By LARRY VAUGHT
Hours before coach John Calipari’s team struggled to beat Utah Valley State 82-74 Monday night, Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops was asked if Calipari’s team losing at home to Evansville last week could help his team focus against Tennessee-Martin, a team it will be expected to beat handily just like Calipari’s team was supposed to do against Evansville.
“I don’t use those type of comparisons, but we will talk about us and our prep and getting ready to go,” Stoops said.
Of course, he does have his own memory to share with his team.
“I can remember back, was it Austin Peay, we had to beat to go to our first game bowl game and it was a real struggle? Back whenever that was, three years ago, four years ago, I remember it just being a very aggravating game,” Stoops said.
“It’s about us and the way we play and we keep the same mentality we had a week ago then we will be OK. It is about us and our prep and the way we play. I will say, UT Martin, they’re a good football team. Defensively, they present some problems. They are very different than anybody we play and can be very multiple and do some things that are kind of unique. In that regard, it will be very different for us.
“When you play a team like that, they can create some negative plays because they are very much kind of all over. We will have to be very detailed in what we are doing.”
Much like the Evansville basketball team, Tennessee-Martin will have nothing to lose against the favored Wildcats.
“We’re interested in playing good this week but also interested in continuing to grow as a program and organization to get better. That’s always the message with us. I don’t care if we are playing a team where we are a favorite or if we’re an underdog, there’s no difference. It’s about respecting the game and respecting the preparation and challenging ourselves,” Stoops said.
“If you look at last week, the game played out a lot like we talked about not letting that loss (to Tennessee) defeat us and affect our mentality. We went down 14-3 and I was very proud of our team, and their response, and they were coached to do that all week and they responded that way. This week, it’s about us and our preparation and how good we can be and being very detailed in our prep and our mindset.”