The Kentucky football team was left for dead by many following a loss to Auburn last week, the Cats' third in a row.
But now, thanks to a 31-28 come-from-behind win over South Carolina on Saturday night and a topsy-turvy SEC East, the Wildcats have new life.
Even with a 1-3 conference record, UK is still very much in the thick of things in the East.
Kentucky would likely to have to win out to have a realistic shot at the division. But after facing Florida, Auburn and South Carolina, UK's schedule lightens up down the stretch.
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This week the Cats play host to Georgia, which has three conference losses. After that, UK travels to Mississippi State (5-2, 2-2) on Oct. 30, hosts Vanderbilt (2-4, 1-2) on Nov. 13 and then closes out the regular season at Tennessee (2-4, 0-3).
The players think winning out is a possibility.
"Our plan is to win the East, and we're still in that hunt," senior receiver Chris Matthews said. "No matter how we do it, we're gonna do it. We're going to find a way to get that done."
South Carolina (4-2, 2-2) is still in the driver's seat, but the Gamecocks have two tough games remaining: Arkansas on Nov. 6 and a trip to Gainesville the following week. And the Gators, in addition to facing South Carolina, have an Oct. 30 date with Georgia.
After Saturday night's game, Phillips said a 5-3 league record would give his team a chance to win the East. But the Cats can't get ahead of themselves.
While the Bulldogs' record is a less-than-sparkling 3-4, they have receiver A.J. Green back and seem to be hitting their stride. Georgia has outscored Tennessee and Vanderbilt by a combined 84-14 the last two weeks.
After watching his team endure a three-game losing streak and find the resiliency to come back against South Carolina, Phillips is confident his team will stay grounded.
"This team is starting to grow right before our eyes," he said. "They've done great in responding to everything that has happened. I have nothing but respect for them, and I know they will respond to the success that they just had this week."
"Every game is such a big game. It's not like you have a game where you say you should win. Every week it's a game you've got to fight, scratch and claw to win. We've got one this week. We can't relax and line up and show up and beat a team like Georgia."
Locke improving but still doubtful
Phillips said senior tailback Derrick Locke (stinger) was doing better on Sunday but is still doubtful for the Georgia game.
"We hope that he continues to improve through the week and maybe have a chance to play," Phillips said.
Kentucky Coach Joker Phillips said he's considering banning his players from using Twitter after junior receiver Randall Cobb used the social network to criticize Wildcats fans after UK's 31-28 win over South Carolina.
"I've thought about it, banning them," Phillips said. "We'll continue to think about it and make a decision. One thing we've got to do is get our arms around it. I also want to give these guys a chance to express themselves but not in a way that they might harm someone else. We've got to be a little bit smarter in doing it."
The following was posted on Cobb's Twitter account Sunday morning:
"To all the fans: loved seein Yall come late, love hearing Yall tell us we suck during the game, love that we have to play against our own fans too! Love that we can't pack the house when we play the #10 team in the nation. It means that much more to me. I love my team! Brotherhood they got my back n I got they back. The rest of Yall can get ready for bball season! Don't say u support n do all those things! Yeah I'm level 9 pissed... so deal w it! Not blaming all but Yall know who I'm talking abt- Yall know I love #bbn but something needed to be said."
Phillips spoke of Cobb's youth and passion and said the player is still in the process of learning how to handle criticism.
"Everybody knows and understands how passionate of a player he is," Phillips said. "He's passionate about this game, he's passionate about his teammates, he's passionate about UK football. He's a 19-, 20-year old who doesn't always understand how to deal with people not reacting in a way he thinks they should react. Me, I'm 47 years old, and I'm still figuring out how not to react to those things also. He's a young passionate player, and that's the reason he's so successful. He doesn't always understand when people criticize him or his players. I know he will be very apologetic. He does care about the guys in the locker room and across the state of Kentucky. With all the things he does in the state and the community, he will make this home. He just can't respond to things that he might not like that might happen out there."
Cobb eventually deleted the critical tweets and replaced them with one that stated: "To all the fans that has been true to this program throughout the years. Yall deserved a win like that last night! Let's keep it going!"
Phillips said he was pleased with how the Commonwealth Stadium crowd of 67,955 responded in the second half when the Cats erased a 28-10 deficit and scored the game's final 21 points.
"We've got to give people things to cheer about," he said. "Regardless of who you are, fans like teams that play inspired and play with heart. That's the type of football we've got to give our fans and this program. When you give them that, they respond the way they responded in the second half."