Matt Roark's career night wasn't brought on by any hocus pocus. It was merely focus, focus.
"I just started focusing on focusing," the senior wide receiver said when asked about his career bests of 13 catches and 116 yards in Kentucky's 28-16 loss to Mississippi State on Saturday night in Commonwealth Stadium.
Roark didn't have a clear explanation for his newfound focus, which led to more catches in one game than he's had all season (12).
"It's not really any trick I used, it's just that these last two weeks of practice have been really good practices," he said.
Part of Roark's success may have been due to time spent with backup quarterback Maxwell Smith, who played much of the game when starter Morgan Newton went down with shoulder and ankle injuries.
Roark said he worked with Smith after practices, which may have contributed to their connections on Saturday.
Coach Joker Phillips downplayed the connection, saying Roark's success wasn't about Smith having better touch on the ball or improved chemistry with the wide receivers.
Phillips essentially said Roark was in the right position at the right time.
"His position is usually the one that's running the crossing routes, and we were able to hit some of those routes," Phillips said.
Roark's 13 grabs tied for second-most on UK's all-time single-game list. His 116 yards were the most for a Kentucky receiver this season.
The numbers were nice, but Roark would have preferred a win to a career night.
"It felt good to have a good game and get some career firsts for me, but it was a loss, so I'm still kind of down about that and I will be for a while," he said.
'Heart of a lion'
His coordinator called Danny Trevathan a beacon for the defense.
The senior linebacker was a bright spot in the loss to Mississippi State with a career-high-tying 17 tackles.
Last season's Southeastern Conference tackles leader with 144 has had double-digit tackles in 15 of his last 17 games. He added a one-handed interception and a forced fumble on Saturday.
"He's as good as they come," co-defensive coordinator Rick Minter said. "He's our team leader on defense. He's kind of our beacon. Our guys go as he goes mostly."
Fellow defender Avery Williamson agreed.
"I just try my best to be like him, to play like him all the time," Williamson said. "He's a fighter. He never gives up. He has the heart of a lion."
Won battle, not war
It was the first time in the Phillips era that UK lost the game despite winning the turnover battle. The Cats managed to force three Bulldogs turnovers with an interception and two fumble recoveries and UK didn't have one of its own (a first for the season), but it still wasn't enough.
Playing it safe?
A rain of boos filled Commonwealth Stadium on several occasions when kicker Craig McIntosh ran onto the field. The crowd had nothing against the former Lexington Christian standout.
It did seem to take exception to Phillips opting to go for field goals of 35, 32 and 22 yards instead of going for the end zone.
Phillips' explanation was simple: UK wanted guaranteed points.
"It was still early in the second half is the reason why we decided to kick the field goal, because it was early in the second half," he said of the 35-yarder. "We thought we'd have more opportunities."
Starting quarterback Morgan Newton injured his right shoulder and his right ankle and will be evaluated on Sunday, Phillips said.
In the scuffle after a Bulldogs score in the first quarter, cornerback Anthony Mosley was punched in the diaphragm and did not return.
Sophomore defensive tackle Donte Rumph injured his left knee in the second half and will be assessed.