LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Twenty-four hours. That's how long Kentucky had to wallow in what could have been or what might have been after Saturday's 27-24 defeat to Georgia. Now it's on to Tennessee.
It was a particularly difficult defeat but that's what happens the more you win. The games mean more and the losses can linger. The Wildcats led by eight in the second half of a game that would have given them five SEC victories, the lead in the SEC East with one league game to play and six wins overall, ensuring bowl eligibility for the first time under fourth year head coach Mark Stoops.
"You watch football, nobody is perfect," said Stoops. "We gave ourselves a great opportunity to win that game. Our coaches did a great job. It was the exact right recipe to win. Our players did the things necessary, we just got to keep that focus for 60 minutes and continue to put ourselves in positions like this in big games and we will make those plays. Look at where we have come and look how far this team has grown."
The loss to the Bulldogs ended a three-game win streak for UK and left them 5-4 overall and 4-3 in the league. This week's trip to Knoxville closes out the Cats league schedule with games against Austin Peay and Louisville after that. Dreams of an SEC East title are all but gone. It would take a win at UT and Florida losses to South Carolina and LSU.
“We can’t worry about the standings," said Stoops. "I think I’d be a fool to say our players didn’t understand the opportunity (against Georgia). Of course they did. They want to win, but again it’s about what we can control and that’s how we play. That comes with our preparation, with our energy and with our attention to detail and focus. We’ll continue to harp on those things.”
The coach believes his team will continue to grow and learn from the near miss against the Bulldogs.
"That’s a big part of growing as a program. The last time we faced adversity – the tough adversity from the beginning of the year – our team has grown a tremendous amount and I’m very proud of that. This is another tough game and facing adversity and you learn from it and move on. We never stop coaching, 24/7, every day, every game."
Stoops ended Monday's press conference with an analogy.
“We’ll be ready to go," continued Stoops. "They’ll be back to work, I’m sure. They’ve been resilient and bounce back. There’s no doubt in my mind. Don’t ever quit your cattle on a stormy night.”
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