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UK coach Stoops not worried about team’s mentality following perfect start

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops isn’t worried about his team’s mental approach following a 28-7 win over Mississippi State last week that gave the No. 17 Wildcats their first ranking in more than a decade. (Kentucky Today/Bill Thiry)

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Mark Stoops isn’t worried about where his team is ranked. The Kentucky coach is more concerned about the Wildcats staying the course following last week’s win over Mississippi State.

The victory, which kept Kentucky perfect on the season (4-0), including a 2-0 start in the Southeastern Conference, gave the 17th-ranked Wildcats their first appearance in the Associated Press Top 25 poll in more than a decade.

Although a ranked team for the first time since 2007, Stoops doesn’t care about where his team is listed in the rankings but likes the fact the Wildcats are starting to receive some recognition.

“We’re just going to go about our business and do the best we can,” he said Tuesday. “As far as the recognition and all that, I’m good with it because the players have earned it, they’ve worked hard and that’s fine, but it cannot distract from us. It should not and will not, but they do deserve to get some recognition because they put a lot of time in, and it’s about the production that they’ve done this year. So, they didn’t get that in the preseason, you know what I mean? They’ve earned that through work that they’ve done.”

Stoops hasn’t noticed any difference in his team’s demeanor going into Saturday’s conference encounter against South Carolina, the final leg of a three-game homeland and said the respecting the process through preparation is the key in keeping the Wildcats grounded.

“It’s obedience,” he said. “It’s being obedient and disciplined to do things that you have to do. There’s something about earning it, you know you earn it with the way you prepare.

“Our players are starting to buy into that. They like the grind and the discipline that it takes to earn it throughout the week. We talk about all the time, a successful season comes from some successful weeks. How do successful weeks come about? Each day. That’s all we try to focus on is the day.”

In addition to pre-game preparation, Stoops said the closeness if the team on both sides of the ball also has played a role in the team’s ability to produce an unblemished slate during the first month of the season.

“I think it has everything to do with our success because the team and the way they feel about each other, the sacrifice that they have to make, it’s really hard to describe the amount of work that these guys do,” Stoops said. “It’s not always easy, and there’s going to very emotional times and hard times, and these guys put an unbelievable amount of work, and you have to be unified and you have to have a tight group, and you have to have great leadership to have the team success.”

In addition to the offensive unit, paced by Heisman Trophy candidate Benny Snell and quarterback Terry Wilson, Kentucky’s defensive line has been on task and hasn’t allowed a second-half touchdown this season.

“They have been unselfish,” Stoops said. “They’re playing hard. It’s nice to have that rotation and continue to rotate guys through. They have been pretty evenly dispersed in particular this last week. Guys are just buying into their role.

“They burn every coach on clichés, but the truth is (laughter) the strength of our team, is the team. That’s the truth. We are good together. We have some individually very good players that are getting some recognition they deserve, and we have some of our standouts make big plays in that game. But, our team just plays well together and that’s when we’re at our best.”


Although a small number of fans — mostly students — stormed the Kroger Field following Kentucky’s 28-7 win over Mississippi State last week, the SEC fined the school $100,000 on Tuesday.

The league prohibits fans from entering the playing field and the fine is the second the school has received since a 45-38 win over South Carolina four years ago.

“The conference has unanimously approved a policy requiring fines be applied when spectators enter the playing field after a game,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said in a release. “Fans are expected to remain in the stands and avoid the safety concerns associated with rushing on to the playing field.”

Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said the “rules are in place for good reason” to “ensure the safety of players, coaches, and fans alike.” He added the school is “committed to these rules” and “doing everything in our power to follow them and avoid future penalties.”

“We ask our fans to remain in the stands to celebrate the victories our team is working to earn the rest of the season and beyond,” Barnhart said.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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