By LARRY VAUGHT
9:39 AM EDT, November 1, 2012
LEXINGTON — Senior center Matt Smith has three games left to play for Kentucky, and he insists the speculation about coach Joker Phillips’ future won’t change how he and his teammates approach those games starting with Saturday’s matchup with Vanderbilt.
“We don’t really think about that when we are playing or when we are in the locker room. I hope that the way we are playing ... and we do hear it ... but we are playing for ourselves and the coaches,” said Smith. “We want these coaches to stay around. We know how much these coaches work and how good they are for the program.
“They teach us so much about life and doing the right thing and they have been able to help so many of these players that come from bad backgrounds. They have been able to help turn their lives around and it is great to see a lot of things like that. We want these coaches to stay around and we are playing for them, but at the same time we are just playing to help young guys accelerate their performance and move into next year. And we want to win.”
Smith said he understands why some may worry that UK¿players have given up, but he says that won’t happen.
“Playing for pride is what the rest of the season is about. We are just playing for the pride of Kentucky and trying to keep the fans around. Hopefully they will keep coming out and supporting us,” Smith said.
Kentucky has lost seven straight games and is 1-8 going into the Vanderbilt game. The Cats will then have an open week before playing their final home game against Samford and then ending the season at Tennessee.
Attendance has taken a dramatic dip at home games this year, but Smith says the fans who have attended are appreciated by the players.
“Those are the fans we want around here. We want all our fans to be like that. It has been tremendous with the way they have been tweeting us and on Facebook supporting us and always telling us when they see us out that they are still behind us 100 percent,” Smith said. “That’s the kind of support you want when you are having a down season like this.
“It’s hard to go out in public and people realize you are a football player and now it’s like what are they going to think of me. But when they come up to you and tell you they know you are working hard and they are still behind us, that makes a huge difference to us. We hope those fans keep coming out and we hope we get some of those back that have turned sides on us. We are just trying to keep the fans around because a lot of these young guys are getting good preparation for future and they will be doing some great things in the future.”
Smith will always believe this team is better than the record shows.
“There were so many times we were doing things where we should have scored and done things better. Some blocks missed that were lost yardage plays that could have been better. But you can’t blame one or two plays for what has happened this year,” Smith said. “We have made a lot of progress even if the record doesn’t show that. Some weeks we tried to do too much and put in too many new plays and got overloaded.
“Now we just have to play for the pride and play for seniors who want to go out with a bang.”
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