Stoops aware of challenge Wildcats face at No. 3 Tennessee

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, October 26, 2022

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Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops is aware of the task his team faces at Tennessee Saturday and said the Wildcats will be motivated to take on the third-ranked Volunteers coming off their lone bye week of the season.

“I think it’s human nature when you’re playing a team that’s playing this well, you better play at a high clip, or you’ll get embarrassed,” Stoops said Monday. “They could play very, very fast, they’re scoring points on everybody. You’re playing the No. 1 offense in the country, you better be locked in and ready to play at a higher level.”

Tennessee, which stunned Alabama 52-49 on Oct. 15 in Knoxville, didn’t show any signs of a letdown in a 65-24 rout of UT-Martin last Saturday. The Volunteers (7-0, 3-0 Southeastern Conference) are off to their best start since winning the national championship in 1998.

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“I thought our guys were prepared in the right way,” Tennessee coach Josh Heupel said. “The urgency of understanding that you have to be a consistent competitor emotionally. There might be a difference from week to week with the energy inside the stadium, but your competitive nature can’t change. I thought our ones did a really nice job in all three phases of the game.”

In their last outing, the Wildcats (5-2, 2-2) defeated Mississippi State 27-17 on Oct. 15, ending a two-game losing streak. Stoops doesn’t think the open date will make a difference when his team returns to the field in Knoxville.

“We have to do our best to prepare the team and I have to find the best recipe to give them some time off, but also work extremely hard, especially with the challenges that we have, certainly in this game and down the stretch here,” Stoops said.

Kentucky has closed the gap in its series against Tennessee and dropped a 45-42 decision to the Volunteers in Lexington last season. The Wildcats defeated Tennessee 34-7 in its previous visit to Neyland Stadium two years ago.

“It’s a normal approach for us, we understand it’s a very big challenge,” he said. “It’s very hard to simulate the tempo as I’ve mentioned and gone in depth many times about that and there’s different ways that we try to do that.

“The environment is very difficult we play in this league consistently, so we’re used to playing in these environments but that doesn’t make it any easier.”

Stoops added his squad is healthy going into the showdown against the Vols.

“I think we’re in as good a shape as we’ve been in for several weeks,” he said. “I don’t know if we’ll be at 100 percent or not, but we’re getting close.”