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Win validates belief in team

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_DSC2293.jpgIt's amazing how much sweeter things taste after a victory.

The grass seems a little more green, the sky a little more blue. Foods taste stronger and sounds resonate a little louder.

"You know, all last week it was gray, cold and wet and an amazing thing happened Sunday morning," head coach Brooks said. "The sun was out, vibrant colors on the trees and it is amazing what a win will do for you."

The reality of last week's gloomy weather report aside, it's no coincidence that things always seem a little brighter when your team is on the winning side of the tracks. The plane ride home is always easier, players laugh a little more, and even the always upbeat and jovial Brooks has a little extra bounce in his step when the Cats are winning.

But none of that seemed possible after the Cats took a three-game nosedive heading into the Auburn game. Without starting quarterback Mike Hartline and star cornerback Trevard Lindley, UK marched into a hostile environment at Jordan-Hare Stadium with a freshman quarterback and little perceived chance.

Despite what Brooks and the players were telling everyone, questions began to arise about how good this football team was and whether it could make that next step in the Southeastern Conference.

Teetering at 2-3 and with few positives to rest on, negativity was starting to creep in and around Lexington. A loss appeared inevitable to a team Kentucky hadn't beaten since 1966 at a place the program had won at just once in school history.

So then how was it possible for the Cats able to march into Jordan-Hare Stadium and snatch a four-quarter victory away from a team that was 5-1?

"Just keeping everything in house," senior linebacker Micah Johnson said. "If you get focused on what's being said outside of the locker room and outside of Nutter, it can get frustrating and it can tear your team down."

Johnson said they shut out what the opinions of people that didn't understand how good this UK football team is capable of becoming. The reality is Kentucky had played back-to-back-to-back ranked opponents, including the current Bowl Championship Series leaders in Alabama and Florida.

Despite what popular opinion was trying to tell them, there was a belief among the players and coaches that Kentucky was a good football team. Linebackers coach Chuck Smith reminded them how close they were during a meeting last week.

"Coach Smith said, 'We're a good team and we've got good players and if we keep working hard and keep grinding, good things will happen because we have good players,' " Johnson said. "We finally got some breaks."

Had it not been for a couple of self-inflicted wounds that changed the momentum in UK's three losses, they could have actually been sitting in even better position.

Still, it was important for the Cats to get a win just for something good to happen. It helped alleviate the pressure and the strain on the psyche of the team.

"(We needed it) bad, bad, bad," Johnson said. "I think everybody on the team knew it.  For individuals on the team, for this Kentucky team as a program and for the fans, everybody needed it. It was huge. I think for the fans that kept by our side and knew we would get a win, we appreciate it and we love it. We're going to continue work hard."

With a conference win finally under their belts and some momentum on their side, the Cats can now refocus on some of the program-changing goals they set when the season started.

"We're midseason right now. That game and that win came at a critical point, and we all understand that," Johnson said. "That was our sixth game of the season, so at that point we could have either been 2-4 or 3-3. Three-and-three makes it a lot easier do what we want to do."

And that is to continue to break those long and haunting streaks and make the next jump in the SEC.

"The fact that we can go on the road and break one of the infamous streaks in Kentucky football history speaks to the fact that this is still a good football team," Brooks said. "How close we are to being better than that, or how close we are from being better than that I will leave to you guys to judge."

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