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Stanley Stanley "Boom" Williams rushed for 100 yards and a touchdown in UK's 63-31 loss to Georgia on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For Mark Stoops, every game, including losses, provides teachable moments.

His custom is to watch video with his staff on Sunday and reconvene with his team on Monday to begin the learning process, no matter what the film shows.

He's considering making an exception after Kentucky's defeat on Saturday.

"I'm not much on throwing things out, but I may have to throw this one out," Stoops said.

It was a 63-31 loss at the hands of Georgia that gave Stoops pause. The Wildcats (5-5, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) didn't force a Bulldog punt all afternoon in allowing 559 yards, only preventing Georgia (7-2, 5-2 SEC) from scoring thanks to a fumbled kickoff and the ends of both halves.

"I don't want to keep on going on and on, but when I say I'm embarrassed, I'm embarrassed," Stoops said, restating for the final time a sentiment that came up often in his postgame press conference. "We didn't play good, and I'll sit here and accept that, and it is what it is."

It all started with the opening kickoff, taken 90 yards for the first of two return touchdowns by Georgia's Isaiah McKenzie.

"That's just kind of how the day went," Stoops said. "It's hard to have an explanation for that. It started with a terrible kick and some guys not doing their job. You play a very good football team and they make you pay like that, it kind of takes the air out of the stadium right from the start."

More air left the stadium as Georgia scored twice more before the end of the first quarter to take a 21-0 lead. The Cats would battle back by halftime, scoring 24 points on their next four drives to make it 35-24 at the break, but the outcome was all but sealed when Patrick Towles' pass tipped off Ryan Timmons' hand for a Corey Moore interception.

"I really felt like we had a chance coming out of the half if we could have--what, were we down 10, 11 or something like that - if we could have done something positive, put some points on the board," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "I don't know at the end of the day if we were good enough to win it, but it wouldn't have turned out like this."

In spite of some offensive strides (UK had 214 rushing yards, including 100 by true freshman Stanley "Boom" Williams), 22 Wildcats had their Senior Day spoiled and the 60,152 fans in attendance saw a loss in the final game played in Commonwealth Stadium before the completion of a $120 million renovation. Included in that group is star defensive end/linebacker Bud Dupree.

"It was embarrassing," Dupree said. "We gotta watch film. We really don't know what happened. Just not executing calls and not playing with a lot of effort. Just different things that we gotta fix. But you can't point any fingers. We just gotta go on to the next game."

Even though he called Saturday's game "not acceptable," Stoops agrees that moving on is UK's only reasonable course of action.

"We'll look at all the things we could do better," Stoops said. "But the fact of the matter is we're a .500 football team with two big games left, starting with Tennessee, and we'll see."

The other game, of course, is a season finale at Louisville, meaning UK will play its final two games on the road against its two biggest rivals. In doing so, the Cats have a clear motivation.

"Just try to get win No. 6," Dupree said. "We got two more games to win No. 6, to go to a bowl game. We're still going to end up having a good season, be over .500 and it's just up to us if we want it or not."

UK might be in the midst of a four-game losing streak against four bowl-bound SEC teams, but the Cats haven't backed off in their preparation to this point. Stoops doesn't expect that to change.

"Our guys, they've had a good attitude in practice," Stoops said. "They've worked. They've given me no indication throughout the week. This team was better than us and played much better than us and took it to us. They had a lot to do with it. I think we'll see. This will be a test of our character here this week. We'll see how we respond and dig down and how we come back and play."

Fortunately, the Cats have proven performance to call on as they look to bounce back. UK has won a pair of conference games against South Carolina and Vanderbilt and played well in two more against Mississippi State and Florida.

"We know what it takes to win," Towles said. "We've done it. We just have to do it more consistently. I have all the faith in the world in these seniors, these guys."

One of those seniors, defensive tackle Mike Douglas, was asked whether the veterans will call any players-only meetings or do anything special to rally their younger teammates. The time for that, he said, has passed.

It's time, simply put, to do.

"There comes a point in time where there are no more words that can be said it's all about action, you either put up or shut up," Douglas said. "... Now we are at a point where we need to come out and be focused and come out and know the mission at hand. Thank God that we still have two games to prove that we are better than we have shown."

Video: Stoops on UK's loss to Georgia

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Senior Day live blog: Football vs. Georgia

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Live Blog Senior Day: Football vs. Georgia
 

By Connor Link, UK Athletics

After losing the second set of Friday's match to Georgia, allowing the Bulldogs to tie the Wildcats 1-1, No. 17 Kentucky headed to the locker room in desperate need of adjustment.

By the time the ball was served to begin set three, they did just that.

"I feel like as a team, the first and second game were one mentality," said senior Lauren O'Conner. "We came in at the break and just changed everything."

Allowing four team blocks from UGA to UK's zero in set two, Kentucky flipped the script in the third set and blocked four Georgia shots without giving up one of their own. The Cats' hitting percentage rose from a dreary .239 to a dominating .480, while the Dogs' attack dropped all the way down to .156 in set three.

