Cats Intent on Capitalizing on November Opportunities

Kentucky is only days removed from a deflating 52-21 loss to Tennessee.

You wouldn’t know it from watching the Wildcats practice on Tuesday.

“On a Tuesday after you lose like that, it’s hard,” quarterback Patrick Towles said. “It’s hard to come back to work. But I expect that from my guys and from my team and we did that today. We responded well.”

Mikel Horton, atop the depth chart at running back in place of the injured Boom Williams, was even more excited about the session.

“Great practice today,” Horton said. “Probably one of the best ones we had all year.”

The good practice was no accident, as it came only hours after Towles and senior linebacker Josh Forrest called a players-only team meeting. Mired in a three-game losing streak that has dropped the Cats to 4-4, the two leaders stepped up.

“We just wanted to get everybody together and talk about some important stuff and make sure we were all on the same page,” Towles said. “It was very productive.”

Towles and Forrest were acting on their own, but their coaches appreciate the initiative they showed.

“I think at times everybody, including myself, needs to be set straight,” offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said. “So I don't think there's anything wrong with having meetings and having leaders stand up and voice their opinion, not just on a team but in every sector of society. That probably works to the benefit of the group.”

To the uninitiated outsider, the meeting might sound a lot like the one that began last week. However, the fact that the players called this one is an important distinction, not to mention the actual substance of the meeting.

“Last week was just more like standing up and (saying), ‘I could do this better,’ ” Horton said. “We really sat down (Tuesday) for a good 45 (minutes) to an hour talking about what we need to do for the last four weeks. What do we need change for us? Not for the crowd, not for the fans, not for the coaches, but for us. What do we need to change as brothers? We figured out that we need to come together more as a family and we’re working on that ASAP. And you can tell, with the practice that we had.”

That should ease some fears on the part of fans about 2014 repeating itself, but those thoughts aren’t crossing the Cats’ minds.

“A lot of people are trying to kind of compare this year to last year,” Towles said. “We’re not really doing that. I don’t think our morale is down. I don’t think our team psyche is down. I think we’re fine. We’re going along a good path. We just want to make sure we continue to do that and there’s nobody falling off.”

As Towles sees it, the Cats have far too much at stake for any such thoughts.

“We just wanted to kind of reinforce it, just kind of make sure everybody was on the same page and just let everybody know what kind of opportunity we have,” Towles said. “We’re 4-4 and we got four very winnable games left. If we’re sitting here 8-4 at the end of the season, I’m going to be pretty excited about it and I think a lot of people in Kentucky will be too.”

The players will put that into action by committing themselves to doing work beyond what is required ahead of Saturday’s trip to Athens, Ga., for a noon game against Georgia.

“That’s what we talked to those guys about today: just really try to do stuff extra and really giving it all we got,” Towles said. “Because like I said, it’s a great opportunity. We got four very winnable games and we can’t afford to not give it everything we have.”