Stoops: Past success vs. Florida is meaningless this season

Published 7:00 am Friday, September 29, 2023

By Keith Taylor

Kentucky Today

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops doesn’t want his team to be overconfident with their recent success against Florida.

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The Wildcats (4-0, 1-0 Southeastern Conference) have won two straight over the 23rd-ranked Gators after suffering 31 straight setbacks. Stoops said the past two victories “really doesn’t have any bearing on (this) game.”

“There’s a term that we use a lot in our program and that is divine discontent,” he said. “We know there’s more out there. We know we can play better. And that ought to be our motivation. … We’re still hungry and and nobody’s content with what we’re doing and we’re looking forward to a great opportunity here this week with the Florida team that we know is always extremely talented (and a) very good team team.”

Five weeks into the regular season, Stoops likes the way the Wildcats have progressed each week and how they performed last week at Vanderbilt.

“I think there was a lot to build off of — still more to improve on,” Stoops said. “I thought we made some improvements in many areas. (It was a) pretty impressive performance defensively.”

Florida (3-1, 1-0) is coming off a 22-7 win over Charlotte. Coach Billy Napier has taken notice of Kentucky’s defense.

“One of the reasons why they’ve been able to be very consistent as a program and as a team is because they play really good defense,’’ Napier said Monday. “They’ve got an identity. They understand who they are and how they play. It’s a veteran group, and I think they’ve added a couple transfers, also, that have provided depth at certain positions.”

Kentucky defensive back Maxwell Hairston was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week following his impressive performance at Vanderbilt last week. Hairston tied an SEC record with two interception returns for a touchdown and finished with four tackles and collected three pass breakups.

“With the two great plays that he had — it was nice to see,” Stoops said. “We had a penalty or two, but he responded. He came back and made big plays. That’s what you have to do with that position. It’s a tough position to play and have a short memory. … I also think he has a lot of confidence and a lot of juice and excitement. He’s always ready to play and came back and made some really big plays for us.”

SEC Nation in town

The SEC Nation will be in Lexington from 10 a.m.-noon prior to the kickoff between Kentucky and Florida. The show will be aired live on the SEC Network.

Marty Smith will serve as guest host and will be joined by Paul Finebaum, Roman Harper, Jordan Rodgers and Tim Tebow.

School officials advised fans to arrive at the stadium early for the noon kickoff.

“We need them to be there and be packed and loud,” Stoops said.

The Paul Finebaum Show will air live in Lexington from Friday from 3-7 p.m. on the SEC Network.

Kentucky’s contest at top-ranked Georgia is set for 7 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 7, and will be televised on ESPN.

The Bulldogs have won 13 straight over the Wildcats, including a 16-6 victory a year ago in Lexington. Kentucky’s last win over Georgia was a 34-27 victory in 2009 at Athens.