There won’t be any talk of “bulletin board material” going into Mark Stoops’ first game as head coach at Kentucky.
At least not publicly.
Some of the Wildcats admitted during SEC Media Days earlier this summer that they felt disrespected by Western Kentucky in the aftermath of the Hilltoppers’ 32-31 overtime victory at Commonwealth Stadium last season. As the story goes, WKU may have celebrated its breakthrough win over the state’s flagship university a bit more enthusiastically and longer than some UK players could stomach.
Upon leaving the field at Commonwealth Stadium last year, former WKU head coach Willie Taggart (now at the University of South Florida), was captured by videographers shouting "WKU red is the new blue in Kentucky, baby! How 'bout that!?"
Kentucky’s players haven’t commented much on the alleged bad blood since opening fall camp, but one of WKU’s stars, linebacker Andrew Jackson, fanned the flames a bit more earlier this week when he told the Bowling Green Daily News “I ain’t worried about UK. I don’t even care nothing about ’em. We’re going to handle them Saturday, so y’all just be ready for that.”
Jackson, who certainly has the ability to back up the big talk coming off a season which saw him record 122 tackles and 17.5 tackles for loss, added: “They’ve got a new coach (offensive coordinator Neal Brown) that’s going to try to come around and trick you and four-wide stuff, try to trick us up. But we’re just going to hit ’em in the mouth and get it over with.”
It’s not a new shtick for Jackson, who, during UK’s narrow 14-3 win over the Hilltoppers two years ago in Nashville, shouted “They supposed to be SEC!” to sideline cameras as the Wildcats struggled to put away the former I-AA program.
When the local media went fishing for a response Thursday, Stoops wasn’t biting.
“Our motivation’s in our preparation,” he said. “If we’re not motivated to prepare, then we’re not who we thought we were, so we don’t need anybody’s comments to motivate us.”
Stoops noted that last year’s final score should be the only motivation the Cats need.
“If we want to be motivated from past history and all that, then we should be,” he said. “Like I said, I wasn’t happy, and I wasn’t even here last year. I wasn’t pleased about what went on. But that’s not going to win us or lose us a game. Our preparation is going to win a game or lose a game and who takes care of the football and who does the little things right.”
The UK boss thinks his players have bought into that approach.
“They’ve been very good,” he said. “These guys are eager to win. They’ve prepared the right way. I’ve been very encouraged by how focused they’ve been the last two days. We’re doing the things necessary.”
Week Goes By In A Blur:
Earlier in the week, Stoops said he wasn’t sure whether the week leading up to his first game as a head coach would speed by or crawl.
It turned out to be a blur.
“It’s gone fast,” Stoops said. “We’re in here doing our thing, just preparing, and it seems like there’s never enough time in a day to do everything you need to do, so it still goes relatively fast. Maybe it will slow down (after the first game) but there’s always things to do, and we need a lot of work.”
In recent years, the Wildcats have named two season captains and two additional captains for each week to represent UK at midfield for the pregame coin toss. Stoops said on Thursday that the staff will now have two captains per game, but not the season-long representatives.
The UK boss said no decision had been made as of Thursday afternoon on captains for the season-opener.