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UK, Stoops hit reset button after historic victory at Tennessee, set sights on talented Missouri

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Mark Stoops didn’t waste any time forgetting about Kentucky’s first road win over Tennessee since 1984.

Less than 24 hours following the rare and exhilarating 34-7 victory over the Volunteers in Knoxville, the UK head coach was already looking ahead to Saturday’s contest at Missouri.

“We enjoy a victory for less than 24 hours, depending on what time you play, but you enjoy it for a few hours and then it’s back to work Sunday and hit the reset button,” Stoops said Monday. “For our players, they hear that from me every Monday and you really have to look at it that way, whether it’s a win or whether it’s a loss. You have to get back to it Monday, hit the reset button and there’s a whole new challenge. Again, you want to win that week you have to win today and that’s the truth.”

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops was all smiles following his team’s win at Tennessee on Saturday. (SEC photo)

Still, Stoops was raving about his team’s second consecutive victory after opening the season with losses at Auburn and Mississippi. During the past two games, Kentucky’s defense has collected nine interceptions and allowed just one touchdown in the past eight quarters. The Wildcats shut out Tennessee and got back on track offensively in the second half, giving Stoops and plenty of optimism for the future.

“I thought we really played solid in all three areas this past Saturday,” Stoops said. “It was very good to go get that victory.”

Because of COVID-19 concerns, the Southeastern Conference tweaked the upcoming schedule. The Wildcats were scheduled to host Georgia this weekend but instead will take on the Bulldogs at noon on Oct. 31 at Kroger Field. Stoops said the adjustment didn’t create “nothing major.”

“The only negative is we’re catching two teams in a row with two weeks to prepare and get healthy and get themselves cleaned up — you know like we all like to do during an open week,” Stoops said. “As far as us and our preparation, it’s not a major deal, just a little more work to do Saturday night and Sunday than typical but that’s okay. We got all that caught back up, just need to go out, have another really solid week and continue to build on the good things we’re doing and try to get some things cleaned up.”

The team’s defensive turnaround since surrendering 42 points in a one-point overtime loss to Ole Miss is a credit to the team’s improvement in the trenches and in the secondary, Stoops said.

“Good things happen when you get all 11 guys in the same position,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate. We’ve had a lead and there may be a little bit more predictable pass, although not so much in the Tennessee game because those interceptions happened early. But I think it’s just guys just playing well, being in position, playing good up front, creating some pressure, good eyes. We’re playing more disciplined on the back end. Our vision has been better and now we’re breaking on the football. So it’s been a good group effort.”

YOUNG HONORED: Kentucky senior offensive tackle Landon Young was named SEC Offensive Lineman of the Week Monday, the second time in his career to receive the honor.

Young graded out at 90 percent in the Wildcats’ win at Tennessee and had 10 knockdown blocks as Kentucky racked up 187 rushing yards against the Volunteers. Young also didn’t allow a sack or quarterback pressure and was perfect on his assignments and didn’t commit a penalty.

BOHANNA HURT: Kentucky senior nose guard Quinton Bohanna will be out of the lineup against the Tigers as he nurses a knee injury he sustained in the second quarter against the Volunteers last weekend.

“Quinton will be out for a bit,” Stoops said Monday. “Nothing major, thank goodness for him and for us. I’m not sure how long that will be, but he will be out this week.”

Marquan McCall will likely replace Bohanna in the lineup Saturday, while freshman Justin Rogers could see the majority of action in McCall’s slot.

“I’m really excited for Marquan because he needs to step up,” Stoops said. “We need to put that kind of pressure on him and he needs to put that on himself to play at the level that he is capable of and I expect him to do that, I really do.”

BRUMBAUGH FIRED: Tennessee defensive line coach Jimmy Brumbaugh was fired on Sunday following the Volunteers’ loss to the Wildcats. Brumbaugh spent three seasons on Stoops’ staff at Kentucky and was in his first season at Tennessee.

Stoops was disappointed after hearing of Brumbaugh’s dismissal.

“He’s a quality coach, he’s a good coach and he’ll land on his feet with no problem,” Stoops said. “I have no idea what goes on there and that’s not my business but, at some point, I will reach out to Jimmy. That’s disappointing.”

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

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