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For close to two months now, Kentucky has been on the grind, playing seven games in as many weeks without a bye.

But if you're concerned about the Wildcats starting to drag, particularly in the midst of a four-game losing streak, don't be.

Not this week. Not with a trip to Neyland Stadium to face rival Tennessee looming on Saturday.

"These are the games that we like," quarterback Patrick Towles said. "It doesn't take much for us to get excited about this game so we're excited. We were sharp today. We threw it and caught it well today so we're ready to go."

UK's offense is looking to carry forward a small measure of momentum built in an otherwise disappointing loss to Georgia on Saturday. The Cats started slowly, but offensive coordinator Neal Brown said his group played as well as it has all season in a 24-point second quarter. And in the fourth quarter, UK put together a long scoring drive, though the outcome was decided.

"It's a sign that we are growing," Brown said. "Obviously we're inconsistent, not playing as consistent as we would like, but there were some real positives out of that game."

Perhaps the most notable positive was UK's running game, which rolled up 214 yards against a stout Bulldog defense.

"Sometimes you look at the score and you get lost in what it was, but there were some positives for us," Brown said. "I thought we played improved from where we were at at Missouri. Obviously not pleased with the result at all, but we did make a step last week."

Among the next steps for the UK offense is a faster start.

"At the start of the year we got off to some really good starts and scored points, got up on people early, and then in the last few weeks we have not started well at the beginning of the game," Brown said. "So we've got to figure out -- we'll change some things, how we go about calling the game early and I think that will help."

In their first two games, the Cats scored 28 combined points in the first quarter. Since then, UK has managed just 20 total over the course of eight games, going scoreless even in solid showings against South Carolina and Florida.

"We've just gotta get started a little quicker," Towles said. "I don't know what the deal is with that, but we gotta find it and fix it. And I think we took a step today."

By Connor Link, UK Athletics

After a lackluster 0-5 collective performance in Week 9, Kentucky's NFL Cats bounced back in a big way with an 8-3 overall record in Week 10. Even in losses, two defensive alumni were able to match season highs in tackles.

Unfortunately, Larry Warford--a 2013 third round pick with the Detroit Lions--suffered a knee injury that could possibly sideline the right guard for several weeks. Regarded as one of the league's top offensive linemen after a stellar rookie season, Warford had not missed a career snap until the injury.

Cats in the Spotlight

Randall Cobb | #18 WR | Green Bay Packers (6-3)
Randall Cobb continues to demonstrate that the only time he can't find the end zone is when the Packers aren't playing. In a 55-14 thrashing of the Chicago Bears on national TV, Cobb made four catches for 72 yards and a one-handed TD grab you have to see to believe.

http://cdn2.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/BUxwmT1FajUvvoV2lRimbdqBJuQ=/800x0/filters:no_upscale()/cdn0.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/2443176/cobb.0.gif

Cobb's 10-touchdown total is tied for third most in the NFL and has found the end zone in six straight games and eight of nine of the season.

Avery Williamson | #54 ILB | Tennessee Titans (2-7)
Though Avery Williamson's Titans are far from fielding a competitive football team, the rookie linebacker shined in a 21-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. Williamson tied his career high of 10 total tackles, including six of the solo variety.

Wesley Woodyard | #59 ILB | Tennessee Titans (2-7)
Alongside his teammate Williamson, Woodyard headed a two-way defensive spark for Tennessee. The former first-team All-SEC selection recorded three solo tackles and six assisted ones, tying his season high of nine.


Mark Stoops knows nothing about the last three weeks of the regular season will be easy.

Ending a four-game losing streak and getting that sixth win will be tough. Doing it on the road against either Kentucky's two biggest rivals will be even more difficult.

But as Stoops sees it, there are two ways to approach what the Wildcats have in front of them.

"It will be a challenge, but, heck, just like I said, if you look at it that way, we're 5-5 and with two great opportunities left, again, starting with this one," Stoops said.

This one, of course, is a trip to face Tennessee (4-5, 1-4 Southeastern Conference) with another to Louisville two weeks later. Before UK (5-5, 2-5 SEC) heads to Rocky Top, though, there's work to be done.

