Mark Stoops is used to a short memory and the Kentucky coach is ready to put aside his team’s upset win at Florida last weekend in Gainesville.
The Wildcats broke a 31-game losing streak to the Gators with a 27-16 victory Saturday, ending more than three decades of misery against Florida, despite three near misses during the past five years. Stoops received calls, text messages and e-mails from friends and family and enjoyed the limelight while it lasted.
“It was a fun 24 hours,” he said as his team got back to practicing this week. “It’s time to move on. … You have to put it behind you and worry about the present and what we’re going to do (this week) to win and improve our football team.”
The Wildcats, who have won their first two games for the fourth time in five years, shift their attention to in-state foe Murray State, which dropped its first two encounters of the season, including a 26-13 loss at Central Arkansas last weekend.
Looking back on the doubledigit win in Gainesville, Stoops was pleased with his team’s aggressiveness on both sides of the ball, especially in the trenches.
“You have to have a physicality about you and of course, you have to create big plays,” Stoops said. “You have to be physical to win consistently in this league. For us just constantly putting us in position (to win games), eventually you’re going to break through and win this games.”
Stoops added it took a “group effort” to defeat Florida in Gainesville for the first time since 1979.
“It was a great team victory,” he said. “We really played strong in all three phases, in particular, I thought we were very physical up front both with the offensive line and the defensive line. I thought Benny (Snell) played a big game and got some very, very tough yards. That’s a team effort and the receivers did a phenomenal job blocking on the perimeter. The o-line was physical and the tight ends did their job as well to create some big gains in the passing game.”
Stoops said the biggest difference in the outcome was the play of his defensive backfield.
“I thought going into the game that would be the matchup we would have to win,” he said. “We really covered extremely well on the perimeter.”
Although the Wildcats experienced a breakthrough against the Gators, Stoops said the Wildcats haven’t reached the proverbial mountaintop.
“There is so much more this team can do,” Stoops said. “We can play better than we did and that’s our goal. We had 24 hours to enjoy that victory. It was a long time coming for our fans and for our players. It was a lot of fun and I appreciate their effort. Now it’s time to put that behind us and move on to the next opponent in Murray State.”
Kentucky senior linebacker Josh Allen and Bunchy Stallings were honored by the SEC on this week. Allen was named Defensive Player of the Week following Kentucky’s win at Florida last weekend.
Allen collected five tackles, 1.5 tackles for a loss, a sack, forced a fumble, had a pass breakup and a quarterback hurry. His forced fumble on the final play of the game resulted in a touchdown by Davonte Robinson for the final margin. The 16 points scored by Florida was the Gators’ lowest point total in the series since 1986.
Stallings, a guard, was part of an offensive unit that helped the Wildcats produce 303 yards rushing. Behind Stallings and the rest of the offensive line, Kentucky is averaging 301 yards per game during the first two weeks of the season, ranking the Wildcats 11th nationally.
Stallings graded out at 91 percent against the Gators, complete with nine knockdown blocks and didn’t have a missed assignment or a penalty. He had 23 blocks at the point of attack for Kentucky, which produced two 100-yard rushers for the first time in 39 years.
Kentucky awarded offensive line coach John Schlarman the game ball from last week’s win over the Gators and Josh Paschal and Stoops said he will receive his game ball on Monday. Scharlman is battling an undisclosed illness and Paschal has been diagnosed with skin cancer.
GAME TIME SET
The game time for Kentucky’s next Southeastern Conference game has been set. The Wildcats will take on Mississippi State at 7 p.m. on Sept. 22 and will be televised on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.
GAMETRACKER: Murray State at Kentucky, noon, Saturday. TV/ Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.