Cats get ready for SEC road opener

Published 3:55 pm Tuesday, September 19, 2023

By Keith Taylor

Kentucky Today

It will be a weekend of firsts for Kentucky this week.

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The Wildcats (3-0) will take on Vanderbilt in both their first Southeastern Conference contest and road encounter. Kickoff is set for noon In Nashville.

“I’ve got to get them ready, no matter the situation,” Stoops said Monday. “We’ve tried many different things. We’ve gone over this through the years, when we’ve played on the road and played at 11 o’clock and our approach. I did that years ago. We played, I think it was at Missouri at 11 a.m., and just the way we get them up, get them rolling, get the music going. I want high energy early in the morning, you’ve got to wake them up and get them rolling. So, that’s always been our approach for 10 years or so with the early kicks.”

In addition to the early kickoff — 11 a.m. CST — Vanderbilt Stadium is undergoing a facelift, which could also be a distraction.

“It needs to be talked about so they’re not surprised because it definitely will be the most challenging environment we will play in this year,” Stoops said. “Aesthetically, getting dressed, logistically. We’ll deal with it and our players will handle it just fine.”

The Wildcats are coming off a 35-3 win over Akron in a contest that resembled the team’s first contests against Ball State and Eastern Kentucky.

“There’s some really good things in there and there’s some things that we’ve got to get fixed up,” Stoops said. “I feel like it’s a broken record; I’ve said that probably every Monday … you can’t get tired of the good that our team is doing. They can’t let the frustration seep in and we as coaches can’t.

“There’s a lot of good things in there and there’s a lot of pieces that we can’t (repeat), as the competition improves this week, with a team that beat us a year ago.”

Kentucky receiver Jordan Dingle agreed and is confident the Wildcats will reach their full potential.

“It’s not really frustrating (but) it is frustrating trying to lock in on all the little details, but with all the playmakers we have the sky is the limit,” he said. “I can’t wait to see what the future holds once we get all the details cleaned up.”

Stoops was especially pleased with Kentucky’s defensive unit. The Wildcats didn’t allow a touchdown for the first time this season.

“Defensively, we played a very, very good game,” he said. “Both sides were efficient on third down. We played a good, complete game, same with special teams.… I think our players, if they continue to take the approach of worrying about ourselves and improving this week, then you’ll see some more growth and try to play cleaner in certain aspects.”