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Notes: Win No. 6 important because it's next

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Neal Brown was just finishing his breakdown of Kentucky's loss to top-ranked Mississippi State.

The Wildcats had come up just short in a hard-fought defeat, but Brown praised the way UK battled.

"We're close," Brown said. "We gotta continue to get better. We gotta find a way to get number six."

Six wins, of course, is a significant number. In college football, it means bowl eligibility. For a UK program that hasn't appeared in a bowl game since the 2010 season and won a total of just four games in the previous two years, reaching postseason play would be significant.

Even so, that's not what the UK coaches are talking about when they mention number six.

"I don't think that's the reason why we need to go get number six, even though we know the value in it," Stoops said. "I think the reason we need to get number six is because we're sitting on five."

Kentucky's next shot at that sixth win will come on the road against Missouri at 4 p.m. ET on Saturday. The Tigers (6-2, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) are in the thick of the race for the SEC Eastern Division title after winning it a season ago.

"Look at what they did last year, sitting here 6 2, and they probably feel a lot like us, in that they haven't played their best yet," Stoops said. "You know, they're a very good team. They've won, they've been there before, they're an experienced group, especially as a coaching staff."

Special teams improved in defeat


UK's final play on special teams against Mississippi State wasn't pretty.

Down 38-31 after Patrick Towles ran for his second touchdown with 2:31 left, the Cats lined up for an onside kick. The try went directly to Christian Holmes, who promptly sprinted 61 yards for the game-clinching touchdown.

The play, however, doesn't come close to defining UK's overall performance on Saturday.

"Special teams responded extremely well," Stoops said. "I thought the guys competed and played very good this last week."

On the heels of a loss as LSU in which special teams were largely responsible for a big halftime deficit, UK's specialists were solid.

Following kickoffs, UK started on its own 21.9-yard line on average, while MSU started on its 23.6, not counting the onside kick. In the punting game, Landon Foster kicked six times for an average of 47.8 yards, three times pinning the Bulldogs inside the 20 and allowing just three return yards. His net punting average of 47.3 was two yards better than Devon Bell's for MSU.

"The kickoffs were great, the kickoff kicker it was ridiculous how high and how well he kicked the ball so that makes it extremely difficult but across the board I thought the guys responded," Stoops said. "None of us were happy with the week before. We know that's not acceptable. Coach (Craig) Naivar knows that and our players but we have all had our moments this year, offense and defense and special teams where we have not done our part."

Ground game a work in progress

UK has always been a running-back-by-committee kind of team this season, but never has that been clearer than on Monday.

On Kentucky's updated depth chart, Braylon Heard, Jojo Kemp, Mikel Horton and Stanley "Boom" Williams are listed with "or" between each.

It's a departure from previous weeks, when Heard and Kemp were listed jointly, but practice this week won't be any different.

"It's been like it has been," Stoops said. "Not much has changed. We need to continue to work some of those guys in."

Against Mississippi State, Horton carried just once after playing well at LSU. Expect to see more of the big freshman at Missouri.

"We had plans last week with Mikel (Horton) and then he goes in and fumbles the first play and that rattles your confidence a little bit," Stoops said. "We've talked about that, we can't let it. We need to get him back in there and get him playing and we will. Mikel has worked his way into the rotation and he needs to get in there."

If all goes according to plan, the same will be true for Williams. The dynamic freshman missed the Mississippi State game with a head injury, but is expected to return this week.

"He should be fine," Stoops said. "Let's hope he doesn't have any setbacks. He was very close (last week) and I don't want to get into all that, technically he probably could have played but we didn't want to."

No matter who lines up in the backfield, UK needs to improve in the ground game. Over the last two weeks, Wildcat running backs have combined for just 82 yards on 29 carries, though a lot of that has to do with tough LSU and Mississippi State defenses.

"We're still trying to be the team that we want to be," Stoops said. "We're not there yet. We want to be a team that's balanced."

Senior Day set for noon kick

Television selections for games on Nov. 8 were announced on Monday and Kentucky's home finale vs. Georgia will kick off at noon ET. ESPN will broadcast the game.

Head coach Mark Stoops


Patrick Towles and Demarco Robinson


Unanimous national player of the year AJ Reed is back at UK this weekend. The UK baseball star and new Houston Astro will be honored this weekend for his historic season and memorable career as the Wildcats take on No. 1 Mississippi State in football. UK baseball will host a tailgate starting at 1:30 p.m. to celebrate Reed and he will be recognized on the field during the game.

