By JEFFREY McMURRAY
Associated Press Writer
LEXINGTON, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky defensive tackle Corey Peters says winning a national title would have been nice, but "baby steps" are what really motivate this team.
The No. 14 Wildcats' national championship hopes were likely dashed with their loss to Florida Saturday, but several smaller goals remain alive.
Kentucky's players entered the season talking about making a bowl game, competing in the Southeastern Conference and even winning it. The discussion in Lexington about challenging for the national championship game came much later, after the Wildcats toppled then-No. 1 LSU.
If the Wildcats were LSU or Florida, Peters says, missing out on that goal would have been crushing. Kentucky, with a far more limited history of football success, has humbler objectives.
"I guess we have smaller goals," Peters said. "I guess their fan base in football is kind of like ours in basketball. If they're not winning national championships, it's a failure. For us, it's taking baby steps. SEC first and national championship down the road."
Although the Wildcats have two losses, so too do Florida, Georgia and South Carolina, the teams in front of them in the SEC East.
Win out, and Kentucky could be back in the picture for the SEC title. Lose Saturday to Mississippi State, and that's probably gone too.
During his news conference Monday, Kentucky coach Rich Brooks was asked whether his Wildcats were the "real deal."
"I think we're a team that can compete and can have the opportunity to beat anybody we play," Brooks said. "If that's the real deal, maybe we're the real deal."
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)