LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops doesn’t see any signs of a letdown from his team going into Saturday’s non-conference encounter against Murray State.
Coming off a highly-emotional 27-16 victory over Florida last week — the Wildcats’ first win over the Gators in 31 years — Stoops said his team is prepared for the task at hand, even though the Wildcats are a heavy favorite to beat the Racers.
“I’ve been pleased with preparation and I felt like we’ve had some really good practices,” Stoops said Thursday. “I’ve been pleased with our focus and our energy this week.”
Kentucky is 10-0 against the current alignment of teams in the Ohio Valley Conference. The Wildcats rolled to a 49-13 victory over Austin Peay a year ago, bit had a little more trouble against neighboring Eastern Kentucky University two years ago. The Wildcats trailed late in the fourth quarter before rallying for an exciting 34-27 victory in overtime.
Based on past recent past history with the OVC, Although Murray is a concern, Stoops said his main emphasis this week has been on his own squad.
“It's about us and the way we prepare,” he said. “We respect all of our opponents, but we don't fear any and we just worry about the way we play, and you've got to have respect for the game, but it comes from preparation and respect for your opponents."
Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson said Stoops and the coaching staff did just that during the team’s practice sessions leading up to the contest.
“The coaches have done a great job of making sure we are just focused on us,” he said. “We’re 0-0 every week. We obviously celebrated after the Florida win, but you’ve got to move on. It’s a long season. We have a lot more in mind. We want to win a lot of games … we’re moving on and we want to make a real impact in the SEC.”
Stoops added that his team’s maturity level also has played a role in the team’s mental focus this week and the Kentucky coach isn’t worried about a letdown.
“I love this group and the way they handle things and I expect them to handle it that way,” Stoops said. “Going back to worrying about us and creating our own standards and living up to them.”
Kentucky senior Josh Allen said the Wildcats haven’t taken the Racers lightly during the past five days and have prepared accordingly.
“We’ve got to show them why we’re in the SEC,” Allen said. “Defensively, we’ve been practicing like we’re playing one of the top teams in the country. We’re just going to have to keep that up.”
The Racers are winless in their first two games with setbacks to Southern Illinois (49-10) and Central Arkansas (26-13), but Stoops said Murray is “doing some good things.”
“They spread the ball out, they spread you some with their splits and different looks, and are doing a good job,” he said. “They are a good football team, well coached, and we have to play well. As always, no matter if we are playing Florida or Murray, it's about us and the way we prepare and the way we play. That's what we're looking for this week."
Stoops also has been working on his team’s penalties and turnovers. Through the first two games, Kentucky has committed six fumbles, losing three of those and has thrown three interceptions, all by starting quarterback Terry Wilson. Stoops said the team is continually working with Wilson to avoid costly miscues.
"We will continue to work on that,” Stoops said. “You never want him to play with any fear; you want him confident in making throws and things of that nature. Securing the football, fumbles is something that we cannot tolerate and won't tolerate. We have to continue to harp on that and get better."
Overall, Stoops wants the Wildcats to get better and build on last week’s performance against the Gators.
“We’re playing at home and looking to go out and play a good, strong game, play a clean football game, and play the way that we are capable of,” Stoops said.
Gametracker: Murray State at Kentucky, noon, Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtayloor21.