Stoops looking to bounce back against the Vols


Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops talking to his team from the sideline during the game against Missouri at Kroger Field in Lexington, Ky. on Saturday, October 7, 2017. Photo by Josh Mott | Staff.

Jacob Heheman

Coming off the bye week, Kentucky, sitting at 5-1, was looking to become bowl eligible against Mississippi State in Starkville and establish its spot as a contender in the SEC East. Instead, Nick Fitzgerald and the Bulldogs ran all over the Cats, defeating them by a score of 45-7. 

The Tennessee Volunteers lost to Alabama, also 45-7, and come to Lexington this weekend as both teams seek to bounce back from adversity. Despite losing three straight games, Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops says not to overlook the Vols this week.

“We know what Tennessee can do,” Stoops said. “We got to control how we’re going to play. I expect Tennessee to come in and play exceptionally hard just like they did this past week against an exceptional Alabama team.”

Despite the lopsided final score, Kentucky kept it close for majority of the first half against Mississippi State. Trailing 10-7, Kentucky had the ball on a third-and-one when a deep ball went incomplete.

Having to punt the ball away, the Cats left Mississippi State just enough time for another score. With 1:05 remaining in the second quarter, Fitzgerald took off for 40 yards into the end zone, extending the Bulldogs lead to 17-7 at the end of the first half.

Stoops said the long pass on third down did not lose the game for Kentucky.

“There’s never one play, in any game, that makes all the difference,” Stoops said. 

For the first time since the Eastern Kentucky game, linebacker Jordan Jones was able to see some action. Stoops said it was good to see him play some snaps, but said he is still a little rusty.

“It was good to have his production back,” Stoops said. “He did some good things.”

Handling adversity is nothing new for Kentucky football. After losing to Florida in Gainesville last season by a score of, oddly enough, 45-7, the Cats went 7-3 the rest of the way and earned their first bowl berth since 2010.

Stoops expects the team to bounce back in a similar way this time as well.

“We certainly handled adversity very well as a football team last year,” Stoops said. “Much worse adversity than this and they responded the right way.”

With the experience of having to bounce back as a team, Stoops said his players know what they need to do.

“There’s no reason for them to panic and call a team meeting on a Sunday,” Stoops said.