Cats Confident, Recharged after Bye

It was a strange Saturday for Mark Stoops.

He – after some recruiting with two of his assistants – actually got to watch some football.

“Coach (Eddie) Gran and myself and Lamar (Thomas) got back from South Florida on Saturday morning and I had an opportunity to spend it with the family and watching football,” Stoops said. “I had a good day on Saturday. I enjoyed the day off.”

Though Saturday was a day off, the week preceding it was anything but. The Wildcats, without a game to prepare for last weekend, spent their time healing and looking in the mirror.

“It was really good timing for our bye,” Stoops said. “I felt like we used it wisely to heal up and look at all areas we need to improve on and continue to build on all the things we were doing well. So, I felt like it really came at a good time.”

Well-timed as the respite might have been, Stoops is glad it’s over. So is his team.

“Our players seem fresh and recharged and ready to go,” Stoops said. “I am looking forward to getting back on the practice field this afternoon and ready for another big night game. Looking forward to the challenge of playing Mississippi State and being at home for a night game. It should be a beautiful weekend and I am really looking forward to this game.”

Saturday’s forecast calls for a beautiful fall day in Lexington, which is good news for fans planning to attend the SEC Nation pregame show airing from 10 a.m.-noon from the William T. Young Library and/or heading to Keeneland for a day at the races. Taking top billing, of course, on a busy day in the Bluegrass will be a big game for the Cats (3-3, 2-2 SEC) against those Bulldogs (2-4, 1-2 SEC). 

“We feel like we had a break with a good bye and we are ready for the last half of the season, starting with Mississippi State,” Stoops said. “I feel like our players and our coaches we know that everything has to be earned and you have to continue to work at it but we are up for that challenge and excited for this week.”

Having won three of four – with the only loss coming on the road to top-ranked Alabama – Kentucky was already riding a wave of confidence entering its bye. A Saturday without a game only reinforced that.

“I definitely believe that our players realize, just by taking a step back and watching a Saturday, which we don’t get a chance to do a lot, just to sit back and watch all the football games and football teams and you realize that a lot of people’s margin for error is really small,” Stoops said. “And on any given Saturday things go different ways and I think they realize some of the good things that we have done.” 

Saturday’s games were good reason for added confidence. For starters, the team UK last beat – Vanderbilt – went on the road and took down Georgia, while Alabama blitzed yet another opponent. At the end of the weekend’s SEC slate, UK found itself tied for second in the topsy-turvy SEC East.

That’s an attention-grabbing fact, but one that can’t distract the Cats from their day-to-day mission.

"We are really focused on this week, but I think our players do realize that if we continue to take care of our business then we will have a good opportunity this week and it is just week to week,” Stoops said. “That is where our focus needs to be and to dissect it even more, what are we going to do today? How are we going to work today to prepare ourselves for this Saturday?”