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Video: Stoops on UK's loss to Georgia

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Senior Day live blog: Football vs. Georgia

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Live Blog Senior Day: Football vs. Georgia
 

On Thursday, Mark Stoops spoke publicly for the final time before UK's Senior Day matchup with No. 17 Georgia. The news from the day was that nickelback Blake McClain and tight end Steven Borden will miss Saturday's game due to injury. Also, quarterback Drew Barker -- redshirting this season -- suffered a knee injury on Tuesday and will miss the next 2-3 weeks. Watch Stoops' comments in full in the video above.

Dupree, seniors out to make final home game count

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Bud Dupree is among 22 Wildcats who will participate in Senior Day festivities before UK's game vs. Georgia on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Bud Dupree is among 22 Wildcats who will participate in Senior Day festivities before UK's game vs. Georgia on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Bud Dupree heard the cliches from his older teammates about how he should treasure his time at Kentucky because of how quickly it would pass.

"I remember when I was a freshman and all the upperclassmen were telling me that it would fly by. I kind of just brushed it off, just thinking they were talking."

Three years later, Dupree has changed his tune.

"But now that I'm in their shoes, I'm telling the freshmen now everything's gonna fly by," Dupree said.

Dupree, now second in school history with 21.5 career sacks, will be one of 22 players honored as part of Senior Day festivities before UK's game against Georgia at noon ET on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. The star defensive end/linebacker will have family up from his hometown of Irwinton, Ga., including both of his parents, and knows it will be an emotional day, though his focus is elsewhere.

"I try not to think about it, because I don't want to get soft, you know?" Dupree said.

Dupree doesn't want to "get soft" because the Wildcats (5-4, 2-4 Southeastern Conference) have an important game to play. UK, having lost three straight against tough league opponents, will try once again for bowl eligibility.

"It would mean a lot to me as well as the fellow seniors to go out on Senior Night, last game at Commonwealth, and win," Dupree said. "Just get the program another boost that we have been working so hard for and just put us in the (position) to get to a different, a bigger bowl. At the end of the day, that's the goal, just get to a bowl and just keep winning games, one week at a time."

This week, the No. 17 Georgia (6-2, 4-2 SEC) presents the challenge at hand. The Bulldogs are coming off a 38-20 defeat against Florida, but likely only makes them more dangerous.

"They bring a very good football team," Mark Stoops said. "I think they bring a power running team that we know has hurt us in the past as well. They can run the heck out of the football. They're very talented. They can throw it. They're very balanced. They're playing great defense."

Georgia will once again be without star running back Todd Gurley, who is serving the last of a four-game suspension for a violation of team rules, but Nick Chubb has gained at least 174 yards from scrimmage in the three games Gurley has missed. The Bulldogs, in other words, have been effective on the ground no matter who has carried the load, ranking third in the SEC with 250.2 rushing yards per game.

"Georgia is very multiple on offense and they can do a lot of things in a lot of different ways with different players," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "So you have to prepare for them and be able to defend them in a lot of different looks and versus a lot of different plays. So that's quite a challenge."

On the other side of the ball, the Bulldogs present a similarly stiff test. Georgia is fourth in the SEC in total defense, allowing just 336.1 yards per game.

"They're very talented up front," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "I think when you talk about the best teams in our league, much like Missouri, the ability of their guys up front. They have length."

UK, of course, struggled on offense against Missouri. Patrick Towles was sacked just twice, but faced regular pressure in the pocket and completed just 19-of-37 passes for 158 yards after a big game the previous week against top-ranked Mississippi State.

"Georgia is going to present a real problem to us because, first of all, they're not going to give you anything," Stoops said. "They're one of those aggressive defenses. They're very well coached. They're not going to give you anything easy."

To overcome that, Stoops said there is no "magical little scheme." Of course UK's coaches can refine and enhance the game plan, but this week has been about challenging the Cats more than anything else.