"We challenged our team to be better defensively in sets three and four," said head coach Craig Skinner. "Obviously, our defense and blocking were a big difference in those sets. I'm just proud of the mentality we had to close out the match."

After a 25-16 win in set three, Kentucky (21-4, 10-2 SEC) cruised to a 25-13 victory in the fourth and final set. O'Conner proved to be the offensive catalyst the Cats needed, posting 21 kills by herself, just one shy of her career high, and not a single error.

"I feel like (the adjustment in the third set) just helped me step up even more, because my team was just fighting," said O'Conner. "I wanted to step up and make the plays so we could come out on top."

O'Conner, one of only three seniors on the Kentucky roster, has been playing some of the best volleyball of her career just as it comes to an end. With only three home games remaining before the NCAA Tournament, the Taylor Mill, Ky. native's playing days are glaringly numbered.

"(O'Conner) is playing with a ton of confidence," said Skinner. "She knows what shot to hit at the right time, and sees the block and the court really well."

Earning All-SEC Freshman team honors in 2011, O'Conner saw action in 97 of 98 matches--recording 67 total starts--during her first three seasons in Lexington. Fast-forward through her illustrious career to 2014, and O'Conner still finds a way to impress her coach with each passing game.

"Before, she had a cross-court shot, and now she has every shot in the book," said Skinner. "Her cross-court off-speed is doing a really nice job."

Looking ahead to Sunday's match with the defending SEC champion Missouri Tigers, O'Conner chooses not to revel in her spectacular 21-kill performance or her .512 hitting percentage.

"Just take it as any other game," said O'Conner. "(I) just try to do the best that I can on that night, and (take) the opportunities that are given to me."

No. 17 Kentucky will face Mizzou (15-12, 6-6 SEC) Sunday at noon at Memorial Coliseum. The match will be televised live on ESPN's SEC Network.


Barry "Slice" Rohrssen is a man of many talents.

On top of being a respected coach and recruiter, Rohrssen has famously dabbled as an actor, starring alongside the likes of Al Pacino and Kevin Spacey.

Nonetheless, one subject escaped him in school.

"You know, for some people, even like myself, chemistry was the hardest subject," Rohrssen said.

The same is true, though not in quite so literal a sense, for the Kentucky basketball team. The Wildcats, set for the second of two exhibitions on Sunday at 7 p.m. against Georgetown (Ky.), are still in the process of figuring out exactly how they fit together.

John Calipari knows UK, at least to start the season, will operate in a two-platoon system. Last Sunday, the Cats dominated Pikeville by sharing time in two groups, the first featuring Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Alex Poythress, Willie Cauley-Stein and Karl-Anthony Towns and the second Tyler Ulis, Devin Booker, Trey Lyles, Marcus Lee and Dakari Johnson.

Whether those platoons remain the same is still a question mark.

"It's Friday now and we've still got two more days and maybe three more practices to go before that," Rohrssen said. "So it could change; it could be the same."

In that victory over Pikeville, all 10 members of the two platoons played at least 16 minutes, and none more than 20. The system calls for that kind of balance on paper, but the coaching staff doesn't expect for it to play out that way when the season heats up.

"It's still to be determined," Rohrssen said. "I think Cal might've spoken to you guys already; he said it's not communism. That was kind of his phrase about it, where those that will produce are going to get more time or find themselves with the opportunity for more time."

Taking on the in-state Tigers, boasting a 3-0 record and a No. 8 ranking in NAIA Division I, will arm UK with 40 minutes more of data to evaluate the platoons. Just as importantly, it's another chance to adjust to the game-day routine.

"One of the things that's nice about college basketball is you get a chance to get out there, simulate game days, go through a shootaround or a walk-through in the morning the day of a game, have your pregame meal with your team, just to get in a rhythm and get comfortable, and especially for the new guys," Rohrssen said. "... So it's good to get some of those exhibitions under your belt, and this will be another step towards our improvement."

Booker getting better


Devin Booker. (Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics) Devin Booker. (Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)
Though he showcased his talent at points, Devin Booker was relatively quiet during UK's Big Blue Bahamas tour.

The 6-foot-6 guard averaged just 5.2 points and shot 34.4 percent from the field, but Rohrssen pinpointed Booker as the freshman who has improved the most since.

"Well, one guy that's really improving rapidly and on a day-to-day basis is Devin Booker," Rohrssen said. "He's really made some very good strides since he's been here on campus, like most of the freshmen."

Those strides were apparent last Sunday, as Booker scored 16 points and had three assists in 16 minutes of UK's exhibition win over Pikeville, leading the second platoon in scoring in the process. Booker did his damage in a variety ways, showing the dead-eye shooting for which he's known in hitting 2-of-4 3-pointers, but also running the floor and scoring at the rim.

