By KEITH TAYLOR, Kentucky Today
LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Mark Stoops got the attention of his football team this week.
Mired in a two-game losing streak and coming off a disappointing 28-13 loss to Mississippi State last week, Stoops liked the way his team responded in practice this week ahead of Saturday’s contest at South Carolina.
“We had their attention,” Stoops said Thursday. “They were very attentive and trying the best we can to be locked in and have a solid week. As I’ve said many times, everybody wants to win on Saturday. It’s about what we’re doing on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. I felt like we had a better week. Hopefully, it’ll pay some dividends.”
The Wildcats (2-2, 0-2 Southeastern Conference) have won five straight over the Gamecocks, Kentucky’s longest win streak in the series. Despite the recent success, Stoops said past history won’t matter at kickoff and added that he’s not concerned about the Gamecocks as much as he is about his own squad.
“We can’t worry one bit about what they’re going to do or not do. It’s about us,” Stoops said. “We have a lot to prove coming off last week’s performance as well. We’re really just concentrating on ourselves and making sure we’re having a great week of preparation.
“We tweaked a few things this week as far as our prep. I’m not going to get into all that, it’s nothing earth-shattering or much different or anything, but the guys have been good. We’ve had a good week. We just have to go down there with a strong mindset and play a much cleaner game than we did a week ago.”
Kentucky has won its last two games at Willams-Brice Stadium, including a 23-13 victory in 2017. Former Wildcats’ running back and all-time leading rusher Benny Snell ran for 102 yards and a pair of touchdowns in that contest. Led by Snell, Kentucky overcame Deebo Samuel’s 68-yard touchdown on the first play of the game.
“I was proud of the way our team handled it the last time we were there, because we did face some adversity early and gave them an opportunity to get that place rocking — exactly what you try not to do,” Stoops said. “But our team overcame that and fought our way back through the end of the first quarter and in the second quarter as well. But this is a new year. But it’s a great atmosphere, just like many of the places we go on the road in the SEC.”
Like the Wildcats, the Gamecocks (1-3, 0-2) have lost their first conference contests, including a 34-14 setback at Missouri last weekend.
Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson had surgery on his knee late last week and is on the road to recovery.
Stoops said Wilson will be a big part of the team this season as he rehabilitates his knee.
“He can still be very involved,” Stoops said. “It’s difficult for him gimping around like that right now, especially early on. He’s a little bit sore. But our guys love and respect him. We miss him. I hope he helps any way he can.”
Gametracker: Kentucky at South Carolina, 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.