"It comes down to winning some matchups," Stoops said. "If you just watch them, take a couple examples, they need a third and five or something, they're going to create space, they're going to catch it and get it. We get covered and there's nowhere to throw the ball."

Stoops has delivered that message all week, starting on Monday with the first team meeting after the Missouri loss. Dupree called the scene "ugly," but necessary.

"Coach Stoops said he was going to give it to us, and he did," Dupree said. "He did exactly what he said. But we needed that. You need a reality check sometimes and guys need to be called out for situations that they were in and things they do on the field - and off the field."

That challenge would be more difficult to respond to if they Cats hadn't already proven themselves capable of winning those individual battles against the likes of Mississippi State, South Carolina and Florida.

"We've just gotta be more consistent as a whole," Towles said. "We've had some really good games; we've had some not-so-good games. We just gotta holistically execute better."

To that end, Stoops has relied on a "special group" of seniors UK will bid farewell to on Saturday as he has all season.

"I think it's important to show some leadership and some character," Stoops said. "We need those guys to step up and push us over the top, push the younger guys to, again, be more disciplined, to do the little things right, to create those winning habits."

Dupree and his fellow seniors have balanced a lot this week, from thinking about the approach end of their college careers to planning time with family to leading their team, but Saturday will be all about one thing.

"It's going to be a lot of emotions flying around, but we just gotta bottle all that up and focus on the win," Dupree said.


Kentucky continued its work ahead of a Senior Day matchup with Georgia on Wednesday. Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot left the practice field happy with the Wildcats' effort.

"We had a good day of practice," Eliot said. "Kids were into it, flying around, good and physical. It was a good Wednesday; it's what we're looking for."

The coaching staff is getting what it wants out of practice on the heels of a performance at Missouri that Mark Stoops said was among the most disappointing of his two-year tenure. Unsurprisingly, that drew Stoops' ire in the team's first meeting of the week on Monday.

"It was ugly," senior Bud Dupree said. "Coach Stoops said he was going to give it to us and he did exactly what he said. But we needed that. You need a reality check sometimes."

Dupree certainly would rather have avoided that reality check, but he knows it was necessary.

"At the end of the day, he still cares," Dupree said. "But that shows a lot that he cares that much about us that he really thought we could win the games that we've been losing. It was coming and the time couldn't be at a better point in the season."

With three games remaining and therefore three more chances at gaining bowl eligibility, Eliot says the Cats have "responded well."

"They got the message and they came out in practice all week and have focused on being disciplined and doing the little things right, practiced hard and paid attention to detail," Eliot said.

UK will call on that work on Saturday at noon ET when the No. 17 Bulldogs come to town.

"Georgia is very multiple on offense and they can do a lot of things in a lot of different way with different players," Eliot said. "So you have to prepare for them and be able to defend them in a lot of different looks and versus a lot of different plays. So that's quite a challenge."



The last three weeks have summed up the challenge facing Neal Brown.

To start the stretch, Kentucky's offense was ineffective in a blowout loss at LSU, but the Wildcats bounced back with one of their better efforts in a hard-fought game against No. 1 Mississippi State the next week. What followed was a lackluster performance at Missouri.

Looking to find the form that escaped his team in Columbia, Mo., Brown and his offense have gone back to work.

"We're going to be hard on them all week and probably need to continue being hard on them," Brown said. "Some of that is youth. Some of it is guys just not stepping up and making plays in the moment. We're going to get through it, and we will play better this week and hopefully this will be the last time that we have to talk about consistency."

Naturally, much of the talk after the loss to the Tigers was also about Patrick Towles, who struggled a week after out-producing Heisman frontrunner Dak Prescott. Neither Brown nor Towles is ignoring that the sophomore quarterback needs to improve entering a tough matchup with No. 17 Georgia, but so do the players surrounding him.

