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Kentucky knows Tennessee-Martin has “nothing to lose” against Cats

Chris Rodriguez is coming off his best game at Vanderbilt going into Saturday’s home game. (Vicky Graff Photo)

By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today

LEXINGTON —Kentucky won’t change its routine going into the final two weeks of the regular season.

“It’s much the same,” Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said Monday. “Get back to us, get back to having a great week of preparation, continue to work and improve and just to see how good we can be and how much we can improve.”

The Wildcats (5-5, 3-5 Southeastern Conference) were nearly flawless in their final conference game of the season. Stoops said the 38-14 win over Vanderbilt last week was a group effort from top to bottom.

“I thought our coaches did a great job of getting our team prepared and ready to go on the road,” Stoops said. “I was really happy with the way the team responded last week in their preparation and went out and played that way — played a complete game.”

The Wildcats will take on Tennessee-Martin (7-4, 6-2 Ohio Valley Conference) Saturday and a win against the Skyhawks will make Stoops’ squad bowl eligible for the fourth straight season. The Wildcats defeated Penn State in the Citrus Bowl last year in Orlando.

Stoops isn’t taking Martin lightly and recalled his team’s “real struggle” against OVC member Austin Peay that gave the Wildcats their sixth win four years ago. Kentucky went on to upset Louisville in the regular-season finale before losing to Georgia Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl.

“I remember it being just an aggravating game,” he said. “(But) it’s about us and the way we play. If we keep the same mentality we had a week ago, then we’ll be OK. It’s about us, about our prep and the way we play.”

Stoops said the Skyhawks, who defeated Eastern Kentucky earlier this season, is a “good” football team, especially on the defensive side of the football.

“Defensively, they present some problems,” Stoops said. “They’re very different in the way they play and can be very multiple and do some things that are unique. In that regard it will be very different for us. When you are playing a team like that, they can create some negative plays, because they are pretty much all over (the board). We’ve got to be very detailed in what we’re doing.”

Stoops expects the Skyhawks to be ready to prove a point in their regular-season finale.

“You’re playing a team that’s coming in here with nothing to lose,” Stoops said. “It’s their last game and you know they’re going to throw caution to the wind — take some gambles and some shots, and they’re good. They’re well-coached and present some problems. They’re unique in certain ways.”

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Gametracker: UT-Martin at Kentucky, 3:30 p.m., Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at or twitter @keithtaylor21.

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