Following bye week, Cats ready to strike again

Finally, something went right for the UK football team.

Last week, at the lowest point in their season, the Cats entered their bye week, a free week to rest and regroup before taking on the rest of the season. The bye week came exactly midway through UK’s season this year, with a 2-4 record looming behind them and six more games staring them down in weeks ahead.

“It was nice to have a chance to just sit back and relax for a little bit,” senior guard Stuart Hines said. “Get away from the stress of preparing for a game every week and just have a time to get a little work in.”

UK closed the first half of its season on a four-game losing streak, including its first loss to in-state rival Louisville since 2006 and a three-game slide to open conference play that had UK sitting at the wrong end of a 137-20 deficit.

UK head coach Joker Phillips called the bye week “open, not off,” referring to the bye as a week for work, not vacationing. During the week off, the team got back to the basics, focused on details and upped the energy and attitude at practice, all things the team hopes to continue through its final six games.

“There’s no question our minds are in the right place,” Phillips said. “Our kids like playing. They like practicing.

“You’re hearing a lot of chatter and a lot of guys having fun. So we know our kids are having fun.”

The Cats also did some soul-searching during their “open” week, trying to fix issues both on and off the field before UK resumes its 2011 schedule.

“The thing we did, we tried to sit down with our players individually and find out where their minds are,” Phillips said. “And all of our kids for the most part, their minds are with us. We found out that we have got a chance.

“You find out about yourself, too. I had to look into myself and I understand, I’m ready for this job. I’m fine with what ‑‑ the direction of the program. I think that we have all of the right things. We just have to get them headed in the right direction. We are doing the right things, though.”

The Cats relied on their senior leaders in the “open” week to help turn the season around. But the players also became more accountable for themselves on the field, something junior linebacker Ridge Wilson thinks will improve the team’s play on the field.

“Coach Phillips, (senior linebacker) Danny Trevathan, Stuart (Hines), we have a lot of those guys, our leaders that you all may see as far as on the field, those type of guys,” Wilson said. “I feel like football is a game of individual games, and no matter what he say, no matter what Coach Phillips says, we all got to go out there and take care of business.”

Now back at work preparing for Saturday’s Homecoming game against Jacksonville State, Phillips and his team will try and apply what they gained over the bye week against their competition the last six weeks of the season.

“We have got a chance,” Phillips said. “We just have to line it up, play with confidence, play clean and we’ll be fine.

“We just have to try to do the things we are doing better.”