After a 63-31 loss to Georgia on Saturday, Stoops told reporters he was considering going against his custom and tossing the tape of the disappointing defeat and moving on. A day and a half later, he had decided he can't go quite that far.

"As coaches we can never do that," Stoops said. "We have to look at the things we do good and the things we did bad and move forward and push to improve. We will continue to look at those things and our players will look at pieces of it. The accountability piece has to be there. We'll watch some of it but we'll move on pretty quick."

UK's performance against Georgia came on the heels of a week in which Stoops minced no words in telling his team its effort against Missouri was unacceptable, starting with a Monday team meeting Bud Dupree called "ugly." Stoops will now look to find the right tone with his players, calling it the "million-dollar question."

"You guys know the approach I took last week, obviously it didn't work so that's my problem as a head coach and you can't continue to do the same thing over and over again and get the same results, that's for sure," Stoops said. "Maybe we're not to the point where we can - I better be careful of my words - not to the point where you can push 'em through that wall.

"We've got to do the very best we can and find the right mental approach, put them in the right position with coaching and continue to push and move forward."

In his second season as a head coach, Stoops has experienced a roller coaster of sorts with the way his defense and offense have played. Against Missouri, the defense kept the Cats in the game while the offense sputtered. Against Georgia, the offense dug out of a deep first-quarter hole before succumbing in the second half, the defense unable to stop the Bulldogs.

"We've been inconsistent that way," Stoops said. "It's been the offense playing well and the defense playing well and trading off. We have not put it all together. Of course we're not a complete team yet, but we're still striving to get there and put it all together and play a complete game."

In spite of all that, UK still has more wins this season than the previous two combined. Stoops and his staff continue to recruit at a high level, but work remains before the Cats are able to go toe to toe with the SEC's elite. Stoops reminds himself of that fact from time to time, that his long-term plan is still in place, but never at the cost of overlooking the here and now.

"You know I'm quite disappointed whenever we lose, no matter who we are playing and that's the situation it is," Stoops said. "That's the mentality our team has to have as well. They're not perfect but we're going to give it everything we have this week."

Injury update: Z. Smith expected to play Saturday

In the second half of Saturday's loss to Georgia, senior defensive end Za'Darius Smith limped off with an ankle injury. According to Stoops, the injury is not a high-ankle sprain and Smith "should be back" for the Tennessee game this weekend.

Stoops also said he is "hopeful" that defensive tackle Regie Meant and nickelback Blake McClain - both with shoulder injuries - will play, while tight end Steven Borden is still "iffy" with an undisclosed injury.

Finally, wide receivers Alex Montgomery and Jeff Badet have not yet played this season due to injury. Stoops said on Monday that he considered playing Montgomery a few weeks ago as he neared 100 percent, but decided against it for the sake of the player. Badet, meanwhile, is practicing but not as close to Montgomery to being able to play. Both are redshirt candidates if they do not play in UK's final two games.

UK football depth chart -- Tennessee week

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Offense

Tight end
80 Ronnie Shields, 6-5, 254, Sr-3L
85 Steven Borden, 6-3, 246, Sr-1L

Left tackle

77 Darrian Miller, 6-5, 292, Sr-3L
76 Teven Eatmon-Nared, 6-7, 339, Sr-2L

Left guard
75 Zach West, 6-4, 318, Jr-2L
68 Nick Haynes, 6-5, 319, Fr-RS

Center
72 Jon Toth, 6-5, 301, So-1L
57 Zach Myers, 6-3, 287, So-Sq

Right guard
69 Ramsey Meyers, 6-5, 300, Fr-RS
74 Cole Mosier, 6-6, 348, Fr-RS

Right tackle
70 Jordan Swindle, 6-7, 306, Jr-2L
73 Kyle Meadows, 6-5, 294, Fr-RS

Wide receiver
9 Demarco Robinson, 5-10, 158, Sr-3L
6 Blake Bone, 6-5, 198, Fr-HS

Wide receiver
87 Joey Herrick, 6-1, 197, Jr-1L
1 Ryan Timmons, 5-10, 195, So-1L

Wide receiver
8 Javess Blue, 6-0, 191, Sr-1L

Wide receiver
2 Dorian Baker, 6-3, 197, Fr-HS
19 Garrett Johnson, 5-11, 176, Fr-HS

