Cats vs. Cards: Past success means little for UK

Published 10:20 am Friday, November 24, 2023

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By Keith Taylor

Kentucky Today

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops isn’t putting much stock into his team’s recent success against in-state rival Louisville.

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The Wildcats (6-5) have won four straight over the Cardinals, including a 26-13 win a year ago in Lexington, but the No. 9 Cardinals (10-1) have rebounded under first-year coach Jeff Brohm, a former standout at Louisville.

“This is a new year and you also know how I feel about year’s past and records, all that,” Stoops said. “This year, let’s worry about this game this year. It is a brand new game and it is an important one to both teams.

“I will say this, it is good for the state. Hopefully, we have a little better record next go-round, but when both teams are playing good it’s important. Hopefully, we can bring our ‘A’ game and play up to our potential.”

The Wildcats have yet to reach their full potential this season and carry a two-home losing streak into the regular-season finale for both teams. Since opening the year with five straight victories, Kentucky has lost five of its past six games, including a disappointing 17-14 setback at South Carolina last week, a loss that still lingers.

“It’s been a challenging schedule, a challenging year and I felt like we had so many opportunities that we let slip away,” Stoops said. “That gets hard. That gets difficult.”

Despite the struggles, Stoops believes the issues that are haunting his squad can be mended and said the players and coaches remain upbeat.

“We need to get some things corrected,” Stoops said. “We need to play better in certain areas. We need to coach better in certain areas. We will continue to do that. Nobody’s defeated in our facility, that’s for sure. Disappointed with that game (South Carolina) and that comes from investing so much. But, (we are) far from defeated and our team will show the resolve that we’ve always had, come back this week and try to put together a great week. The bottom line is go execute a little better than we did Saturday.”

An added motivation for Stoops and his program will be the opportunity to secure a winning season with seven victories and retain the Governor’s Cup for the fifth straight season.

“It’s the last game of the year. It’s been a tough stretch, without a doubt, but this is another game,” Stoops said. “It certainly doesn’t salvage some of the things that we’ve done or anything like that, we don’t look at it that way, we look at it like it’s another opportunity.

“We play a lot of big games here. This one, I’ve said it from the moment I walked in here that it was important. I know the importance of it to our fan base and to the community and I’ve acknowledged that for 11 years.”

He added it also will be the last chance for his squad to produce a breakout performance.

“It’s the last opportunity for many of us,” he said. “It’s a big game. It’s an important game. We’ve got some players who have been around here a long time. We have some new players (and it) could be the last opportunity with this team. There’s players that are probably going to hit the portal. There’s probably players that are going to get ready for the NFL Draft.”