COLUMBIA, Mo. — Wins no longer give Mark Stoops and his Kentucky team a sense of relief.
For the first time in a long time, they’ve become the expectation.
And after rolling over Missouri en route to 377 rushing yards and a 35-21 win on Saturday, satisfied was the feeling Stoops and company shied away from.
“This is about how much more we can do,” the coach said.
The win puts the Wildcats in the thick of the SEC East race. The path leading to Atlanta is still unlikely, but even the thought shows progress for a Kentucky team that started the season in an 0-2 hole.
A backup quarterback and a freshman running back have been at the heart of it. But not a lot was required from Stephen Johnson as Benny Snell and Boom Williams rumbled for 192 and 182 rushing yards against the Tigers. Kentucky came into the game as a touchdown underdog, but it took little time for the Wildcats to debunk the odds.
Fun will be had figuring Kentucky’s odds of vying for the SEC East title, but Stoops, in typical coach fashion, isn’t ready to speculate.
“No,” Stoops said. “We’re going to talk about next week. Who do we play? Georgia? OK, we’re worried about Georgia. That’s what I’m worried about.”
It was a message most of his players echoed after the game. Williams wouldn’t talk about it, but senior safety Blake McClain said it’s tough to ignore.
“No I don’t,” McClain said when asked if he’s thought about the East race.
Then he laughed, backpedaling a bit.
“I’m not even going to lie,” he said. “I know we’re up there, but every game we’ve got to keep winning. That’s the only way we’ll stay up there.”
Much like Stoops, McClain said things are different for Kentucky this season. “Satisfied,” McClain said, was two years ago when Kentucky started 5-1 and failed to make a bowl game. Now a postseason bid is all but certain with winless FCS foe Austin Peay awaiting in late November.
But now making a bowl isn’t the end goal.
There’s been a shift in culture.
“I think it’s about our team finally being in a position where we’re not satisfied,” Stoops said.