Focus is key to avoiding upset

There’s nothing like a good upset.

It’s a wonder when you witness it, because you never anticipated it happening. It always begins with you questioning yourself. Then you’re overcome with disbelief, trying to figure out how it could be as your good buddy stands over you taunting.

Depending on which team you’re pulling for will determine the pitch of your voice as the final ticks fall off the clock. One person’s joy is another’s equal pain.

We all like the fight in the underdogs. It’s whom we cheer for in the title game when our team doesn’t make it.

But is there really such a thing as a Cinderella in the sports world, or is it just that the big boys occasionally get caught off guard? Maybe it’s because teams occasionally overlook the cellar-dwellers, which results in being down with two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

To me it’s a no-brainer. Superior teams do overlook those little bumps in the road on their schedule. It goes to show that there is more to playing a sport then just simply playing. Any competition is obviously a mental game, and to come out on top, a team has to go in focused on the opponent at hand.

The UK football team learned that lesson the hard way in their last outing. Now, after their bye week, mental focus has been the lesson, and prepping for one team at a time has become the game plan.

In the aftermath of UK’s upset loss to Mississippi State, the coaching staff at UK stripped down the remaining games on the schedule, leaving just one opponent — Vanderbilt. That’s the only game that matters for the Cats now. Not Georgia or Tennessee, two teams ahead of UK in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division that the Cats will play in the next two weeks. For UK, the only team on the schedule is the Commodores.

“We need to focus on one thing,” head coach Rich Brooks said. “It’s Vanderbilt.”

The focus the Cats lacked in their last appearance will be needed on both sides of the ball when they travel to Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt has the third best total defense in the conference, which Brooks credited to their discipline.

Brooks hopes to counter the Vanderbilt defense with a steady offensive attack, but that will be easier said than done. The Commodores allowed 49 points last week to Florida so they’ll be hungry this week to prove they’re a better defense against the Cats’ offensive arsenal.

“Offenses do so many things now that put your defense in a stress position,” said Vanderbilt head coach Bobby Johnson. “If you’re not disciplined, you’re going to have a good chance of breakdowns and offenses getting big plays.”

Vanderbilt’s key offensive player is junior wide receiver Earl Bennett, who is among the nation’s elite at the wide out position. Brooks said it’s hard to defend him because of the different formations the Commodores use.

“Matching your best corner on him is very difficult because that just screws up a whole bunch of things you do defensively,” Brooks said.

Regardless of the game plans from either side, the most important thing is to focus. The Cats look to salvage a season after a crushing upset loss, and the Commodores are playing for bowl eligibility.

After all, there’s nothing more the Cats want to avoid than an upset on Saturday.

J.D. Williams is a journalism senior. E-mail [email protected]