Reed caught up with the local media on Friday afternoon to talk about the start of his professional career, his historic season and the state of the UK program.



On Thursday, Mark Stoops spoke to the media for the final time before Kentucky's matchup with Mississippi State.

Once again, the UK coaching staff left the practice field happy with the Wildcats' work.

"Guys have been good all week," Stoops said. "We've had good energy and good practices, so hopefully we'll get a few mistakes cleaned up. Seems like we have, and looking forward to a great game here Saturday."

A great game and, if Stoops is right, a great atmosphere as well.

Asked about the opportunity to play against the nation's top-ranked team at home, Stoops repeated that he's excited to take the field in front of a big crowd at Commonwealth Stadium.

"Well, I think we're starting to create a great environment at home and we're looking forward to that, so obviously, always a lot nicer playing at home than at some of these venues in the SEC," Stoops said. "It's pretty challenging. So hopefully we'll get some good home-field advantage and it will help us."

Mississippi State's ranking has added to the anticipation for Saturday's game on the part of fans, but the No. 1 next to the Bulldogs' name only means so much to coaches and players.

"A big game's a big game," Stoops said. "You kind of feel it in the air and the energy and the practice and the focus, so they're really all big games. Once you get to the point where we're doing what we're doing and trying to win a bunch of games, then they're all important. We've got a tough stretch and this is our next one."

Video: Men's basketball goes to SEC Media Day

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Video: Pack Commonwealth for Mississippi State

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Video: UK Hoops at SEC Media Day

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As much as he may have wanted to, Neal Brown couldn't just throw away the tape from a blowout at LSU on Saturday.

Even though it's a painful reminder, there's too much to be gained from looking back at the loss for a young Kentucky team.

"If we had a veteran team, hey, we may have came in and not even watched the video," Brown said. "Really. And just said, hey, we're better than that, let's go. But I think where we're at, especially on offense, we've got to learn from those mistakes, or you repeat them."

UK began the business of correcting those mistakes on Monday and Tuesday, with a practice on both days. Some tough coaching has resulted, but it's all geared toward preparing the Cats to play their best game on Saturday against Mississippi State.

"When we met yesterday, we were hard on those guys because we've got to be better," Brown said. "In those type of games and those type of atmospheres, we've got to be better. Why did things go wrong? Here's why, now let's go out and fix them."

The issues on offense, according to quarterback Patrick Towles, were across the board. UK, however, is on their way to fixing them.

"We just didn't really make plays," Towles said. "The coaches can call a perfect play, but you need to execute. We didn't execute at any level at any position, which you're going to get beat by everybody if you don't do that. We executed really good today. We'll build on that tomorrow so come Saturday we're ready to rock."

The Cats don't have much choice about whether to be ready if they want to win with the top-ranked Bulldogs coming to town. Both Brown and Towles said Mississippi State's defensive line and linebackers represent a challenge the likes of which UK has not yet seen, even against LSU and Florida.

"I think they've got the best front seven that we've played against, maybe the best in the league," Brown said. "I haven't seen them all yet, but their front seven is very talented, d-tackles, they go four deep there and they're big."

Recent Comments

  • Philip Cormier: Thanks Coach Calipari! read more
  • Stephen brown: Kayla, great words. Nicely written. Chris Stevenson, your PA for meets is a friend of mine. He got permission from read more
  • Anthony Spurlock: I'm 56 and have waited a very long time to see a uk football team with football player. So proud read more
  • John: wildcats doing awesome this year read more
  • Guy Ramsey: He mentioned coaching numerous times in his postgame press conference, including his opening statement: "OK. You know, there's not a read more
  • Brian: Funny that Stoops said they got outplayed but forgot to mention that he and his staff were also out coached... read more
  • William Bagshaw: The Kentucky Madness was a failure for the fans that was not on court. This was useless to put on read more
  • justin: Poythress is a straight beast. read more
  • John Lee: On the article, it says "early in the fourth quarter," but it should be 'first' instead..because we only trailed early read more
  • Hugh Jones: We'll be in Memorial and Rupp for all your games. Love you gals! Go Cats! read more