Cats Looking to Learn from Good, Bad in Week 2
Though the NFL preseason has been the subject of much debate this last month, Mark Stoops finds himself jealous of professional coaches this time each year.
“I mean, we just practice against ourselves,” Stoops said. “And so early on it’s very difficult because if you have some inexperienced players, they’re just so used to playing your team and then you go play somebody else, they dress things up differently, maybe same plays, things just look different and it’s just different.”
Because of that, by the time fall camp wrapped up, Kentucky’s offense and defense knew each other well. What neither side, as currently constituted, did not understand is what it would be like to face an opponent.
“Players need to understand that early in the season, because as they go through the year you have circumstances where you see that things change,” Stoops said. “And early in the season it’s important to talk about those things and you have a game plan and you work on that game plan for a couple weeks heading into that first game and then sometimes things change.”
That’s exactly the situation in which the Wildcats found themselves on Saturday. Toledo had UK on its heels on both sides of the ball, scoring on the game’s first drive and later leading 14-7 with the ball early in the second quarter.
From that point on until Toledo scored a mostly meaningless touchdown late in the fourth quarter, UK outscored the Rockets 31-3. Terry Wilson and his receivers executed in the passing game as well as at any point last season and UK’s defense locked things down against a team that averaged more than 40 points a game a year ago.
“I was really proud of our players and our coaches to stay poised, stay focused, make a few adjustments, just settle in and start playing football and I thought we really did some good things,” Stoops said.
Though those good things certainly made for a sweeter season opener, they don’t erase the bad ones from that unsteady start. Addressing them is the priority this week.
“The good news is early on in the game some of the mistakes that happened are easily fixable,” Stoops said. “And we’ll get back to work here this week and work on those things and hopefully make a big improvement between week one and week two. So we’re really focusing on ourselves and now that we have a game under our belt we have some guys that hadn’t played a lot of football and we kind of see what they can do, get back to work here this week and look to improve.”
Though the focus will be internal this week, UK isn’t short on external motivation with Eastern Michigan coming to town. Two seasons ago, the Eagles came to Lexington and put a scare into the Cats at Kroger Field as a Mike Edwards interception as time expired preserved a 24-20 victory. And if that’s not enough, Eastern Michigan took down UK’s week-one opponent last season, 28-26.
“They gave us one heck of a game a couple years ago, so we know they’re another good football team from the MAC, very well coached, and very similar in that way,” Stoops said. “Eastern beat Toledo a year ago. We know Toledo was a good team. So Eastern is very capable and very well coached and again, played us to a four-point game two years ago, so we have to get back to work and focus on ourselves and attention to detail and get much better here this week.”