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November 11, 2013

As UK struggles, Stoops sticks to process

In Saturday's 48-17 loss to Missouri, Kentucky's chances of going to its first bowl game since the 2010 season came to a halt.

But with three games left in the season, head coach Mark Stoops is still following "the process," a plan he's embraced since taking over the head-coaching job 11 months ago.

"I've said it before: I know what I was getting into," Stoops said. "Sure, we come in here to prepare to win every game. You know, I don't care who we're playing. That is where the frustration sets in because you're competitive and you want to win."

That process not surprisingly has included frustration. The Wildcats are still winless in the Southeastern Conference, and while many fans would consider improvements on the field from last season, UK still has only two wins.

Stoops wants wins as badly as anybody and he said he still feels those can come. But more importantly he wants to see his team play good football. And the Cats will look to get closer against Vanderbilt Saturday.

"What I take some salvation in is when I turn on that film and see good, sound football, and I see that from 80 percent, and I know that's not good enough to the common fan," Stoops said. "But I see us coaching and putting into position and see the players executing and playing."

And as Stoops said, 80 percent isn't 100 percent. Once UK gets to 100 percent the wins will follow.

"I see some good plays, and I know there is progress being made, even though that's difficult to see on the scoreboard and all that," Stoops said. "But I know when we're moving forward and we're getting better when when we're not."

When the Cats aren't getting better -- and for the most part Stoops wasn't pleased with how his team played against Missouri -- he's putting the sole blame on the players.

Stoops is a first year head coach who's still learning himself.

"Do I think we can coach better? Yes," Stoops said. "I understand all that. But definitely this team is not cashing it in."

And the Cats face another tough challenge Saturday. The Commodores are calling Saturday's game their Super Bowl.

Vanderbilt is a win away from becoming bowl eligible. Stoops won't focus on trying to derail Vandy's season, but instead hoping to get his first win as an SEC coach.

"That means nothing to me," Stoops said. "Whatever motivates our kids, fine, but that won't be something I talk about. That means nothing to me. If that's good for us to stop them from going to a bowl game, I mean, we need the win for us, for our fans, for all the things we're talking about."

Vanderbilt is heading into Saturday after winning at Florida for the first time in more than 60 years.

The Commodores waxed the Gators 34-17, while only totaling 183 yards of offense, including just 57 through the air.

"They're a team that just plays very hard, plays very smart," Stoops said. "They capitalize on your mistakes, so it will be another good opportunity for us, a big challenge for us to go down there and win."

UK hasn't won at Vanderbilt since 2009 and last season the Cats hit rock-bottom when the Commodores blanked UK 40-0 at Commonwealth Stadium.

Vanderbilt and Kentucky have traditionally have been though of as bottom dwellers in the SEC, but with the Commodores recent success, Stoops said he believes UK can have a similar turnaround.

It starts with the team buying in to Stoops' system, something Vanderbilt coach James Franklin has accomplished.

"He's got everybody buying in," Stoops said. "He's got a bunch of players that are playing very fundamentally sound and playing hard, and that's a compliment to coaching."


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