Cats stay outside on sloppy day

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Rain came to Lexington on Wednesday afternoon, but the Kentucky football team stayed outside for its third practice of the week.

Though the forecast is clear for UK's game on Saturday against Missouri, Mark Stoops is always happy to see how his team responds in less-than-ideal conditions.

"Sloppy day out there," Stoops said. "Messy day. So it was good to get some sloppy ball out there, so it was good to get some wet ball, some work in the rain. Got our work done and feel good about where we're at and our preparations and just moving forward."

It was a test for the passing game as Jalen Whitlow works with a receiving corps significantly hampered by injury. After productive work on the first days of the week, the Wildcats once again took step forward on Wednesday.

"I think we're getting better," Stoops said. "I thought Jalen had a very good day yesterday and seemed to have a good day today. Javess (Blue) is fresh. He looked good. Demarco (Robinson), (Jeff) Badet -- all those guys are getting better. We need to use our tight ends a little bit more and get them some balls."

Missouri, however, will present an even stiffer challenge than any weather. The Tigers lead the Southeastern Conference in turnover margin and feature what offensive coordinator Neal Brown calls the fastest defensive line UK will have faced all season.

"The first thing that jumps off the film when you're watching Missouri is their defensive line," Brown said. "They go two or three deep at each position. They can really run."

Considering Missouri's talent on both sides of the ball, it stands to reason that the UK coaches would once again look to special teams for an edge. In Stoops and special teams coordinator Bradley Dale Peveto's first season, Wildcat specialists have created a number of big plays -- including a punt block last week and a memorable fake field goal for a touchdown against Florida -- while also being solid overall.

"It tells me a lot about a team," Stoops said. "That's kind of the heart of your team. There's a lot of guys on there that are really doing a good job and being very unselfish, and I think Coach Peveto's done a great job of coaching them up."

Considering the plays UK has already called -- Stoops and Peveto work together to make such decisions -- on special teams, opponents are becoming aware of the Cats' reputation for special-teams trickery and adjusting.

"It's just like I said in some other games, we had some things called and they jump out into a safe look and took it away," Stoops said. "That can help you in some areas, but certainly they could catch you. If you try to run some sort of fake or a trick play, they could catch you and it could hurt you."

Don't expect UK to stop trying though. A former defensive coordinator, Stoops may seem buttoned-down and conservative, but he's not afraid to gamble -- as long as the odds are right.

"Some of that stuff isn't as low-percentage as you might think," Stoops said. "So if we feel that something's there and there's a different percentage of converting it, then I'm all for it."

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