By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky officially accepted a bid to the Taxslayer Bowl Dec. 31 in Jacksonville Sunday during a teleconference with media members.
After the official acceptance, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and athletics director Mitch Barnhart took questions from the media.
The first one: What did it mean to get that win over Louisville?
“It was big for us. I think each and every win was big for us as we were competing to reach bowl eligibility. We didn’t get off to the start we wanted to but it’s about how you finish,” Stoops said. “I think it was good for us to get that sixth victory before we played Louisville to take a little pressure off our team and let us play go in there and play with a lot of confidence and play loose. We really played a good football game.
“I think our best football is ahead of us and hopefully we can continue to improve through these bowl practices because we’ll need it. But it was big. I think it was big to get the Governor’s Cup, first and foremost, and to beat Louisville. We’ve been close the past couple of years, and again, it‘s another one of those doors we’re trying to knock down, so we’re tired of being close, we wanted to finish, and so we’re excited about playing in this bowl.”
Barnhart basically agreed with all that Stoops said.
“We started off 0-2 and we won seven of our last 10 games, so it was clear the team took steps along the way. The step we took to get to bowl eligibility was something we haven’t done in six years. We had been close a couple of times so that was a little bit of a monkey off our back, the next-to-last game of the season against Austin Peay. And then, had an opportunity to go to Louisville and play for the bragging rights in our state and that was a big deal for our program but it also elevated our thought process of what we wanted to aspire to,” Barnhart said.
“Obviously, for your young people, you want to put them in the best position you can for postseason play and have an opportunity to get to the TaxSlayer in Jacksonville, with the great history of this bowl, it resonates with our kids. They got excited and at the end of the day, that’s what we’re all in this for, is to help fulfill some dreams and hopes for them.”