By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON — Mark Stoops is finished celebrating the end of a three-game losing streak and the Kentucky coach has shifted his attention to 10th-ranked Georgia.
“It’s (the win) very short-lived with the great challenge that we have this week, going on the road and playing Georgia,” he said.
Stoops attributed his team’s 24-20 triumph over Arkansas that ended a three-game slide to an open date the previous week that gave his team a chance to regroup and get healthy for the remainder of the season.
“I thought our guys were really in good place (following the bye week),” Stoops said. “They were well-rested, mentally fresh and focused for the two weeks of preparation. The coaches really had a great game plan, considering the situation we were in at quarterback. … we really played good as a team across the board.”
Stoops said the Wildcats were upbeat after the win over the Razorbacks and have some momentum going into the second half of the season. Stoops was pleased with the performance by receiver-turned-quarterback Lynn Bowden, who was named SEC Co-Offensive Player of the Week on Monday. Bowden rushed for 196 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 78 yards, including his first career collegiate scoring pass.
“You have to recognize Lynn and appreciate him for his willingness to accept that role,” Stoops said. “I was really pleased and somewhat surprised in some ways in that the control and the composure that he had throughout the entire game.
“He did really did exceptionally under the situation that he was under. I thought our guys were unselfish and the guys at the wide receiver position knew they weren’t going to get a lot of receptions (against Arkansas) and did a great job. They were unselfish on the perimeter. It was a great group effort.”
Although last week’s attack was more run-oriented, Stoops said the Wildcats will need “more balance” on the offensive side of the ball against the Bulldogs. Stoops said backup Sawyer Smith is going along and Bowden and Smith are both listed No. 1 at quarterback on the depth chart released by the school on Monday.
“You look at Georgia and they give up a very few amount of explosive plays and very few explosive runs,” Stoops said.
Stoops wasn’t pleased with a slow start that put the Wildcats in a 10-point deficit early in the contest but praised the Wildcats for their ability to rally and get a much-needed win against the Razorbacks.
“That showed a lot about our football team, to be able to overcome that, to still respond and come back and get the victory,” Stoops said.
The Wildcats (3-3, 1-3 Southeastern Conference) play four of the last six games at home, with back-to-back home games split between a pair of road encounters, starting with Saturday’s game at Georgia.
The Bulldogs (5-1, 2-1 SEC) suffered a disappointing 20-17 loss to South Carolina in double overtime last week and Stoops is expecting Georgia to be at the top of its game following a loss that knocked Kirby Smart’s team seven spots from No. 3 to 10th in the latest Associated Press Top 25 poll.
“It’s a tough ride (mentally and physically during the season),” Stoops said. “It’s a tough grind through this league and knowing Georgia and coach Smart and the way they coach, it will be a very difficult time going in there this week. We have to make sure we elevate our game because I am quite sure that Georgia is going to bounce back in a strong way and be ready to play. We’ve got to make sure we build on the good things we did (against Arkansas).”
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Gametracker: Kentucky at Georgia, 6 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: ESPN, UK Radio Network.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.