Quarterback
14 Patrick Towles, 6-5, 238, So-1L
12 Reese Phillips, 6-2, 218, Fr-RS

Fullback

39 D.J. Warren, 6-0, 251, Sr-3L
10 Jeff Witthuhn, 6-3, 246, So-Sq

Running back
18 Stanley "Boom" Williams, 5-9, 200, Fr-HS
5 Braylon Heard, 5-11, 189, Jr-Tr
4 Mikel Horton 6-1, 230, Fr-HS
3 Jojo Kemp, 5-10, 194, So-1L

Defense

Defensive end
94 Za'Darius Smith, 6-6, 263, Sr-1L
91 Farrington Huguenin, 6-4, 275, Jr-2L

Defensive tackle
90 Melvin Lewis, 6-4, 320, Jr-JC
69 Matt Elam, 6-7, 375, Fr-HS

Defensive tackle

50 Mike Douglas, 6-4, 288, Sr-3L
67 Cory "C.J." Johnson, 6-3, 299, Jr-JC or 96 Regie Meant, 6-4, 286, Fr-RS

Defensive end/Linebacker
6 Jason Hatcher, 6-3, 242, So-1L
47 Jabari Johnson, 6-1, 276, Jr-1L

Defensive end/Linebacker
2 Alvin "Bud" Dupree, 6-4, 264, Sr-3L
41 TraVaughn Paschal, 6-4, 257, Sr-2L

Middle linebacker
45 Josh Forrest, 6-3, 236, Jr-2L
41 TraVaughn Paschal, 6-4, 257, Sr-2L

Weak-side linebacker
33 Ryan Flannigan, 6-2, 225, Jr-JC
22 Khalid Henderson, 6-1, 228, Jr-2L

Nickelback
24 Blake McClain, 5-11, 194, So-1L
29 Kendall Randolph, 6-0, 168, Fr-HS

Cornerback
3 Fred Tiller, 6-0, 170, Jr-2L
11 J.D. Harmon, 6-2, 201, So-1L

Safety
5 Ashely Lowery, 6-1, 220, Sr-3L
15 Marcus McWilson, 6-0, 210, So-1L

Safety
1 A.J. Stamps, 6-0, 199, Jr-JC
28 Eric Dixon, 5-11, 193, Sr-3L

Cornerback
16 Cody Quinn, 5-10, 172, Jr-2L
21 Nate Willis, 6-0, 168, Sr-1L

Special teams

Long snapper
59 Kelly Mason, 6-3, 223, Jr-2L
56 Matt Howard, 5-10, 208, Fr-RS

Holder
13 Jared Leet, 6-3, 196, Jr-2L
12 Reese Phillips, 6-2, 218, Fr-RS

Kicker
99 Austin MacGinnis, 5-10, 168, Fr-RS
95 Miles Butler, 5-9, 160, Fr-HS

Punter
9 Landon Foster, 6-1, 198, Jr-2L
93 Bryan Kirshe, 6-0, 155, Fr-HS

Kickoff returner

18 Stanley "Boom" Williams, 5-9, 200, Fr-HS or 11 J.D. Harmon, 6-2, 201, So-1L or 5 Braylon Heard, 5-11, 189, Jr-Tr or 9 Demarco Robinson, 5-10, 158, Sr-3L

Punt returner
9 Demarco Robinson, 5-10, 158, Sr-3L
1 Ryan Timmons, 5-10, 195, So-1L

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
 

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.

Dupree, seniors out to make final home game count

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Bud Dupree is among 22 Wildcats who will participate in Senior Day festivities before UK's game vs. Georgia on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Bud Dupree is among 22 Wildcats who will participate in Senior Day festivities before UK's game vs. Georgia on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Bud Dupree heard the cliches from his older teammates about how he should treasure his time at Kentucky because of how quickly it would pass.

"I remember when I was a freshman and all the upperclassmen were telling me that it would fly by. I kind of just brushed it off, just thinking they were talking."

