Rodriguez returns as #7 Cats visit #14 Ole Miss

FILE - Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (24) celebrates scoring a touchdown during the...
FILE - Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez Jr. (24) celebrates scoring a touchdown during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Missouri in Lexington, Ky., Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021. Rodriguez was selected to The Associated Press All-SEC team in results released Wednesday, Dec. 8, 2021.(AP Photo/Michael Clubb, File)(Michael Clubb | AP)
Published: Sep. 26, 2022 at 9:34 PM EDT
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - #7 Kentucky (4-0) visits #14 Ole Miss (4-0) on Saturday at 12 p.m. The Cats will welcome back 2021 leading rusher Chris Rodriguez.

Rodriguez rushed for 1,379 yards in 2021 and is currently sixth on the Cats all-time list with 2,740 yards.

Through four games the Cats are averaging just 81.5 yards on the ground, 123rd out of 131 Football Bowl Subdivision schools.

“For Chris, he just needs to be himself,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said.  “He doesn’t need to come in and be our savior or anything like that or save our run game – any of that. We don’t need him to worry about that, we just need him to be him. And, we need the people around him, the other guys around him that are playing, to do their job and to strain and to do things better in certain moments.”

UK’s #7 ranking is the highest the Cats have climbed in the AP poll since 1977.

“Sure, it helps with the fanbase and showing up and having the people there,” Stoops said. “It helps with recruiting. It helps with your team and hopefully it motivates them to practice hard to stay that way because, we know we have a very tough stretch starting here this week. Our team is mature enough, certainly there are some young guys that still need to be taught quite a bit. The leadership of this team knows that’s fine, but it’s really about how we practice and how we prepare to get ready for a really good team and another tough challenge.”

Two Cats starters previously played for the Ole Miss. Linebacker Jacquez Jones played in 33 games, staring 19 from 2018-20.

Defensive back Keidron Smith started 29 games, appearing in 47 from 2018-21.

It will be the first meeting between a ranked Kentucky team and a ranked Ole Miss team since 1958.