JACKSONVILLE – For Kentucky coach Mark Stoops and his Wildcats, Saturday’s TaxSlayer Bowl is the culmination of a season that has both met and exceeded expectations.
While meeting with media Friday, Stoops and UK players spoke about practicing for this moment – playing in a bowl for the first time in six seasons.
“I am proud of this group in general,” said Stoops, whose team meets Georgia Tech on Saturday morning.
While the SEC hasn’t been the juggernaut it has been in years past when it comes to bowl games, the chance to win one for the school and to add to the conference’s win total is special for both coaches and players.
RELATED: WATCH: TaxSlayer Bowl preview
Courtney Miggins, a senior defensive end, said it’s special because the team hasn’t been to a bowl since the 2010 season.
“It’s pretty big for me,” he said. “It’s my last year and it’s been a joy.”
The game is also special, players said, because the freshmen on the team have played in just as many bowls as the seniors on the roster.
“We worked all off season to finish. To get to come here and spend time together has been wonderful,” Miggins said.
Senior center Jon Toth said this is a special time for him. Toth said he and his teammates have been practicing what the coaching staff has been preaching – “keep your head down and work every game.” The win in the regular-season finale over Heisman winner Lamar Jackson and Louisville was proof the hard work has paid off.
“This is new territory,” Toth said. “It’s beneficial for the program.”
Kentucky’s berth in the TaxSlayer Bowl means every SEC team now has played in the bowl, either under its current name or during its years as the Gator Bowl.
Kentucky has been to 15 bowls in its history, posting an 8-7 record. The last time the Wildcats played in the postseason, Joker Phillips and his team lost 27-10 to Pittsburgh in the BBVA Compass Bowl following the 2010 season.
(You can follow David Levin on Twitter @DM719907)
© 2016, gridironnow.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.