Perhaps the most familiar line from “The Incredible Hulk” franchise has mild-mannered Dr. Bruce Banner warning “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry” just before morphing into his raging alter ego.
Kentucky’s players met the Big Blue version on Wednesday after what their typically good-spirited coach described as his most frustrating day since coming to Lexington.
“Totally unacceptable practice today,” UK head coach Mark Stoops said. “Very frustrating. Preparation wasn’t good enough. Effort wasn’t good enough. Attitude wasn’t good enough, so… not good.
“Some guys were looking for a rock to hide under.”
Asked to elaborate on that comment, Stoops indicated that some of his players aren’t maximizing their potential with a consistent approach to practice. “It’s always ‘I just missed it… I should have made that play… I blew that assignment.’ It’s whatever. Finger-pointing. Losing attitude. Looking to hide.”
In other words, not an ideal atmosphere as the Wildcats (1-3, 0-1 SEC) prepare for the third in a string of four consecutive games against ranked opponents when they travel to No. 13 South Carolina (3-1, 1-1 SEC) this weekend.
“It’s going to be a very difficult and tough game, and I don’t know if we’re ready for it,” Stoops said. “… Just not tough enough.
“This is the most frustrated I’ve been probably because it’s right in the middle of our tough stretch and getting ready to play a tough game on the road in a hostile environment, and with that attitude, we’re going to get rolled. I believe that happened the last time we went down there, right?”
The Cats’ last trip to Columbia, during the 2011 season, resulted in a 54-3 loss. The Gamecocks tallied 639 yards of total offense and recorded their largest margin of victory since joining the SEC in 1992.
The UK boss even made light of the Cats' already-gloomy underdog status.
"Whatever it was, a 21-point spread, ain't enough because we ain't even close to that right now," he said.
It was a drastic mood swing for Stoops, who had praised the Cats for their attitude during practices on Monday and Tuesday.
Asked how the team could have such a turn of events in a 24-hour period, Stoops allowed himself a rare smile on this day and said: “If somebody knew that, I think they’d win more games than they already are.”
While optimism has surrounded the program since Stoops took the job last December, he and his staff have been candid about expectations for this season. He maintains that the win/loss record isn’t how he’ll judge success.
“If we get optimal performance every day, I’m OK with it, no matter what the results,” Stoops said.
“Bottom line is we’re going to hold them accountable. It’s not alright… We’ll see if we can get more out of them (Thursday) and turn this thing around.”