Kentucky Wildcats wrap up first practice in Orlando

ORLANDO, Fla. (WYMT) - The work has begun for the Kentucky Wildcats as the team held its first practice in the Sunshine State Thursday afternoon.

(Photo: UK Athletics)

The Wildcats held their first practice at West Orange High School as the team gets ready for Tuesday's New Year's Day matchup with Penn State.

"It's great to be here in Florida, beautiful weather, great practice facility here, it feels good," UK Football head coach Mark Stoops said following practice. "Good to get the players back, everybody got here safely from their Christmas break and to get started on a beautiful day so it's a good Monday for us."

The Sunshine State is definitely a different setting from Kentucky's Bowl game last year in Nashville, and Stoops says that he is trying to make sure the players enjoy their time in Florida.

"We had a little bit of free time this morning and I encouraged the players to get out and enjoy the sun around the pool before we got started with practice," Stoops said. "They are going to go to one of the theme parks around here tonight (Thursday), and I encouraged them to get out. This morning there were a bunch of guys out there so I went out and walked around the pool and there was a bunch of guys out there getting a little sun, enjoying it and they commented on it as well. A year ago we were in some cold weather and this year it is really nice to be down here."

This year is Kentucky's first appearance in the VRBO Citrus Bowl and fourth-ever on New Year's Day.

It is also Kentucky's third-straight year going to a Bowl game, but UK hasn't won in a Bowl game since the Wildcats defeated East Carolina in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl in 2009.

Mark Stoops said following practice Thursday that it's a luxury to have guys who have had experience playing in Bowl games, but he doesn't want to just play, he wants to bring home the trophy.

"I definitely think that is a big piece of it," Stoops said. "These guys have been there, we have been to two Bowl games in a row now. We didn't walk off of the field with that Trophy and that is a big piece of it to get that victory here this week."

Should Kentucky come away with the win, it would give the Wildcats their 10th win, a feat that has only happened two other times in program history (1950, 1977).

"Without a doubt, that is a big piece of it to get down here and play well and get that 10th victory. I've talked to the team about that. I want them to enjoy this experience, when we get free time, enjoy it and enjoy themselves. But when it is time to lock in at meetings and at practice to really be locked in and energized and they got off to a good start today (Thursday).

Kentucky meets Penn State Tuesday at 1 p.m.

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