Tape It Up: Kentucky: The Pain Of Victory

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Kentucky: The Pain Of Victory

Kentucky won probably the biggest game ever played in its home stadium last Saturday, outlasting the nation's then-No. 1 team in a classic SEC battle. But early this week, while the Wildcat players may have been on cloud nine, their bodies were somewhere in the underworld. The triple-overtime win over LSU was a long, hard, gritty four hours of football, and the players are still feeling the effects of such a tough fight. But with No. 14 Florida on tap this week, Kentucky can hardly afford a letdown, and with their injury rundown, keeping morale up has suddenly become an essential part of the weekly routine.

Tailback Rafael Little, who puts up an average of more than 113 rush yards per game, missed the high-octane LSU matchup with a deep thigh bruise that should have been on the road to recovery by now. Unfortunately for Little, calcium deposits have built up around the injury, taking the senior out of at least the next two games, as well.

Little will have plenty of company on the sideline, as cornerback Paul Warford's fractured clavicle will keep him out for the next two weeks, as well. Defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin will attempt to return to practice this week after missing five games with a hip injury, and two other players absent from the LSU game, linebacker Johnny Williams and safety Marcus McClinton, will also try to make comebacks this week, battling plantar fascitis and an ankle sprain, respectively.

Tailback Alfonso Smith, who has missed the past three games with a high ankle sprain, will also attempt to return in time to take on the Gators, giving probable starter Tony Dixon some help in the backfield.

No matter how many players return to action this week, Kentucky is starting this game at a clear disadvantage - the Wildcats played their toughest game of the season last weekend, while Florida has not played a game since Oct. 6, thanks to last week's bye.

"From a health standpoint, they've got a tremendous edge," head coach Rich Brooks said on Monday. "Most of their players will be free of even the soreness and stiffness you usually carry from week to week, let alone having time to heal significant injuries."

Will Brooks allow soreness and stiffness as excuses for poor execution? Certainly not. But is health a concern for a rising Kentucky team? Certainly so.

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