The University of Kentucky football team just completed a brutal two-game stretch with visits from top-ranked Florida and No. 3 Alabama, which represented the highest back-to-back ranked opponents in school history.
But the fun doesn't stop there for the Wildcats. Now UK must go on the road in consecutive weeks to face two more ranked opponents, No. 25 South Carolina (4-1) and No. 17 Auburn (5-0).
The Gamecocks followed up a win over then-No. 4 Mississippi with a 38-14 win over FCS opponent South Carolina State.
"Well, maybe this will qualify for the third and fourth highest ranked opponents in school history," UK Coach Rich Brooks said with a laugh. "Obviously it's a very difficult stretch. Now we have to go out on the road and play a ranked team and one that's playing pretty good. They didn't play their best game (Saturday) but they got done what they needed to get done and it was a pretty comfortable win."
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The Wildcats came out of the Florida-Alabama double-dip about where most people expected, at 2-2.
And while they didn't come close to pulling off an upset in either game, Brooks said he feels better about how his team responded in the Alabama game after being humiliated 31-0 in the first quarter against Florida.
The Crimson Tide scored easily on its first possession of the game, but Kentucky bounced back and was down only 7-6 late in the second quarter before allowing a 97-yard drive and giving up a touchdown on a Derrick Locke fumble.
Still, Kentucky ran the ball much better (38 rushes, 133 yards) than any other team has against Alabama and stuffed the Tide defensively on four straight possessions before giving up the long drive. Alabama Coach Nick Saban praised the Wildcats' effort after the game.
"I thought we played very well in spurts against Alabama," Brooks said. "If you take away the four turnovers, just that alone we're in the game with a chance to win it and maybe we win it. We made progress from week three to week four but that doesn't satisfy anybody until you win games. But we did show what we're capable of doing if we eliminate stupid penalties and don't turn the ball over."
The players say they still feel good about themselves heading into Columbia.
"I hope the fans realize that this is the No. 1 and No. 3 teams we just played. We had opportunities to win the (Alabama) game but shot ourselves in the foot," sophomore receiver Randall Cobb said. "The thing we can't do is hang our heads. That will be the difference between us winning the next few games and losing the next few games, the way we come back up from this loss."
"The majority of the things that (Florida and Alabama) got were mental mistakes, missed tackles and just bad plays in general," said senior defensive tackle Corey Peters. "I don't feel like either of these teams manhandled us. ... Florida's faster, that's pretty obvious, but at the same time I came away thinking we could have played much better. I don't feel like they took my soul or anything."
Lindley doubtful for South Carolina
The Cats might have to play without standout cornerback Trevard Lindley when they travel to South Carolina on Sunday.
UK Coach Rich Brooks said that Lindley is doubtful with a sprained ankle suffered in the third quarter of UK's 38-20 loss to No. 3 Alabama on Saturday. Initial X-rays were negative, but Brooks said Lindley still has swelling around the ankle and said no more would be known about the extent of Lindley's availability until the next 24 to 48 hours when the swelling goes down. UK's other starting cornerback, Paul Warford, could also miss a second straight game with a quadriceps injury. Sophomore Randall Burden took Warford's place in the lineup against Alabama, and true freshman Martavious Neloms would make his first career start if Lindley can't play against South Carolina. Sophomore Cartier Rice would serve as the nickel back.
Alabama gets five extra yards on UK penalty
Alabama was incorrectly awarded five extra yards on a personal foul against UK defensive end DeQuin Evans on the first play from scrimmage. Evans was whistled for a late hit on Alabama quarterback Greg McElroy, which is a 15-yard penalty. But the ball was moved 20 yards from the UK 37-yard line to the 17. Mark Ingram scored on an 11-yard run two plays later. Brooks said he wasn't aware of the mistake at the time it happened.
"That should never, ever, happen," Brooks said. "I would have been screaming if I had known at the time. I was trying to find out who had the penalty and what the heck he did."