Stoops says Cats used off week to heal

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 28, 2023

By Keith Taylor

Kentucky Today

A week off gave Kentucky time to heal, forget about two straight losses and get ready for the last five weeks of the regular season.

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“I think you’ve got to prepare, reflect and re-adjust a little bit,” Wildcats coach Mark Stoops said Monday. “You know, you have to.”

Stoops said his squad is “certainly better than we were the last time we took the field while improving.” In its last outing, the Wildcats dropped a disappointing 38-21 loss to Missouri on Oct. 14 at Kroger Field.

“I feel good about the team,” Stoops said. “I think their minds are in a good place. We have to play better. We’ve got to make sure, you know, that we look at as a staff that we had time to sit there and watch it last week and really digest the things.”

Stoops and his staff spent the bye week working on building on the positive aspects on both sides of the football, especially the team’s offensive performance in the first quarter against Missouri.

“We just have to be efficient that way, you know, and we have to stay on track,” Stoops said. “We want to take that next step. We we did that (in the first quarter against Missouri). We’re efficient now. We set something up. It’s there. We don’t execute it. You know what I mean? Like, we have to hit that. I mean, really good teams do that in and, you know, we’ll continue to work at it.”

The Wildcats (5-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) will host border rival Tennessee Saturday. The Volunteers (5-2, 2-2) are coming off a 34-20 loss to Alabama.

Despite the struggles against the Crimson Tide last week, Tennessee has enjoyed success against the Wildcats under third-year coach Josh Heupel. The Volunteers edged the Wildcats 45-42 two years ago in Lexington and rolled to a 44-6 victory last year in Knoxville.

“The last couple of years, just their tempo creates problems,” Stoops said. “I think they’re very balanced when you’re looking for balance. You’ve heard me talk about it a lot, and as a defensive coach, defending somebody that … they’re exactly about 50/50 right now. It’s about as balanced as you can get in and they have a very efficient offense.”

When it comes to slowing down the Volunteers, Stoops said it comes down to execution.

“I think fundamentals is a big piece of it, and I think your mind is such a big part (getting) locked in,” he said. “When you hear me talk about defense, cleats in the ground and read and keys, and doing all those things well, it happens so fast you can get erratic. I think that’s a big part of it is having the guys really settle in and doing their job.”