Stoops, Cats move past loss to Mississippi State


UK Athletics photo

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and the Wildcats will take on Tennessee on Saturday at Kroger Field.

By Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON (KT) — Mark Stoops didn’t have an enjoyable day at the office on Sunday.

A 31-17 loss at Mississippi State, coupled with a long bus ride home, made for an unhappy Halloween for Stoops, but the Kentucky coach welcomed a new month, a four-week stretch that can still take the program to new heights following a pair of crushing defeats during the past three weeks.

“(Sunday) was a long day, that’s for sure,” Stoops said. “Today is a new day – back to work.”

The loss to the Bulldogs, which dropped the Wildcats six spots from 12th to No. 18 in the latest Associated Press Top 25 rankings, weighed heavily on Stoops’ mind during his weekly press conference.

“We played like crap this past week,” Stoops bluntly said. “There’s no other way to describe it. There were not very many good things (we did) this past week, that’s for sure. We fell short in all areas (of the game).”

Kentucky will get a chance to regroup against Tennessee Saturday in its first home game in three weeks. The Volunteers (4-4, 2-3 Southeastern Conference) had an open date last weekend and are coming off a 52-24 loss to No. 3 Alabama in their last outing on Oct. 23.

The Wildcats (6-2, 4-2) struggled on both sides of the ball and managed just 216 total yards. Quarterback Will Levis threw for 150 yards but had three interceptions, while running back Chris Rodriguez gained 34 of Kentucky’s 66 yards on the ground.

Stoops said Rodriguez was dealing with an undisclosed issue — not his wrist — and added the Kentucky running back was “not a full strength.” Overall, Stoops said the offense missed several chances and failed to execute against the Bulldogs.

Stoops remains confident the Wildcats will rebound from the dismal performance and wrap up a second-place finish in the SEC East on Saturday.

“We’re not perfect, but I have a lot of confidence in this team,” he said. “We’ll respond back and there’s no reason to feel sorry for yourself. Take a good look around the league and look around the standings. This league is brutal and nobody is going to feel sorry for you. There are not too many teams in the league with a much better record than us. We all know there are one or two (Alabama and Georgia) that are absolutely elite and the rest of us are scraping.”

Stoops said the main emphasis for his team this week, will be “going back to who we are.”

“One thing I didn’t like about last week, was (the fact that) they were more physical than us,” he said. “That can’t happen. They seemed to be more motivated at times and certainly more physical at times, executed better, you name it, they outplayed us and it’s up to us to get back to being who we are. I can’t control what opponents do, but I can control the way we do things, the way we go about our business in practice, and how we play on Saturday.”

• Kentucky linebacker Trevin Wallace was named the Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Week Monday. The freshman linebacker collected 12 tackles, including two for a loss last week against Mississippi State.

• Kentucky’s game at Vanderbilt on Nov. 13 is set for 7 p.m. and will be televised on ESPN2.