LEXINGTON, Ky. – Kentucky players are determined to keep their edge during their short break.
The Wildcats (2-1, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) have a bye this week before hosting Vanderbilt on Sept. 27. They want to build on what worked in the triple-overtime loss at Florida with an emphasis on finishing things against the Commodores, and ending a 17-game conference losing streak dating back to the 2011 season.
Kentucky coach Mark Stoops likes how players have moved on from the emotional 36-30 defeat with energetic practices this week. That's probably because the Wildcats would rather play than sit when they're on the brink of winning a league game.
"If it was up to me, I think I'd love to go play," Stoops said. "Guys are in good spirits. We have a lot left in our tank. We got a lot more we can do, (get) a lot better at things and we're excited to go to work.
"I wish we were playing, but we'll deal with it the way it is."
With much of the season still ahead, the Wildcats aren't complaining about a chance to recharge.
Sophomore quarterback Patrick Towles said it wasn't a bad time for the Wildcats to take off, adding that it gives the team a chance to catch a breather before settling into a routine for the remainder of the season.
"It's essential we treat this week as a week to definitely improve fundamentally," Towles said. "Vanderbilt's a good team. They went down to Florida last year and beat the crap out of them, so they're tough. The same front seven who gave us a hard time last year are back. We can't afford to take anybody lightly, so we're excited about getting prepared for Vandy."
The Wildcats' goal is following up on the strides they made against the Gators and showing opponents not to look past them anymore.
Kentucky's improvement was evident at Florida as it made big plays on both sides of the ball to lead in regulation and OT and position itself to end a 27-game losing streak to the Gators. But breakdowns that allowed Florida to extend its run demonstrated that the Wildcats have a way to go.
Through it all the Wildcats appeared confident they could win, and Stoops' mission is ensuring players keep that edge.
"Each time you get closer and closer (to achieving success), they believe more and more," the coach said. "We're not satisfied. We're far from perfect; we've got a lot of work to do."
Besides correcting mistakes, the bye gives the Wildcats time to heal. Stoops said the team has a chance to face Vanderbilt "close to 100 percent" health-wise with wide receiver Javess Blue likely to return since injuring his ankle in the season opener against Tennessee-Martin.
With the opportunity to end its SEC skid and surpass last year's win total, Kentucky defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree said the main thing is staying focused during their time off.
"Recruits are probably at home thinking and seeing the change around here," Dupree said. "They're seeing that coach Stoops is doing everything right for the program to take off. We've just got to go out there and prove that we've been working hard, too."