whole and coming in every day during this bye week and getting better day in and day out. Just focusing on our main goal is really what helped get us prepared and feeling like we're ready for this next game."
Mullen said offensively Kentucky has shown "much more explosiveness" in its offensive playcalling. The Wildcats are 13th in the SEC in total offense, but they have faced the top two SEC programs in total defense (Florida and Alabama). The Wildcats have 25 plays this season of 20 yards or more. They had 39 in 2012.
"I'm sure they're making adjustments to their red-zone stuff, so they're probably not scoring as many points as they're putting up yards. That makes them scary because they are moving the ball on just about everybody they're playing," Mullen said.
Mullen said he gave the players the weekend off to rest before a short week before the game.
"For (the players) it's about coming back focused and, hopefully, a little bit fresher in their bodies," Mullen said.
With Jay Hughes, Gus Walley, Justin Malone, and Ferlando Bohanna out for the season, Mullen failed to elaborate on the health of the rest of the roster.
"We'll find out later this week to see who can go," Mullen said.
Follow Matt Stevens on Twitter @matthewcstevens.