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Wildcats seek to avenge last year’s loss to Commodores in Saturday’s SEC opener

By Keith Taylor
Kentucky Today

Kentucky hasn’t forgotten last year’s loss to Vanderbilt and it still lingers nearly a year later.

The Wildcats (3-0) dropped a 24-21 loss to the Commodores that ended a six-game winning streak against their Southeastern Conference rivals.

As with other disappointing setbacks, Kentucky defensive coordinator Brad White remembers last year’s setback at Kroger Field.

Kentucky running back Ray Davis will return to Nashville to face his former team when Kentucky takes on Vanderbilt Saturday at noon. (Photo from Kentucky Today)

“I think any loss that you have, if it doesn’t linger with you or stick with you, maybe I question your competitive nature,” White said earlier this week. “The losses should stick with you way more than the wins. And I know they do for me. Every time you face an opponent that got the best of you the year before, you should have a little added something about, OK, can’t let this happen again, I remember that feeling.”

Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops likes the way his team prepared for the SEC opener this week and feels his squad is ready to turn the proverbial corner, especially on offense.

“I do like the way our team has prepared this week,” he said Thursday. “I’ve felt like their attention to detail and their focus has been heightened a bit. I think they’re tired of leaving plays on the field.

“It does not a matter of who we’re playing, it’s always a matter of us executing to the best of our ability. There’s been some really good things, and there’s been some sloppy play. I think the players have done a better job this week of really focusing and trying to improve.”

The Commodores (2-2) opened the season with two straight wins, but have lost two in a row, including a 40-37 setback at UNLV last Saturday.

“It was a heartbreaker for them. Knowing (Vanderbilt) Coach (Clark) Lea like I do, he’s going to have that team ready to play, I know them,” Stoops said. I saw it a year ago, I said it in the press conference on Monday a year ago, told our team, I watched the energy they play with. I watched how hard they play, how physical they are and anytime you do that it gives you an opportunity to win.”

Stoops added Vanderbilt features a different style of offense this season and the Commodores have “got some playmakers.”

“(Will) Sheppard hurt us a year ago and several of their guys, they can run,” he said. “They are throwing for darn near 300 yards a game and can move it around. Their quarterback is making good decisions. They’ve always had good schemes and they got playmakers and they are not afraid to throw some one-on-ones. If you press them and get on them, they have some wideouts that can make plays for them. We have to step up and make plays.”

Kentucky is one of five conference teams that are unbeaten through the first three games. Top-ranked Georgia, Auburn, Mississippi and Missouri each opened the season with three straight victories. The Wildcats are coming off a 35-3 win over Akron last Saturday.

Gametracker: Kentucky at Vanderbilt, noon, Saturday. TV/Radio: SEC Network, UK Radio Network.

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