UK Football

‘We won’t let that happen.’ How UK plans to avoid overconfidence.

Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad and quarterback Terry Wilson (3) celebrated a Benny Snell (26) touchdown this season. The Cats are working hard to get back on track offensively, Conrad said, calling the issues “small stuff that’s really fixable.”
Kentucky tight end C.J. Conrad and quarterback Terry Wilson (3) celebrated a Benny Snell (26) touchdown this season. The Cats are working hard to get back on track offensively, Conrad said, calling the issues “small stuff that’s really fixable.” aslitz@herald-leader.com

South Carolina no doubt has plenty of motivation walking into sold out Kroger Field on Saturday having lost four in a row to Kentucky.

“They’ve got guys who are hungry,” UK tight end C.J. Conrad said. “I’d be hungry if we’d lost four years in a row to us, too.”

But the Gamecocks have been careful not to discuss it — at least not on social media or any other kind of media — this week.

“We don’t do that talking,” defensive lineman Javon Kinlaw said Tuesday. “We just do what we need to do and leave the talking for after the game.”

The junior hit all of the talking points about UK running back Benny Snell, whom he called “a Heisman =-caliber back for what he’s been doing.

“He’s definitely a good back, gonna play on Sundays,” Kinlaw said. “But we’re going to try to play our blocks and try to stop him.”

From Will Muschamp on down, the Gamecocks say it’s not about the streak, with the head coach saying “it’s 2018 South Carolina versus 2018 Kentucky.”

The question is: Can 2018 Kentucky put aside its streak of four straight wins to open the season and its new No. 17 national ranking, a first for the program in 11 years?

Can 2018 Kentucky refocus after a few days of fans and friends telling them how special they are?

Conrad doesn’t seem concerned about this year’s Kentucky team despite the ranking and the accolades and the new Heisman Trophy campaign for its biggest star.

“Been preaching to the guys all week that these guys are going to come in and play hard,” the tight end said of South Carolina. “They’re going to be getting after us. What I’m trying to do as a leader is inspire these guys.

“We can’t have a hangover from Mississippi State. I don’t anticipate that at all. We’ve got guys who are leaders on this team and we won’t let that happen.”

A leader on the other side of the ball, linebacker Josh Allen, didn’t seem worried either.

“It feels great, but we’re not settling just for where we’re at now,” he said of the rankings and the pats on the back. “We want to get better, we want to be the best. To be the best, you’ve got to keep winning.”

Kash Daniel called this “any other week” for the unbeaten Wildcats, who are trying to start a season 5-0 for the first time since 2007 and start SEC play 3-0 for the first time since the 1977 team that went undefeated in the league.

“Your preparation has got to be on point,” he said. “You’ve got to be gap-sound. You’ve got to make the right checks. You’ve got to know your opponent and know who you’re going up against.”

Daniel’s comments echo Coach Mark Stoops, who was asked about trying to keep his team grounded even though it seems to be sky high after this fast start.

“It’s obedience,” Stoops said simply. “It’s being obedient and disciplined to do the things you have to do. And it’s about earning it.

“You earn it in the way you prepare. Our players are starting to buy into that and they like the grind, the discipline that it takes to earn it throughout the week.”

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