Kentucky players tried to forget their struggles in last year's win over Western Kentucky. But they couldn't forget Andrew Jackson's words.
The Hilltoppers' starting middle linebacker was sitting on the bench while the Wildcats sputtered in their season opener in Nashville. He was incredulous about what he had seen on the field, where Kentucky finished with just 190 yards of total offense.
"They're supposed to be SEC?" Jackson said, shaking his head. An ESPN camera behind the bench filmed him, broadcasting his assessment of the Wildcats to the world that night.
Kentucky players didn't know anything about his comment during the game, but they heard all about it later. Jackson's remark was posted online and drew thousands of views.
"You know what? We all remember that," redshirt freshman guard Zach West said. "That's something where they can talk all they want to, but words don't mean anything."
The Wildcats escaped with a 14-3 win, but walked off the field slowly that night.
"We felt like we didn't perform as well as we should have," senior Taylor Wyndham said. "They brought it to us. They were more physical than us last year."
Wynham remembers what it felt like after that game. He also remembers what Jackson said.
"It's a comment somebody makes," Wyndham said. "You can't really do anything about it. Last year, we didn't play as well as we should have. It's just how it goes."
All three Kentucky players asked on Monday about Jackson's comment last year had heard what he said. But while Wyndham and linebacker Miles Simpson won't have to play against Jackson, West will have to line up against him.
Jackson, a first team All-Sun Belt pick last year, is tied for the team lead with 13 tackles through two games. He also has four tackles for loss and a forced fumble. He led WKU with 109 tackles last year and ranked in the top 25 nationally with 17 tackles for loss as a sophomore. Jackson had 12 tackles and a sack against Kentucky in the season opener.
"If that assignment comes around," West said, "we'll try and take advantage of it."
Head coach Joker Phillips said he was unaware of anything said by the WKU players. But his players haven't forgotten about Jackson.
"It is motivating," West said. "It tells us we still have something to prove."
Linebacker lineup changes
Kentucky shuffled its linebackers before Saturday's win against Kent State, moving Alvin Dupree to weakside linebacker from the hybrid defensive end/linebacker position. Wyndham took over Dupree's old position.
The move came after weakside linebackers Tyler Brause and Malcolm McDuffen struggled in the season opener against Louisville. Brause was listed as the third option at middle linebacker on the depth chart released Monday, while McDuffen had fallen behind true freshman Khalid Henderson for the backup weakside linebacker spot.
"It was not a temporary thing," Phillips said. "It's a thing we thought we needed to do to get better on defense."
Henderson could conceivably move ahead, but he'd have to overtake a far more experienced player, Phillips said. For now, they'll stick with the same group they had on Saturday.
That will require some new responsibilities for Dupree, who had not played the weakside linebacker position before. But it also means a bigger change for Wyndham, who had played defensive line to this point in his career. As a linebacker, he'll take on some responsibilities in coverage, something he hasn't done since high school.
"I hope I'm good enough to drop back in coverage and cover maybe a running back," Wyndham said. "Hopefully it's a bigger guy, a slower guy."
Cats earn weekly honors
Senior guard Larry Warford was named co-SEC offensive lineman of the week for his performance against Kent State. Warford graded out at 91.7 percent in the game with eight knockdown blocks, no sacks and no penalties. He shared the honor with Ole Miss guard A.J. Hawkins.
Sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith was an honorable mention on the SEC's weekly awards after completing 30 of 39 passes for a career-high 354 yards and four touchdowns. He also received a helmet sticker from ESPN.com's SEC blog for his performance.
Senior right tackle Trevino Woods is doubtful for Saturday with a high ankle sprain, Phillips said. He suffered the injury in practice early last week and did not dress for the Kent State game. Senior tight end Gabe Correll is also doubtful for the weekend. He left the Kent State game with a hip flexor.
Senior tailback CoShik Williams, who missed the Kent State game with a back injury, is probable for Saturday. Redshirt freshman linebacker Josh Forrest is also probable after sitting last week out with a hip flexor.
Sophomore tailback Josh Clemons will not play on Saturday. He hasn't played this year after suffering a setback while recovering from a knee injury suffered last year. Sophomore safety Glenn Faulkner, who also has not played this season, will miss Saturday's game while he recovers from a high ankle sprain.