Cats preparing for No. 9 Missouri

LEXINGTON, Ky. - With another top-10 opponent coming to town, Mark Stoops understands the enormity of the task his team will face in Missouri.
That's what makes the good work Kentucky has done in its first two days of practice ahead of Saturday's game against the Tigers.

"We got a great challenge ahead of us this week," Stoops said. "Got off to a decent start here with a Monday and a Tuesday practice. We're facing a very good football team, so we don't have enough hours in the day and enough reps we can do in practice to prepare ourselves, but it was a good day overall, and looking forward to the challenge here this weekend."

UK's confidence was buoyed over the weekend as the Wildcats got back in the win column with a dominating performance against Alabama State. Stoops, however, quickly reminded his team that the effort was far from flawless and that improvement still needed to be made.

The Cats have embraced that attitude.

"They know," Stoops said. "Win or lose, we've got to get these things corrected. And that's what we're constantly trying to do, just get better as a program."

With that in mind, UK's offensive and defensive first teamers spent much of Tuesday's practice going head to head. The Wildcat defensive backs -- who will face the monumental task of defending Missouri receivers who collectively resemble a basketball team with their height and athleticism -- were primary beneficiaries of that work.

"We went a good dose of good against good with the offense today, so it was a good long practice, a lot of reps, and those guys, they're gonna get a good workout," Stoops said.

This week, the defensive backs are lining up opposite a UK receiving corps thinned significantly by injury. Alexander Montgomery is out for the season with a torn ACL, while Ryan Timmons is likely to miss Saturday's game due to a sprained ankle.

Timmons and Montgomery are UK's second-and third-leading pass catchers, combining for 43 catches, 432 and two touchdowns, so the Cats are looking for receivers to step up.

"Javess (Blue) is fresh with sitting out last week," Stoops said. "So Javess is good. Demarco's (Robinson) stepping up and continuing. A.J. (Legree), like I said, I think he's getting better and better. Those are three that are jumping out at me."

At least on Tuesday, the offense didn't suffer for Timmons and Montgomery's absence, as Jalen Whitlow seems to have taken a firm grasp of the quarterback position.

"He seems to be rolling along pretty good," Stoops said. "They were as sharp today going against us as I've seen them in a while, so that was good to see."

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