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UK’s Stoops not worried about Tennessee’s state of mind, focused on own team


By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Mark Stoops isn’t too concerned about Tennessee’s state of mind going into Saturday’s showdown against the Volunteers at Kroger Field.

The Volunteers (3-4, 0-4 Southeastern Conference) have yet to win a game in the league and haven’t scored an offensive touchdown in the last 14 quarters. The Volunteers’ defense scored the lone touchdown in a 45-7 loss at Alabama last week.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops hopes the Wildcats can break a five-game losing streak against Tennessee this weekend. The Wildcats have lost 30 of the past 31 games against the Vols. (Keith Taylor/Kentucky Today)

To make matters worse, the Volunteers will be without running Back John Kelly Saturday. Kelly and teammate Will Ignont were suspended after being cited on misdemeanor marijuana charges this week.

Instead of focusing on Tennessee’s troubles, Stoops is more concerned about his own team’s state of mind following last week’s 45-7 blowout loss at Mississippi State. Kentucky (5-2, 2-2) .

“We don’t talk about them and what their mental state is,” Stoops said Thursday. “I would have no idea where they’re at. It’s really always about us and what our attitude and preparation. So no. I really don’t discuss that at all. It’s about us. If we didn’t play so well the last week individually, I think we’ve gotta have enough pride about ourselves to come back and play well. Collectively as a group I know it’s that way. I feel it this week.”

Stoops likes the way the Wildcats bounced back in practice this week in preparation for Tennessee, which has won the past five games in the series. The Wildcats broke a 26-game losing streak to their border neighbors in 2011, but haven’t defeated the Vols since the milestone victory six years ago in Lexington. Tennessee coach Butch Jones is 4-0 against Kentucky and has defeated the Wildcats by an average margin of 22.7 points in those four contests, including a 49-36 victory a year ago in Knoxville.

“Our guys responded the way I knew we would,” Stoops said. “Nobody in this business and if you watch college football, you don’t intend to do that. So there’s nothing intentional about that. That’s why we’re constantly on them all the time. Sometimes it gets redundant. They get tired of hearing it. They have to have the leadership within the group to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

The Kentucky coach believes the Wildcats took last week’s double-digit loss as a learning experience and is confident the Wildcats will rebound this week.

“That’s the million dollar question, to always know when that’s gonna happen and when you’re gonna go play the way you’re not so proud of,” he said. “I think this group has pride in what they’re doing. And again, I know what the final score was and I’m not happy about it, but it wasn’t like everything was trashed. We just gotta not have any lapses and not have any quarters, or series or plays where we’re not playing at our best. I think the group has some pride in what they’re doing and hopefully it’ll carry over into Saturday.”

A change in the current weather pattern also could be a hindrance to both teams as temperatures are expected to plunge into the 30s during the game and rain is in the forecast. Like his opponent, Stoops isn’t too concerned about the weather.

“We’ve been outside all week obviously. It was cold. We didn’t get any wet, rain or anything, but we got some cold weather (Wednesday). But I don’t know what you can do other than just go about your business.”

Gametracker: Tennessee at Kentucky, 7:30 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, 98.1 FM, WBUL.

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


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