Kentucky was one yard away from a victory. As Mark Stoops said, that’s a tough pill to swallow.
“Our players fought extremely hard,” he said. “You come up a yard short and it’s very, very difficult, tough pill to swallow, but again I appreciate our team, I love their fight and their desire and their competitiveness to win. We all got to find a way to make up those yards and do a better job.”
Kentucky completely dominated the game on the ground, rushing for 302 yards to possess the ball for a whopping 41 minutes. There were plenty of opportunities to win. Instead, they must regroup to make sure the season does not end on a similar sour note.
“We just gotta take tonight, have everybody go about their grieving process and put it behind us. Next week we gotta focus on Vandy,” said Calvin Taylor Jr. “It’s that simple.”
The final scoreboard left much to be desired, but there are still a few positives to take away from the game. Chris Rodriguez had a career-high 81 rushing yards and Kentucky’s defense forced four three-and-outs.
“I feel for the kids because I think from start to finish they played hard,” said defensive coordinator Brad White. “They grinded and it just didn’t come out our way today. But they’ve got to keep that attitude, that mentality, week in and week out.”
The loss is going to sting. It should hurt. That feeling cannot linger for long.
“There’s going to be frustration and they got to control that, because it’s hard, these guys invest a lot,” said Stoops. “When you invest what we invest it’s going to hurt. So we got to handle that as best you can and try to keep the frustration to yourself and regroup. Then go look at the film and go look at the things and the areas where we all can do things better. That’s the only way can you handle it.”
Lynn Bowden was emotional after the loss. The hero since Kentucky’s first bye week, he tried to will the Wildcats to another win, but ultimately came up short.
“I don’t know how to feel. I was little emotional in the locker room. I’m the quarterback, so I gotta lead these guys,” he said. “We all came here to play football. This is our life for the next three or four years for some people. We just gotta fight.”
The loss feels like the Wildcats just lost a fistfight. The physical pain probably does not hurt as bad as the emotional pain. Will that traumatize the team for the final three games, or can they harness it to end the season on a high note?
“You just gotta stay together,” said Bowden. “Things like this can make or break a team. I think it’s going to make us.”