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Notebook: Stoops challenging Cats to play best in finale

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Mark Stoops (Jake Most, UK Athletics) Mark Stoops (Jake Most, UK Athletics)
Mark Stoops has been refreshingly honest about his team's performances throughout the 2013 season, so there was no sugarcoating things on Monday following UK's 59-17 loss at Georgia.

Ahead of Kentucky's season finale against border rival Tennessee, Stoops was still feeling disappointed about his team's performance the previous Saturday.

"This past Saturday, there's no denying it, that was a blow to our progress and that's disappointing because it's a mentality to me more than anything," Stoops said. "So that we need to get over and bounce back and move forward, but throughout the year, I did think we were improving.  I think we are getting better as a program, as an organization; I know we are ... There's (also) a lot of positive things."

Still, the Wildcats have one remaining game and the head coach made it clear he will challenge the team to improve during the final week of his first season at UK.

"We have a big game coming up with Tennessee," Stoops said. "It will be our last game at home for these seniors, and we need to see where we're at and how much progress we've made throughout this year.  I think we've been up and we've been down, and it will be very important for us to come out and have a good week of preparation and play a great game versus Tennessee."

Stoops and his staff certainly saw the Georgia game as a step back for the program. He admitted that many of the players didn't give their top effort every snap, but was also adamant that the Wildcats are now turning their attention to Tennessee.

"We all have to look at ourselves," Stoops said. "It starts with me. I said that after the game; it starts with me and what I'm doing to prepare the team and to prepare the coaches. It goes on with the assistant coaches and it goes on with the players.

"I think a big part of it is your attitude. We talk about that all the time. You walk in that building and you go to work, you've got to have an attitude about you and you've got to have a toughness about you. We (didn't) play with it (vs. Georgia) so we are going to challenge them to have that attitude today."

Dyshawn Mobley emerges

After going through the game tape from Georgia, Stoops was less than pleased with almost all his players performances, except for one.

Dyshawn Mobley, who had seen limited action in the backfield throughout the 2013 campaign, saw significant action against Georgia and turned some heads in the process, most notably his head coach's.

"Dyshawn is about the only guy I could really say that I thought played extremely hard for every play that he was in there," Stoops said of the sophomore running back, who busted a career-long 69-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. Mobley ending up rushing for a team-high and career-best 92 yards.

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown also took note of Mobley's breakout performance at Georgia as well.

"He did some positive things," Brown said of Mobley. "I think he had 10 carries for 92 yards, and the touchdown went for 69. We weren't doing a whole lot of good things in the run game so I thought he did a good job with some leg drive, and getting some yards after contact. I've always thought he could do the things in the run game that he did.

"Now I didn't think he was going to bust open on a short-yards run for 60. I was pleasantly surprised on that. What Dyshawn has to get better at is the pass protection and some of those things when he's not getting the ball."

Williamson embodies senior spirit

Saturday's game will also be Senior Night, with the UK seniors set to be honored on the field before the game.

Linebacker Avery Williamson has emerged as UK's emotional and on-field leader in 2013. Given his play and contributions to the team in other ways, Stoops took time to reflect on the contributions of the defensive play-maker.

"He definitely is a guy that jumps out at you right away," Stoops said. "(It would be great) to be a senior (and) get a victory here.  But Avery is definitely a guy that you think about when you think about this group that has done an awful lot for this program. Since I've been here, he's been a great leader and a great person to coach.

"I'm going to miss him.  It will be very important for us to help him get a victory in this last game, along with all the seniors.

Coordinators name MVPs on the spot

Given the late-season nature of Monday's media opportunity, both of UK's coordinators were asked to reflect on the year and name their respective unit's most valuable players.

UK's top defensive performers have been relatively clear, and so D.J. Eliot praised senior linebacker Avery Williamson and junior defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree.

"It would between Bud or Avery," Eliot said. "Bud is not only athletic and he has all the tools, but he's very smart too. You tell him to do something and he does it. He can adjust on the run and his football IQ is part of what makes him special.

"Avery is just a tremendous worker. He studies the game and wants to always be one step ahead of his opponent. He puts in the extra time, and is focused every practice and every meeting."

Brown's praise of offensive linemen Jordan Swindle and Darrian Miller may have seemed a little more unexpected. After all, rarely do offensive linemen, no matter how good, earn such praise so publically.

"The two guys that have played at the highest level all year are Darrian Miller and Jordan Swindle," Brown said. "I'm really excited about Swindle. I know the right tackle position doesn't get a whole lot of thoughts in the media, but he has really played well, even last week. He's a true sophomore that played very little last year. He struggled early to be honest, so his growth has been a surprise."
Coaches look forward to the new CWS

Even with a big game coming up on Saturday, just about everyone on the UK campus couldn't help but look forward to the unveiling of the plans for the New Commonwealth Stadium, which will take place on Monday afternoon.

Stoops withheld his thoughts on the occasion as he was no doubt saving up for his remarks at the event later in the day.

Neal Brown, himself a Kentucky native, expressed his own excitement.

"It's a great day for the Commonwealth," Brown said. "It's something that's needed. (I'm) very glad the Legislature, Mitch Barnhart and Dr. (Eli) Capilouto were working behind the scenes got it done. It's going to provide another burst of energy in our program. To have the unveiling today, and then (if we can) go win Saturday night. That would be huge going into what's going to be a pivotal next two months recruiting."

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