“Just like I said after the game, very tough loss," Stoops said during his weekly Monday press luncheon. "... I am not going to lie. It was a hard locker room after that game. It was not an easy Sunday. But that’s it, 24 hours, man. I am juiced up and ready to go. I am on my fourth cup of coffee.”
Kentucky (5-4, 4-3 SEC) had a chance to move into sole possession of first place in the SEC East last week before the heartbreaking loss to the Bulldogs. But the Cats remain in second place in the division as they head to Knoxville on Saturday to face Tennessee (6-3, 2-3 SEC) with a chance to accomplish some big goals.
A victory would keep UK in the division hunt a half game back of Florida with the Gators having games left against improving South Carolina and on the road at LSU. It would also give the Cats their first winning record in league play since 1977 and their first triumph at UT's Neyland Stadium since 1984.
Stoops said the Cats can't control what happens with other teams from this point forward, but they can still have a big say in their own season as it enters the homestretch.
“We can’t worry about the standings," he said. "I think I’d be a fool to say our players didn’t understand the opportunity (against Georgia). Of course, they did. They want to win, but again, it’s about what we can control and that’s how we play. That comes with our preparation, with our energy and with our attention to detail and focus. We’ll continue to harp on those things."
It's never easy, though, in what Stoops called "brutal league."
"We are right there battling some very good football teams," he said. "... I don’t care what anybody says about this and that and up or down. Every team does the right thing. They are well-coached and hard-nosed, tough football teams that play the game the right way. It is by far the best conference in America and it is a brutal league, even if everybody is beating up on each other."
Tennessee represents exactly that type of opponent. It's not been the championship season that the Volunteers had their sights set on when the season began, but it's still a roster loaded with elite talent.
“I see a very good team that is very talented," Stoops said. "They have been banged up, but they had the bye week and they came back last week and played like they are capable of (in a 55-0 win over Tennessee Tech).
"They had a big win last week and are probably ready to play some very good football again.”