By LARRY VAUGHT
I guess Mark Stoops could try to act like this is just another week for Kentucky football. That would be about as easy as convincing his players that monkeys can fly.
So Stoops is doing what he should going into Saturday’s SEC showdown against No. 7 Georgia, he’s embracing the hype for perhaps the biggest football game ever in Lexington.
“You can’t shy away from it. There’s too much information out there, they (the players) know what’s going on and that’s okay,” Stoops said Monday. “They are allowed to be excited and you hear me talk about it all the time — whatever they need to do to help motivate them, that’s fine.
“But, the preparation needs to stay the exact same. We’ll be consistent in our approach and we’ll do the same things that we do every week.”
Handling prosperity is not always easy. It’s something the Kentucky basketball team gets a lot of practice doing. Not so much for the football team.
But this year is different. It’s like destiny is with Kentucky. Calls that never go Kentucky’s way are going UK’s way. Bounces that always go against UK are bouncing UK’s way. Big plays that always get made against UK are now being made by the Cats like the ones in last week’s 15-14 walk-off win at Missouri that put No. 11 UK in position to play for the SEC East title.
“Every week the situation is different. So, situational awareness is something I address with them every week so there’s always situational awareness, the situation, the football keys and then the motivation, so that won’t change,” Stoops said. “But, obviously the situation is a little different than it’s been, and we’ll talk about that. But, our approach will be the exact same.”
What I really like is that Stoops doesn’t think he’ll have to get on players to get them back to business. He’s got a mature team who knows to reach the goals it set, beating Georgia is mandatory. Maybe no one else believed it when the season started, but the players felt they could get to the SEC championship game and now they have that chance if they win Saturday.
“We need to address issues, there’s always that. There’s always that ‘bring them down to earth’ and being very direct in things that are not acceptable and things that we need to improve on. That’s always the same,” Stoops said.
“Our players will understand the areas that we need to improve and embrace that and I think they know the challenges ahead of them. It’s really about just getting our best preparation today, and put ourselves in the best position to be successful.
“The situation, it is what it is. They’ve worked hard to put themselves in that position, we just gotta stay consistent and be the best version of ourself we can be.”