By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky fans talk a lot about the football team not winning in Knoxville since 1984. However, coach Mark Stoops insisted he would not mention that to his team this week as it prepared for Saturday afternoon’s game.
“I think just beating Tennessee is important to us. Whether there’s a streak involved or not, why would that make a difference to our team?” said Stoops. “They don’t know anything about 34 years ago. To be honest with you, they really don’t care. They want to win for their team this year.
“I think that’s very important and that’s motivation for us. For me, to say that, of course I always say that. I acknowledge the importance to our fans, I acknowledge the importance to our state and our community. But to our team, they’re hungry for each other and for this year.”
Coming off a loss to Georgia that knocked it out of the SEC Championship game, Kentucky could be vulnerable for a letdown. Kentucky’s players insist that won’t happen and Stoops says he doesn’t see this as a “trap” game for his team.
“I think certain games set up better than others, but it’s always up to you and your team to put them in a position to be successful and get them right in the mind,” Stoops said. “I think we’ve had good concentration on the road. You don’t talk about that because that’s a fact, that’s the way the situation is.
“We’re in there, we get on our bus, get on our plane and go there kind of united. No distractions. That’s what it dictates and that’s what it is, so therefore we better make the best of it.”
Kentucky is 7-2 going into Saturday’s game with games left against Middle Tennessee and Louisville. The Cats still have a chance for UK’s first 10-win season since 1977 and an opportunity to play in a major, major bowl game.
“We always look at it as one-week seasons, but it is a fact as you get towards the end of the year and as they’re starting to get mentally and physically beat up that they have to recharge themselves and refocus for these last three games,” Stoops said. “This is a different situation. We’re going on the road. We’re playing Tennessee at Tennessee with our last league game. It’s very important to us.”