Stoops wants Cats to focus on improving in final month of regular season

Published 12:30 pm Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Mark Stoops isn’t dwelling on his team’s three-game losing streak. Instead, the Kentucky coach is concentrating on improving on a weekly basis going into the final month of the regular season.

The Wildcats (5-3, 1-3) have been trying to become bowl eligible for the past three games and came up short of clinching that elusive sixth victory in a 33-27 loss to Tennessee last Saturday.

The loss overshadowed a stellar offensive performance as Kentucky quarterback Devin Leary threw for a season-high 373 yards and tossed the ball to eight different receivers.

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“I think the big thing for us is to continue to really focus on that improvement,” Stoops said Monday. “There’s a million ways that—you get tired of hearing about (them), we talk about all that, doing those things but it’s true. For me, I look at the preparation — did we have a good plan? Was the team ready to play? Are we in a good mindset? Hopefully, our team will continue that because they have been working really hard. We need to stay on that path.”

Stoops also liked the way his Wildcats performed coming off a bye week and a disappointing 38-21 loss to Missouri on Oct. 14.

“We had our opportunities, very proud of the way our team prepared, the way we competed, the way they fought, did some really good things in that game and improved in some areas that we needed to improve in,” he said. “We have to build on that now. There are always a few plays, a couple series, some things that determine close, close ballgames. We got to find the recipe to make those plays and put them in the right position to win those type of games.”

Kentucky plays three of its last four games on the road and Saturday will take on Mississippi State in Starkville, where the Cats haven’t won since 2008. Stoops wants a more balanced approach against the Bulldogs. Kentucky managed just 72 yards rushing against the Volunteers.

“You know, for us to be successful, and you’ve heard me talk about it for so long, here’s a game where Devin throws for 373 yards, but we don’t rush the ball effectively and and didn’t win the game,” Stoops said.

Mississippi State (4-4, 1-4) has won two of its past three games but is coming off a 27-13 loss to Auburn.

Watching Will

Stoops and offensive coordinator Liam Coen kept tabs on former standout quarterback Will Levis Sunday. Levis threw for 238 yards and four touchdowns to lead Tennessee to a 28-23 win over Atlanta in his NFL debut.

“When he was playing and doing well, we turned it on,” Stoops said. “Whenever they were on offense we were watching that game, when they were on defense we were going back (to UK video). We are just very proud of him. What a great performance. It was a lot of fun, everybody in the office was rooting for him.”

Game time set for Tide

Kentucky’s game against Alabama on Nov. 11 is set for noon and will be televised on the SEC Network.