"I think he was in a little bit of a fog," Brown said. "I think he recognizes it. I wish there was a magic pill, and for whatever reason, things didn't go real well early, and I don't think he ever really snapped out of it. He was disappointed, I was disappointed. If he would have played better, would we have had a chance? Yes. But a lot of things were out of his control."

Brown and Towles on Tuesday and Mark Stoops on Monday each mentioned a six-step out route that a receiver ran incorrectly on a second-half fourth down as an example of just that.

"We were just really undisciplined at Missouri," Brown said. "It wasn't necessarily 11 guys at once. It was one guy here on a key play, and (then) another guy. On offense -- I think I said this after the game -- you've got to have 11 guys on the same page doing their job. On defense sometimes one tremendous player can go make a play. It just doesn't work that way on offense."

Youth and inexperience may be reasons for UK's fits and starts on offense, but the Cats are refusing to use them as excuses.

"We've just gotta be more consistent as a whole," Towles said. "We've had some really good games; we've had some not-so-good games. We just gotta holistically execute better."

UK took a step in that direction on Tuesday with a solid day of work. The Cats are taking to heart Stoops' message that they need to step up and choose to play disciplined football, regardless of the circumstances.

"This is a tough league," said Towles, who returned to the Nutter Training Facility for interviews on Tuesday after a test. "We're playing great teams every week. So we gotta execute no matter who it's against. We gotta be able to run the ball against big guys and we gotta be able to throw the ball against athletic secondaries."

The Cats don't have to wait long before their next such opponent and Towles and the Cats are hard at work preparing for it.

"That last period we had before I left for my exam, I probably had the best period I've had," Towles said. "And it was a blitz period, so we're improving and I'm looking forward to another opportunity on Saturday, for sure."

While six of Kentucky's 11 NFL alumni spent the weekend at home enjoying their respective teams' bye weeks, the remaining five former Cats went home with losses in NFL Week 9. Fullback John Conner's New York Jets fell to the Kansas City Chiefs 24-10, while offensive tackle Garry Williams and the Carolina Panthers lost to the New Orleans Saints, 28-10.

With Denver Broncos linebacker Danny Trevathan sidelined by injury, only two UK skill players saw the field on Sunday:

Cats in the Spotlight

Stevie Johnson | #13 WR | San Francisco 49ers (4-4)
Despite three catches for 41 yards from Stevie Johnson, the 49ers fumbled away a chance for a go-ahead touchdown with only two seconds remaining in the fourth quarter. San Francisco was upset by the St. Louis Rams, 13-10.

Jacob Tamme | #84 TE | Denver Broncos (6-2)

In what was perhaps an even more surprising outcome than the conclusion of the 49ers-Rams matchup, the AFC West-leading Broncos were embarrassed by the New England Patriots on the road in Foxboro, Mass. Targeted five times by quarterback Peyton Manning, Jacob Tamme connected on one recpetion for 10 yards. Tom Brady's Patriots emerged victorious, 43-21.


Almost two years into his Kentucky tenure, Mark Stoops has become famous for his fire.

That passion, one of the driving forces behind the progress of the UK program, is most often seen on the sideline on Saturday, but this week it made an earlier appearance.

Stoops, at his regular Monday press conference, minced no words in evaluating his team's performance in a loss over the weekend and spoke in no uncertain terms about what the Wildcats need to do over the final month of the regular season.

The gathered media, noting his frustration, wondered what Stoops would be like when he met with his team later in the day.

"You can stand out in the street and you'll hear," Stoops said.

Stoops isn't angry for the sake of being angry either. He sees a UK team that has fallen to 5-4 (2-4 Southeastern Conference) but still has every opportunity to address the discipline issues that plagued the Cats in a deflating 20-10 loss at Missouri.

"I feel like our players and our coaches, starting with me, we have a choice in that matter," Stoops said. "We either choose to be disciplined or we choose to be undisciplined. We either choose to be a trained football team and us as a coaching staff need to train them."

To Stoops, that all comes down to details.