"He's just finding things a bit more comfortably now, getting up and down the court a lot quicker, using some of his athleticism," Rohrssen said. "He moves well without the basketball. He's releasing his shot a lot quicker."

Rohrssen talks recruiting

When he first committed to using the two-platoon system in the preseason, Coach Cal said it could represent a "watershed moment" should it work as planned.

By making it work, he said UK could change the face of college basketball just like in 2010 when five Wildcats were drafted in the first round by proving so many talented players could coexist and succeed both as a team and individually.

But for now, UK is sticking to a more familiar script on the trail.

"Recruiting, these guys have been very receptive," Rohrssen said. "It's nice to be ranked No. 1 in the polls. It's a nice way to have a conversation, go into somebody's home."

Pitching the platoons, according to Rohrssen, is premature. Could UK have a similarly constructed roster with 12 players deserving of time next season? Sure. Is it a guarantee? No.

"I mean, that's to unfold next season," Rohrssen said. "If we're talking about this season, Kentucky is very well received no matter where you go and who you speak with it. It's nice to have that royal blue UK on your chest when you're walking into a high school or a home."


Even as spoke of high hopes for the season, Matthew Mitchell was quick to point out it would take time for Kentucky to round into offensive form.

For that reason, he was unsure what to expect as the Wildcats played their lone exhibition vs. Pikeville.

"To be honest with you, I was a little concerned what it might look like offensively if it got into a half-court game," Mitchell said.

Fortunately for UK, that rarely happened on Thursday night.

UK Hoops raced paced visiting Pikeville both on the floor and on the scoreboard, 141-63. The Cats shot 56-of-89 (62.9 percent) from the field in putting together an offensive night that would have eclipsed the school record for points in a game had it been a regular-season affair.

"I was just happy to see them run. No matter who the opponent is--I hope Pikeville has a great season, but we just really weren't concerned with the opponent," Mitchell said. "We were just trying to run tonight and I thought they did that really well."

Though the final box score showed just 18 fast-break points, the Cats continually sprinted past the Bears, scoring 52 points off 37 turnovers. Jennifer O'Neill and Alexis Jennings led eight players scoring in double figures with 20 points apiece.

"I think we have potential to be like we were today," O'Neill said. "But the thing that got us into the one hundreds was the fact that everybody was running the floor."

The most impressive statistical performance, however, belonged to Makayla Epps. The sophomore flirted with a triple-double, posting 18 points, eight assists and eight rebounds.

"Honestly, I was completely unaware until I came off the bench and (assistant) Coach Adeniyi (Amadou) was like, 'Oh, two more rebounds,' " Epps said. "And I was like, 'Wow, I've never even been close to 10 rebounds.' Ever, like in my life."

Mitchell, however, was more concerned with the way Epps looked than her stat line.

"I don't even really look at the numbers, just the way she moved out there," Mitchell said.

On that front, Epps is unmistakably a different player than the one who had an up-and-down freshman season.

"That is easy to spot, which is a compliment to her because that shows you hard she's worked," Mitchell said. "She's worked really hard and she just looked super."

Epps, like her teammates, has room for growth though, but that's to be expected with the regular season still eight days away from starting with a Nov. 14 matchup with Appalachian State.

"I thought the players did what they were charged to do tonight," Mitchell said. "We really tried to talk about energy and effort and playing hard. We are a long, long away from being a finished product, but we have worked very hard on our effort and conditioning and running the floor."


On Thursday, Mark Stoops spoke publicly for the final time before UK's Senior Day matchup with No. 17 Georgia. The news from the day was that nickelback Blake McClain and tight end Steven Borden will miss Saturday's game due to injury. Also, quarterback Drew Barker -- redshirting this season -- suffered a knee injury on Tuesday and will miss the next 2-3 weeks. Watch Stoops' comments in full in the video above.

Live blog: UK Hoops vs. Pikeville

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Live Blog UK Hoops vs. Pikeville
 

Recent Comments

  • Tom Moore: Since Tubby 98 and 2003-2004 team which should've won it all, Kentucky fans ( I am true blue ) have read more
  • John Mylant: Kentucky verses Kansas I am a UK fan but bringing this into perspective, this was just one of those games. read more
  • Catherine: We have the Blue Platoon and the White Platoon, I say we should name the rest team "The Closers"! read more
  • Sandy: Great game. I couldn't take my eyes off in the second half. Proud of all of you. I thought Epps read more
  • Jeff Schrembs: I just wanted to say a heartfelt THANK YOU to the parents, guardians, relatives, etc. of each of the players. read more
  • D.K. West: I am sooooooo ready for the Big Blue. I loved the effort of last years squad, especially in the tournament read more
  • Nah: Please can we run more than 2-4 offensive plays? As a spectator, I'm seeing the team gain more ground in read more
  • Paige Keller: Congratulations for all of your hard work. You deserve this award. You guys work hard to provide use with a read more
  • larry: our first test will be kansas read more
  • Adam: UK looks really good already i can't see us losing more then 1 or 2. #BBN read more