Mark Stoops thought Kentucky had a good week of practice after a throttling at Mississippi State.
The head coach thought Kentucky had a good game plan and was ready for the game with Tennessee on Saturday night.
But what he saw in the 52-21 loss against the Volunteers at Commonwealth Stadium reminded him that there's still lots of room for improvement.
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"This ought to be short and sweet," he said as he got to the podium and then began questioning effort and added that Tennessee "beat our butts in all phases.
"That was not very good football. It's not acceptable," Stoops said. "It's not OK and I'm not very pleased. There's a lot of things we need to do better and we will. It starts with me. I've got to do a better job of getting the team prepared, getting the coaches prepared and ... not a very good effort."
The only way to get the nasty taste out of his mouth after UK's third straight loss is to go back to work, he said.
"Only way you make this feeling go away is to go get a victory," he continued. "We'll prepare the right way, with a tough mentality and go get No. 5. That's the only thing we've got to concentrate on. I have no doubt this team will do that."
The instructions were simple: "Go to work, man up and get better."
He told his players that there would be zero allowance for self-pity.
"I don't want to see one person dropping their head or moping around," he said. "That's not going to be the way it is. It's not acceptable and we're not OK with it. We're not going to start pointing fingers or putting heads down."
In many ways, Kentucky did put its head down when things started to go wrong in the loss, which included the Volunteers scoring two touchdown in the final 5:26 of the first half, breaking open an otherwise close game.
"When that adversity hit, the switch didn't flip on and that's what we've got to work on," running back Mikel Horton said.
Injury question marks
The loss was bad enough, but the collateral damage was worse with Kentucky potentially losing its leading rusher.
Late in the first half, the Cats saw star running back Boom Williams injure his elbow when he landed awkwardly on it near the Tennessee end zone. He was taken immediately to the team room and did not return.
"He has an elbow injury," Stoops said of Williams, who came into the game as the Cats' leading rusher with 81 carries for 551 yards and three touchdowns. "We'll see."
In his place, Horton came in and had career highs in carries (14) and yards (109), including a 21-yard run. Jojo Kemp added four carries for 24 yards.
"I appreciate Mikel going in there — and we're going to need him — him and Jojo," Stoops said. "They need to step up and play well and I anticipate they will."
Does that mean the head coach anticipates that Williams could be out for a significant amount of time? "I'm not sure. I'm not sure. Could be."
Horton stayed close to where Williams was as medical staff treated him on the field.
"I told him I'm going to take over for him and we're going to ride for him," Horton continued. "We just came together as a team and try to compete with the guys and block out that he got hurt and when the time comes, we're going to show him love."
The Cats did get one bit of positive injury news on wide receiver Garrett Johnson, who got laid out on what was later deemed a targeting play by Tennessee's Emmanuel Moseley.
The sophomore, who had 50 yards on two catches before his exit, is expected to be OK, Stoops said.
A different perspective
Kentucky's defensive coaches tried to change some things up on Saturday, moving coordinator D.J. Eliot to the box.
"Just let him see the overall picture better," Stoops said, noting that UT's offense is based on misdirection. "They did a nice job, they were influencing us out and had some new plays and some things. It's good to have somebody up there that you can see the whole thing ... get better vision."
Eliot said his new vantage point had good and bad points.
"I just wanted to look at it from a different angle, call it from a different angle," he said.
News and notes
Kentucky's 77-yard fumble return for a touchdown by C.J. Johnson marked the longest defensive touchdown for the Wildcats against an SEC team since Jamal White had a TD return vs. Vanderbilt in 2001. ... Kentucky surpassed the 16 million mark in fans at Commonwealth Stadium Saturday night with a crowd of 60,886.