Three years later, Dupree has changed his tune.

"But now that I'm in their shoes, I'm telling the freshmen now everything's gonna fly by," Dupree said.

Dupree, now second in school history with 21.5 career sacks, will be one of 22 players honored as part of Senior Day festivities before UK's game against Georgia at noon ET on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. The star defensive end/linebacker will have family up from his hometown of Irwinton, Ga., including both of his parents, and knows it will be an emotional day, though his focus is elsewhere.

"I try not to think about it, because I don't want to get soft, you know?" Dupree said.

Dupree doesn't want to "get soft" because the Wildcats (5-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) have an important game to play. UK, having lost three straight against tough league opponents, will try once again for bowl eligibility.

"It would mean a lot to me as well as the fellow seniors to go out on Senior Night, last game at Commonwealth, and win," Dupree said. "Just get the program another boost that we have been working so hard for and just put us in the (position) to get to a different, a bigger bowl. At the end of the day, that's the goal, just get to a bowl and just keep winning games, one week at a time."

This week, the No. 17 Georgia (6-2, 4-2 SEC) presents the challenge at hand. The Bulldogs are coming off a 38-20 defeat against Florida, but likely only makes them more dangerous.

"They bring a very good football team," Mark Stoops said. "I think they bring a power running team that we know has hurt us in the past as well. They can run the heck out of the football. They're very talented. They can throw it. They're very balanced. They're playing great defense."

Georgia will once again be without star running back Todd Gurley, who is serving the last of a four-game suspension for a violation of team rules, but Nick Chubb has gained at least 174 yards from scrimmage in the three games Gurley has missed. The Bulldogs, in other words, have been effective on the ground no matter who has carried the load, ranking third in the SEC with 250.2 rushing yards per game.

"Georgia is very multiple on offense and they can do a lot of things in a lot of different ways with different players," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "So you have to prepare for them and be able to defend them in a lot of different looks and versus a lot of different plays. So that's quite a challenge."

On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs present a similarly stiff test. Georgia is fourth in the SEC in total defense, allowing just 336.1 yards per game.

"They're very talented up front," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "I think when you talk about the best teams in our league, much like Missouri, the ability of their guys up front. They have length."

UK, of course, struggled on offense against Missouri. Patrick Towles was sacked just twice, but faced regular pressure in the pocket and completed just 19-of-37 passes for 158 yards after a big game the previous week against top-ranked Mississippi State.

"Georgia is going to present a real problem to us because, first of all, they're not going to give you anything," Stoops said. "They're one of those aggressive defenses. They're very well coached. They're not going to give you anything easy."

To overcome that, Stoops said there is no "magical little scheme." Of course UK's coaches can refine and enhance the game plan, but this week has been about challenging the Cats more than anything else.

"It comes down to winning some matchups," Stoops said. "If you just watch them, take a couple examples, they need a third and five or something, they're going to create space, they're going to catch it and get it. We get covered and there's nowhere to throw the ball."

Stoops has delivered that message all week, starting on Monday with the first team meeting after the Missouri loss. Dupree called the scene "ugly," but necessary.

"Coach Stoops said he was going to give it to us, and he did," Dupree said. "He did exactly what he said. But we needed that. You need a reality check sometimes and guys need to be called out for situations that they were in and things they do on the field - and off the field."

That challenge would be more difficult to respond to if they Cats hadn't already proven themselves capable of winning those individual battles against the likes of Mississippi State, South Carolina and Florida.

"We've just gotta be more consistent as a whole," Towles said. "We've had some really good games; we've had some not-so-good games. We just gotta holistically execute better."

To that end, Stoops has relied on a "special group" of seniors UK will bid farewell to on Saturday as he has all season.

"I think it's important to show some leadership and some character," Stoops said. "We need those guys to step up and push us over the top, push the younger guys to, again, be more disciplined, to do the little things right, to create those winning habits."

Dupree and his fellow seniors have balanced a lot this week, from thinking about the approach end of their college careers to planning time with family to leading their team, but Saturday will be all about one thing.

"It's going to be a lot of emotions flying around, but we just gotta bottle all that up and focus on the win," Dupree said.

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