Coaches know that there have been plenty of people telling the Kentucky players that they're awesome this week.
"I'm sure a lot of people around campus have been telling them good job and slapping them on the back," UK Coach Mark Stoops said as his team tries to come down off the high of topping South Carolina last weekend.
The Cats (4-1) are off to their best start since 2008 and are looking to move to 5-1 against their final non-"Power Five" opponent in Louisiana-Monroe on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium.
The UK staff has done a good job of keeping the players focused on the next play, the next game, the head coach said.
"The coaches are doing a good job of keeping them on edge, but you never really know how they're going to come out," Stoops said. "There's no reason for me to be worried about it at this point. They seem like they've prepared the right way."
The Warhawks (3-2) especially have Kentucky's attention with their defensive stats, holding opponents to 24 points a game. They have 19 quarterback sacks this season, eighth most in the country, and have managed 33 tackles for loss.
Much of that production is created by ULM's 3-3 stack defense, which means lots of man coverage and a ton of blitzing. It can also mean lots of quarterback confusion.
"You can't really get a beat for which they're bringing," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "They bring five quite a bit. I think they do a good job. They're disruptive."
They certainly have quarterback Patrick Towles' attention this week. It's similar to what he sees from Kentucky's multiple defense, which can wreak its own kind of havoc.
"They get a lot of tackles for loss," he said. "They put a lot of pressure on the quarterback, but there's a lot of opportunities for big plays. When they come we've got to hit them. Hopefully we can do that."
And just because players are getting back slaps and applause around every corner this week, Brown believes his group will come out ready for a challenge.
"Don't expect a letdown; I don't believe in it," he said. "You've got 365 days for 12 opportunities. You better not waste one. I fully expect us not to waste one."
Smith big boost for Cats
Maxwell Smith hasn't played a down of football on the field this season, but his impact has been felt all over it.
The part-time starter and Cats passing leader for each of the past three seasons has been steadily returning from off-season surgery on his throwing shoulder.
He's helping with scout team duties, but even more importantly, the junior quarterback has become a key resource for the UK quarterbacks, most notably Towles.
"I can't say enough positive about him," Brown said. "He's done a great job with our younger guys, really kind of being a leader in how to prepare for a game, asking great questions in our meetings."
If you watch the UK sidelines closely, Smith is always one of the first to greet Towles when he comes off the field. Touchdown or interception, Smith is there with encouragement.
"The way he's handled it, the energy that he brings, the commitment that he brings to this football team, he's wonderful that way," Stoops said of Smith, who has passed for 21 touchdowns and more than 3,000 career yards. "He really helps us."
Smith is Towles' roommate before games. That's been a big help, too.
"He's all about answering my questions and giving advice and giving little wrinkles that he knows that nobody else knows, because he's played the position," the current Kentucky quarterback said.
Smith, who has not been made available for interviews this season because he has not played in a game, already shows the signs of being a future coach, Brown said.
"He may look at me some mornings and think not, but he, I think it's something he's thinking about and he's got the talent and he's got the knack," Brown said. "He knows how to handle people. He's got good leadership skills. He's got a good knowledge of the game."
'Fun to be on both sides'
Cats defensive tackle Mike Douglas has had the unique experience of both rushing the field after a win over South Carolina and being a big part of the reason fans rushed the field after a win over the Gamecocks.
The senior was a red-shirt freshman in 2010 when the Cats upset South Carolina at Commonwealth Stadium, snapping a long losing streak to Coach Steve Spurrier. Douglas recalled he was hosting Tim Patterson on his official visit that night.
Douglas joined the other UK fans storming onto the field after that big win, then his batted pass led to the interception for a touchdown for Bud Dupree on Saturday night.
"It was kind of fun to be on both sides of that," he smiled. "To have the same type of atmosphere from that 2010 game against South Carolina as we did last week felt good."
His main takeaway is that it's less exhausting to be in the stands for a big game like that.
"You're a lot more tired when you're on the field after the game, but it's the same excitement," he said.
After UK's win Saturday night, Towles also mentioned that he'd stormed the field as a fan, too.
"I've been one of those people coming over the wall before," he said. "So it's nice to be on the other side."
This time around, the quarterback spent the time after the game starring in several selfies with fans and seeking out some specific fans on the field.
"I really was just looking for my mom, my family and my dad," he said. "And once I saw them, I just ran inside. But it was awesome."
Boogie nights over?
Just when you thought Commonwealth Stadium couldn't get any louder coming off the trick play for a touchdown that saw a wide open Ryan Timmons catch a 48-yard bomb from Towles on Saturday, it erupted again as the Kentucky kickoff team did an impromptu dance waiting for the TV timeout to finish.
Stoops said he was warned by an official that the team could be penalized if it happened again.
"I see other teams doing it, so I've got to get clarification on that, but it's not something we're practicing or anything like that," Stoops said. "But I want them excited and energized and in that huddle ready to go. So it was fun. It was an exciting time."
Kentucky will host its annual Heroes' Day this Saturday against ULM, an event to honor all active, reserve and veteran members of the armed forces along with police, firefighters and first responders.
The day is scheduled to include a football field-sized American flag and recognition of personnel throughout the game.
Individual tickets can be obtained on game day with the presentation of a service ID at the ticket booth next to Gate 4.
■ UK's gymnastics team is holding a Halloween costume drive to benefit underprivileged children in the Lexington area. The team will collect costumes Saturday from 9:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m. at guest services desks outside Commonwealth Stadium gates one and nine.
■ Junior running back Josh Clemons, who has come back from multiple injuries, has been nominated for the 2014 Orange Bowl-Football Writers Association of America Courage Award. The 5-foot-10, 223-pound running back from Fayetteville, Ga., led UK in rushing before a season-ending knee injury and then another season-ending Achilles' tendon injury.