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UK football team faces emotional week, ending with No. 1 Alabama on Saturday in SEC battle

By Tim Letcher
University of Kentucky

On Monday, the University of Kentucky football team attended the funeral and a memorial service for offensive line coach John Schlarman, who died last week. The emotions that go with that have been well-documented.

If that wasn’t enough to deal with, Kentucky also has a football game to play on Saturday. And the Wildcats happen to be visiting the No. 1 team in the nation, the Alabama Crimson Tide.

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops addressed both issues during his Monday press conference.

“It’s been an emotional week. We’ll get through this as a team,” Stoops said. “We are working extremely hard getting ready for an unbelievable opponent.”

UK coach Mark Stoops will lead his Wildcats against top-ranked and unbeaten Alabama on Saturday in Tuscaloosa. (Photo by Keith Taylor, Kentucky Today)

Alabama is ranked at the top of both polls, and the Crimson Tide have cruised to a 6-0 record so far. Stoops admires the job that Alabama head coach Nick Saban has done with his team.

“Nick does a remarkable job of reloading,” Stoops said. “Maybe as good of an offensive team as I’ve seen since I’ve been a head coach and a coordinator. It’s been a long time since I’ve seen somebody as explosive as they are offensively. They are so balanced. They are extremely physical when they want to be. (Quarterback) Mac (Jones) is playing at a high level.”

Stoops marvels at the level of play that Saban has had with his teams throughout the years.

“You’ve got to admire his work ethic and the consistency that he has had. He’s been around a long time and he does a remarkable job,” Stoops said. “The man is like a machine, he goes at it each and every single day. He’s really very consistent with his work. I have great admiration for what he does. You would be silly to not look at his approach and try to grab a few things. He’s absolutely one of the best, if not the best, to ever coach the game.”

As for his own team, Stoops was less than pleased with the Cats’ effort on defense in Saturday’s 38-35 win over Vanderbilt.

“Defensively, terribly inconsistent,” Stoops said. “We have a lot of work to do. There’s no excuse. They want somebody else to make the play, they want some miraculous call to stop the play.”

As for why it seems that the offense and defense have been unable to play well in the same game so far this season, Stoops continues to search for an answer.

“It’s been hard to put my finger on it. We need to put it together, we need to play as a team, we need to play the best we can on all sides,” Stoops said. “That’s very frustrating to me. That’s not the way it’s been for us for years, but it is this year. We’re terribly inconsistent on one side or the other. We’ve not put it all together. It’s frustrating. I can promise you this, it’s not for lack of effort. The sense urgency needs to be greater, the attention to detail throughout an entire game needs to be greater.”

However, the UK head coach is confident that the Cats can make it right.

“It can be fixed with an attitude a work ethic and a sense of urgency and a passion to play,” Stoops said.

It will be a tough week for the Cats for a number of reasons. Stoops is hopeful that at the end of the week, his team will come up with a big performance in Tuscaloosa.

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