LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Mark Stoops had a rare Saturday to watch lots of college football and he came away knowing his team is far from the only one to suffer difficult defeat.
"We can't sit there and feel sorry for ourselves, said Stoops. "Look around and watch college football. That was one of the only days I have ever had to sit around and watch a bunch of football games and there is heartbreak across the country and you have to respond and bounce back and go to work. I believe our team will do that. Like I said, I thought we did a bunch of good things in this past game. And there are a lot of things we need to correct and get better, but our team is excited about doing that and learning. We are in a learning environment, all of us are all the time, no matter how many years we have been doing this and we are constantly striving to do the best we can. I believe our players will take that same mentality and get back to work."
Kentucky (4-2, 2-2) had a few extra days to prepare for this week's match-up with Mississippi State (5-2,1-2) after losing 30-27 to Auburn last Thursday. They have played nothing but close games at the midway point of the season. The biggest final margin in any of the Wildcats six games was the eight-point win over Missouri on September 26th.
"It is not a morale victory, but the truth is, like we said going into the season that we are a better football team," said Stoops about the 4-2 start. "I think our body of work through the first half of the season makes that pretty evident. We are very disappointed that we didn't beat the two teams we lost to in Florida and Auburn. We had our opportunities, but we just need to continue to build and get better to find those ways to win those games. I like the attitude of this team and we are getting better and better. In certain ways, we played as good as we have this past week and we need to build on those things. There are certainly a lot of mistakes and a lot of things we need to improve on."
Stoops confirmed that starting defensive tackle Melvin Lewis is out for the rest of the regular season after having surgery on the broken fibula he suffered against Auburn. He could come back for a possible bowl game with the Cats. Matt Elam, the Sophomore from John Hardin will likely step into his starting spot.
"I think Matt, this will be a great opportunity for him and Matt will do well and rise to the occasion," said Stoops. "I thought he did a nice job (against Auburn), coming in there because Matt is very close with Melvin and they are very tight off the field as well. Matt really looks up to Melvin and Matt was disappointed that he got hurt. But he will step in and do a good job."
The UK coach knows his team will have its hands full in Starkville against the Bulldogs. They have a quarterback who has thrown for 1700 yards and 11 touchdowns without an interception this season in Dak Prescott and 21 of their 22 starters are either Juniors or Seniors.
"They are mature," said Stoops. "They are physical and they have an unbelievable leader in their quarterback. A very talented player and a great leader."
Kickoff is 7:30 pm at Davis Wade Stadium.