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Through two weeks, energy has never been an issue for the Kentucky football team.
The Wildcats came out raring to go in wins over UT Martin and Ohio, but they've still managed to find another gear early in preparations for a trip to face Southeastern Conference foe Florida.
"It's our first big test," quarterback Patrick Towles said. "It's our first real test this year and this is why you sign up to come to Kentucky to play these kinds of teams in these kinds of atmospheres, so you can tell everybody's got a little extra this week going down there."
For the first time this week, the Cats got a chance to unleash that extra in a full practice on Tuesday.
"First day back, back to real work," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "We walked through a little bit on Florida stuff yesterday. Kids are eager. Obviously we've got a lot of Florida kids, so a lot of those guys are eager about getting home."
Running back Jojo Kemp -- a native of DeLand, Fla., less than 100 miles from Gainesville, Fla. -- doesn't dispute that there's a different feel around the Nutter Training Facility this week. He does, however, believe it's for a different reason than the one Brown cited even though he attended more games in The Swamp than he can count growing up.
"We could have been playing Vanderbilt, Mississippi State," Kemp said. "Just because it's SEC time. We're here to change the program around and they're just next up."
The next test will also be the first time UK hits the road after two games in the comforts of Commonwealth Stadium. Towles isn't among a number Wildcats making their first SEC trip, but this will be his starting debut on the road. To prepare for the hostile setting, Towles has spoken to two former Kentucky quarterbacks.
"I went down there my freshman year when Morgan (Newton) played," Towles said. "So I know the atmosphere. It's kind of like a microwave when you walk in at first. It's so hot. So, so hot. We play down there at night, so it won't be as hot, but I've talked to Morgan a little bit about it and Jared (Lorenzen), Jared of course."
Brown says the noise in The Swamp won't be a major factor for a UK offense that relies mostly on nonverbal communication. That's good, because the Cats will have plenty to contend with against the Gator defense.
"Florida is Florida," Brown said. "The strength of their defense is speed. They run well. ... So we've got our hands full, but our kids are excited. It will be a really good - I think Coach (Mark) Stoops said this yesterday - it will be a really good measuring stick for where we are as a young football team right now."
Head coach Mark Stoops
Offensive coordinator Neal Brown
The weather threw a curveball at Kentucky football on Thursday, with a storm pushing practice back and eventually forcing it to move inside to the Nutter Field House.
The Wildcats managed to adjust and turn in a good practice.
"Guys seem to be locked in," Mark Stoops said. "We had a little weather delay and got a little chance to watch some more film and get prepared before we went out to practice. But everything went well. Getting ready to gear up here and have a good game."
If this week is any indication, that's likely to happen on Saturday.
There were of course areas for improvement in UK's season-opening win over UT Martin, but the energy Stoops was looking for was there. He sees no reason to think the Wildcats won't duplicate that effort.
"I hope we have the same eagerness to go out there and play and the same enthusiasm," Stoops said. "I expect that we will. They've had a great week of practice. I just don't want any letdown mentally."
Speaking for the final time before UK takes on Ohio, Stoops gave an update on wide receiver Javess Blue and running back Braylon Heard, both of whom sustained ankle injuries against UT Martin. Blue has not practiced this week, while Heard remains questionable.
"More than likely will not play," Stoops said about Heard's status. "He tried to get out there and run around a little bit, so we'll see. I mean, maybe he'll heal up. I'm not trying to hold anything. It's just the way I feel right now and the way he looks. It's questionable."
Solid Tuesday practices are no guarantee. With game day four days away, the urgency isn't always there.
Kentucky had no such issues this week, and that had something to do with the way the Wildcats played in a season-opening win on Saturday in Neal Brown's estimation.
"We had good work today," UK's offensive coordinator said. "A lot of good energy for a Tuesday. I think we're building some confidence after going out and playing well on Saturday, which we needed."
That's particularly true on offense, where UK gained 656 total yards, fourth most in school history, and scored 59 points against UT Martin. For a coach who grew accustomed to leading some of the nation's best offenses at Texas Tech and Troy, that was a welcome development.
"We threw the ball and caught the ball; that didn't happen one time last year," Brown said. "We threw the ball, we caught it, we were able to get it to them in a position so that they could run after the catch. Those things were positives."
A season ago, Patrick Towles was on the sideline as the Wildcats went through growing pains in the first year in Brown's system. On Saturday, he made his first start to the tune of 377 yards passing and another 30 on the ground, benefiting from the new dimension added by the 6-foot-5 Blake Bone and his fellow freshman wide receivers.
"It's super nice," Towles said. "It takes a lot of stress off me. Every ball I have doesn't have to be perfect. Coach (Tommy) Mainord always talks about, 'Hey, just get it in our zip code.' Blake really put that on display Saturday."
Bone's most impressive play came on a go route down the left sideline. Even though the defender shadowing him was flagged for pass interference, Bone jumped and made the play for a 36-yard gain.
Towles was able to make the throw because he had time. Relying on the protection of reigning Southeastern Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week Jon Toth and his fellow linemen, the redshirt sophomore was not sacked on Saturday
"I'm extremely comfortable with those guys to not worry about it," Towles said. "Takes a lot for a quarterback not to have to worry about the rush. I take three steps back there and I'm not paying attention to what they're doing because I trust them to take care of it."
Instead of worrying about pass rushers, Towles is focused on working with Brown to fine tune his game after a solid debut.
"I think fundamentally there were some things he did," Brown said. "He was a little late on some throws that he got away with in that game that he won't moving forward. So getting the ball out on time. There's, like I said, a couple fundamental (things) - a little bit of some wasted movement in the pocket. We'll get those things corrected. But all in all, I was really excited about how he went out and performed."
That goes for the offense as a whole as well.
Throughout the offseason, Brown said that UK would be improved. It's clear now that was true, but the jury is still out on exactly how much. The Cats' next opponent, Ohio, will reveal a bit more.
"I think it's still to be determined, to be honest with you," Brown said. "I think UT Martin is a good football team, but we went out and performed like we needed to perform. I think a lot more of the story will be told this week. See how we do against a good football team that's been to five bowl games in a row, I believe."