Three weeks ago, the Kentucky football team had dreams of a Southeastern Conference East title after a win over South Carolina.
Those dreams died with a loss to Georgia the following week, so the Cats re-adjusted, hoping to make it to a better bowl than in years past.
Those plans took a hit with a 24-17 loss to Mississippi State. Now it's come to this: The Wildcats (4-5, 1-5) must win two of their final three games just to preserve a streak of four straight bowl games.
Every player basically said the same thing: Nobody wants to be known as the team that ended the bowl streak.
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"That's the objective right now," defensive end Mark Crawford said. "Just get to a bowl game."
"We want to be the team to keep it going," fullback Moncell Allen said. "The guys before us got it going. We want to keep it going."
Receiver Randall Cobb said not qualifying for a bowl would be a letdown to the former players who set the tone for the bowl streak — guys like Wesley Woodyard, Keenan Burton, Andre Woodson, Rafael Little and Jacob Tamme.
"There's a lot of people this streak means a lot to: the former players, the fans, the coaches, and it means a lot to us too," Cobb said. "We just need to come out and play our best football these last few weeks."
The Wildcats close with Vanderbilt and Tennessee, so Saturday's game with Charleston Southern figures to be the one formality among the final three games. But like most coaches, Joker Phillips and his staff aren't looking past CSU or ahead to Vandy and Tennessee.
"The most important thing is winning this game here to get some momentum for the next game," Phillips said. "Momentum is key in this business, and we lost some momentum in these last six weeks."
"There's still a lot of work to be done," assistant head coach David Turner said. "There are no guarantees in this deal. But that goal is out there, they want to work towards it, and it's a big deal to them. It's a carrot that's dangling. But we can't worry about team X or team Y. We gotta worry about Charleston Southern. You take care of business on the field, the bowl picture will take care of itself."
When asked earlier this week to evaluate his team's performance, Phillips said he's pleased with the effort and physical play. It's what Phillips calls "taking care of business all the time" where the Wildcats have come up short.
"We're probably average at that, which usually means you're going to be 4-5," he said. "What's that winning percentage? 44 percent? That's failure in my opinion. But we've got a lot of season left."