By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky lost emotional control last year when it was not only beaten by Louisville in Kroger Field, but also was embarrassed by some things players did on the field.
So how does Kentucky coach Mark Stoops keep his team’s emotions in check for Saturday night’s game at Louisville?
“We need to make sure we do that. It is easy to think about that with the seniors, it was hard for me. But, as I told them last week I didn’t really want to address it because I had my eyes on this week and finishing out,” Stoops said. “That was very important to me because if I did stop they were teasing me cause they said, ‘Coach are you gonna get all sappy and cry on us?’ I had to play it off because if I really thought about it I could because those guys mean that much to me.
“They are a special group, but I really didn’t want to get swept up with it last week with again knowing we had a big week here this week. It is a lot going on with Thanksgiving and we do appreciate these seniors and Josh (Paschal) coming back and playing, and a lot of good things happening. We just have to focus on being disciplined and doing the things that have put us in a position to be successful this year.”
Obviously, Stoops was not overly eager to think about last year’s fiasco and was more comfortable talking about last week’s emotional Senior Day. But he did eventually admit there is a “fine line” between playing with an edge but not having too much of an edge.
“They’ve been through this rivalry. Those 16 guys (seniors), they’ve been through it a few times and they’ve got to keep that in mind and play disciplined. We always have to play with that edge and that mentality and play physical, but we have to play disciplined football,” Stoops said.
“I can’t concern myself with Louisville other than preparing for the plays and preparing for their schemes, but I have to get my team right and our team right and that we have the right mentality.”
Stoops says emotion only goes so far even in a rivalry game. He says preparation means more.
“That’s where you can’t turn it on, on Saturday. You’ve got to have the edge and the attitude all week, and it’s the end of the year and our players are beat up and put a lot into it and all that, but they have to find that balance of the proper preparation,” Stoops said. “It helps with experienced teams. Sometimes younger guys, it’s too emotional, and that’s only going to carry you so far. We’ll talk a lot about that here this week throughout the week.”