If Mark Stoops is right about a team learning from scars and beats, then Cats have got a great education this season


Kentucky's defense could not stop Vanderbilt when it counted the most Saturday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

Kentucky plays No. 1 Georgia Saturday in Lexington but there was very little talk about the Bulldogs during UK coach Mark Stoops’ Monday press conference.

Instead, most of the questions/comments concerned UK’s 6-4 season following a stunning 24-21 loss to Vanderbilt — a team that had lost 26 straight Southeastern Conference games.

“I still don’t question the leadership on this team, I think there’s a big imbalance. I think there’s some really young players and players that maybe haven’t gone through the trials that maybe some of the older guys have and the appreciation that we have for all of the hard work that we did to put our program in this position,” Stoops said.

“That’s my job as a coach and our job as an organization to teach and try to preach and do that. As I tell the team a lot, you learn from scars, you learn from the beats, you learn from mistakes.”

If that’s true, Kentucky should be really well informed after losing at home to both South Carolina and Vanderbilt in a season where the Cats once were ranked No. 7 in the country and now they are not No. 7 in the SEC.

“Again, not an excuse, it’s just something I have to overcome in educating and putting all of our players and having them understand what it takes on a daily basis to compete in this league, to do the things we have done to this point,” Stoops said.

The UK coach knows fans are frustrated. He’s frustrated. Players are frustrated. Stoops says he’ll continue to “evaluate all aspects” of the program and hope to make improvements against Georgia and Louisville in the final two regular-season games.”

“We always accept the responsibility. I’m not going to ever put my head in the sand but I’m not ever going to have a knee-jerk reaction and overreact to things as well,” Stoops said.

Translation: Stoops is not going to make staff changes with only two games left in the season.

“Constantly learn, shift, adjust and do the best we can to put ourselves in a position to win games. Again, there’s no excuses, we need to get better, coach better and play better,” Stoops said.

Translation: The coach knows there are no excuses for the same mistakes in the kicking game and offensive line play that have plagued UK from day one this season.

“I know the questions that are going to come at me. I think you know me and know I’m not going to make any knee-jerk decisions without thinking things through properly but I also don’t put my head in the sand,” Stoops said.

“Also realize it’s on me but we’re two penalties away from sitting here at 8-2. We can’t have those penalties at the end of the game. We eliminate them, we’re sitting here at 8-2 and still feel like we can do better, we can coach better.”

Translation: A late penalty cost UK a possible winning touchdown at Ole Miss and gave Vandy a do-over that led to its winning touchdown. But a penalty against Missouri also helped UK win that game. Fans are not buying that could have, would have, should have talk.

What fans are buying is that UK should believe it can do better and certainly should coach better.

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