As Eastern Kentucky’s head coach, Dean Hood nearly knocked off the Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium in 2015. The Colonels played with emotion, something that hasn’t overcome Hood…yet.
“Really there’s no emotion yet,” the UK special teams and outside linebackers coach said Wednesday. “The emotion is out of it right now. You have an emotional attachment to the kids that you recruited and you coached, so I’m sure at some point that will show itself, but right now it’s all about preparation.”
Mark Stoops gave Hood the floor to speak to the entire team before today’s game. Even though he’s not filled with emotion yet, he wants the Wildcats to play with emotional energy to match the Colonels’ intensity.
“It’s easier to be the underdog. There’s really no pressure. The other thing is, when you are the team that’s not the underdog, the big thing is to match the intensity and match the energy and the passion of that other team. If you have that same emotion, passion and energy that the other team does, you should be in good shape.”
Nick Haynes knows the Cats didn’t come ready to play in 2015.
“(They) about kicked our butts. They played really, really hard. I remember that year was they just had one of their teammates pass away. We’re instate rivals, we’re the SEC team. Everything you want to get somebody pumped up, they had. They’ll probably come with the same fervor they had before and we’re ready to match that. I don’t think last time we had that. It showed in our play.”
Courtney Love was on the sidelines, but could not play, forced to sit out a year after transferring from Nebraska. He was helpless and frustrated, unable to inject energy into his team on the field. The defensive team captain will bring plenty of that on Saturday.
“I think we got a little complacent thinking, ‘EKU is just EKU. We’re going to beat em and walk over these guys,’ and we can’t,” Love said. “If we don’t match their intensity, they can come out and hit us in the mouth and it won’t be pretty. If we match their intensity and do it even better, I think we’ll be fine. I think we just gotta play our game, control what we can control and we’ll be good to go.”
The Cats have the talent to take down EKU. We’ll find out in a few hours if they have what it takes in-between the ears to win the emotional matchup with an instate foe.