KNOXVILLE — Through wins and losses, it's been a long eight weeks for Kentucky.
Eight weeks since the Cats have had a week to regroup and recoup.
After a 50-16 loss at Tennessee, a bye week is a necessity mentally, physically, emotionally, Coach Mark Stoops said on Saturday night after his team lost its fifth straight.
"They need a couple days to decompress here a little bit and get a little energy back in their step," Stoops said. "Physically and mentally just recharge a little bit."
When asked if his group is "beat down," offensive coordinator Neal Brown corrected it to "beat up."
"We are beat up right now," he said. "This bye week comes at a good time."
A team with limited depth took some hits. UK lost offensive linemen Darrian Miller (undisclosed pulled muscle) and Kyle Meadows (ankle), and quarterback Patrick Towles went down with an ankle sprain among other things.
Those injuries take a toll on UK's ability to practice at a high level, Brown said.
"When guys get beat up, you don't really get as much practice time as you need because they're injured and we're trying to get them well for the game on Saturday," he said. "So you can't practice as physical as you'd like to and you can't get as many reps. So that's when it hurts you."
Stoops noted that Tennessee had a bye week to recover before taking on Kentucky and how much that helped the Volunteers, especially in the second half.
"They were very prepared, very energetic," Stoops said. "They had two weeks to prepare and did a heck of a job."
Now Stoops and his staff have two weeks to do something similar as they prepare to go to Louisville to meet up with the Cats' biggest rival on Nov. 29.
"We've got our biggest game in two weeks, so we've got an extra week to prepare," said Towles, who had his left ankle in a walking boot after the game. "We've got to stay together like we have been this whole time and get ready for two weeks."
Kentucky plans to give the players a few days off and then regroup, the coaches said.
"We gotta use it," Brown said of the time off. "Get some young guys that are redshirting, get those guys reps. Get the guys that are playing, get them healthy. Get a good plan together and get ready to play our big rival."
'We tried not to quit'
Mark Stoops knows some fans and outsiders might roll their eyes at the idea that he was proud of UK's effort in a 50-16 defeat at Tennessee. He pointed to players like Alvin "Bud" Dupree and Josh Forrest, who both had career highs in tackles as proof that UK is still improving.
"That's kind of my point earlier where people might think I'm nuts, but I really do," he said. "I like our players' effort. I thought they were prepared to win the game and I thought we played hard."
Forrest had 20 tackles in the loss, the most for a UK player since Avery Williamson's 22 tackles versus Vanderbilt in 2012.
"It shows that we don't quit," said the linebacker, who had his fifth double-digit tackling game. "That's the whole thing, we tried not to quit."
Dupree's 15 tackles were a career best and his fourth career double-digit tackling game; he also had two tackles for a loss and a quarterback sack. The senior defensive end's previous high was 13 against Mississippi State in 2013.
A school record
UK probably set some records it didn't want to discuss, but at least one positive record was set at Neyland Stadium on Saturday night when freshman kicker Austin MacGinnis nailed a 54-yard field just before the half.
MacGinnis' kick bested a 23-year-old record by Doug Pelfrey.
"When I went out there, I didn't even know how long it was or that it was for the school record," he said afterward. "I knew Coach Stoops called field goal to end the first half and I am just blessed that it went in."
MacGinnis, one of just three kickers in the nation with three or more 50-yard field goals this season, is 17-for-23 on the year, including making three of his five attempts from 50 yards or longer.
Setting the record as a freshman was cool, he said.
"I am just blessed to have three more years after this to try to set a new record," he said. "I just feel blessed every day and can't wait to get back to work and get better."