Cats put tough loss to Florida behind them, get back to work for Eastern Michigan with sights on moving to 4-1 on season.
LEXINGTON, Ky. - After a day or two to recover from letting an opportunity to beat Florida for the first time in 31 years slip out of their grasp, the Kentucky Wildcats seemed to put that bitter loss in the rearview mirror on Tuesday.
"Great practice," UK offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said. "It was awesome to get back on the field... It helps you to get that taste out of your mouth."
"Today was a new day," added senior wide receiver Charles Walker. "That might have been our best Tuesday practice so far. Everyone came out and was focused. We're just excited to play. Saturday showed that when we do things correctly and don't make mistakes, we can be a really good football team."
Kentucky (3-1, 1-1 SEC) steps out of league play this week to face Eastern Michigan (2-1, 0-1 MAC) on Saturday at Kroger Field. The Eagles lost a 27-20 double-overtime game against Ohio last week but showed a strong passing attack with 305 yards through the air.
For now, though, the Cats are focused on themselves.
Gran suggested that players are usually a lot more resilient about bouncing back from a tough loss than coaches are, but they got some words of encouragement from UK head coach Mark Stoops going into the week.
"Coach just talked about what's the difference in commitment and routine," he said. "If we come out here and it's just a routine for a Tuesday, we're in trouble. And today I saw commitment."
The staff has also been preaching the importance of not letting a disappointing game have a cascade effect. A letdown going from an SEC opponent to a non-conference foe has occurred on a few occasions in recent years.
"We've got to wipe our memory clean," junior tight end C.J. Conrad added. "This is a long season. You can't let one loss turn into two."
* Gran said the Cats are exploring all options to solve the snap issues that have plagued the offense at some point in every game this season. Last Saturday, it may have cost UK six points, so Bunchy Stallings' status at center is not set in stone. Drake Jackson, Nick Haynes and even Luke Fortner have received a look so far this week. "There is a sense of urgency and a fire under every one of them," Gran said.
* Gran cited some positives from his review of the Florida film. Among them were the Cats recording an "explosive play" (a run of 12-plus yards or a pass of 16-plus yards) on one out of every six offensive snaps against the Gators. "Against a really good defense... That's really, really good." He cited the lack of execution on third-down situations (1-for-10) as the biggest negative from film review.
* Stoops indicated on Monday that he'd like to get freshman athlete Lynn Bowden more involved with the passing game as a receiver. Thus far, he's been used primarily as a Wildcat quarterback and return specialist. "We've got a nice package for him, and it will continue to grow," Gran said. He indicated that the Cats have "six or seven" things they can do with Bowden now.
* Walker, a former walk-on, was named the Cats' offensive player of the week for his performance against Florida. "He loves the game," Gran said. "He's just one of those guys that, when he puts the helmet on, it means something. He loves the University of Kentucky. And he's going to give everything he's got every week."