"If you're supposed to run a six-step out, run it six, not eight," Stoops said. "If you're supposed to follow the guard on a run play, follow the guard, not just run anywhere you want to run. That's what I mean by 'untrained.' It's creating those habits and training to play when you're under pressure. When we're under pressure, our habits come right to the surface and they're bad habits."

In the midst of three straight losses, the mood around UK football is much different than it was after a 5-1 start that generated talk of the Cats contending for the SEC Eastern Division crown. But just as things weren't as good as they seemed three weeks ago, they aren't as bad as they seem right now.

"We just need to be better," Stoops said. "We're inconsistent. The wheels aren't falling off; we barely had them on."

UK, in other words, is still very much in development mode.

"We've got to scratch and claw and fight and dig down for everything that we get," Stoops said. "To think that you're going to go out there and hope that they happen, we're mistaken. I constantly talk about that. We cannot wait for our moment. We've got to train to go take it and make our moment."

The Cats have three chances left to make their moment in the regular season, starting with a Senior Day matchup against No. 17 Georgia at noon ET on Saturday. The Bulldogs (6-2, 4-2 SEC) suffered a 38-20 defeat at the hands of Florida over the weekend, but remain a major challenge for any opponent.

"They bring a very good football team," Stoops said. "I think they bring a power running team that we know has hurt us in the past as well. They can run the heck out of the football. They're very talented. They can throw it. They're very balanced. They're playing great defense."

Georgia is the only team to rank in the top four in the SEC in both scoring offense and scoring defense, relying on a ground attack that averages 265.9 yards and a rushing defense that allows just 105.1 yards per game.

"Georgia is going to present a real problem to us because, first of all, they're not going to give you anything," Stoops said. "They're one of those aggressive defenses. They're very well coached. They're not going to give you anything easy. So you've got to go earn your yards. You have to win your one-on-ones."

In the wake of an offensive performance that saw the Cats gain just 258 yards, schemes and play calls have been popular topics, but not as much for Stoops. Of course the UK staff will work hard to craft a game plan that will position the Cats for success, but that's not the priority this week.

"There's no magical little scheme or anything like that," Stoops said. "You got to win. You got to block some people, get open, throw good footballs."

Depth chart update: Williams the new starter at running back

  • Following a game in which he accounted for 97 of UK's 258 yards from scrimmage, true freshman Stanley "Boom" Williams has moved by himself to the top of the depth chart at running back. Braylon Heard, Mikel Horton and Jojo Kemp follow him.
  • At wide receiver, there are numerous changes. Garrett Johnson is now listed as a starter at one of the four spots, along with Demarco Robinson, Javess Blue and Ryan Timmons. Joey Herrick has moved into a backup role behind Timmons, while T.V. Williams and Rashad Cunningham are no longer listed.
  • At quarterback, Drew Barker is no longer listed as a backup. Stoops confirmed on Monday the reason for that is it's too late in the season for the true freshman to burn his redshirt.
  • In the secondary, Fred Tiller and Blake McClain are still starters at cornerback and nickelback, respectively, in spite of suffering injuries at Missouri. Stoops said both are expected to be "fine" for Saturday.

Tennessee kickoff set for 4 p.m.

UK's SEC finale on the road against Tennessee on Nov. 15 will kick off at 4 p.m. ET on the SEC Network. Tickets in the UK section are available now.

UK football depth chart -- Georgia week

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Offense

Tight end
80 Ronnie Shields, 6-5, 254, Sr-3L
85 Steven Borden, 6-3, 246, Sr-1L

Left tackle

77 Darrian Miller, 6-5, 292, Sr-3L
76 Teven Eatmon-Nared, 6-7, 339, Sr-2L

Left guard
75 Zach West, 6-4, 318, Jr-2L
68 Nick Haynes, 6-5, 319, Fr-RS

Center
72 Jon Toth, 6-5, 301, So-1L
57 Zach Myers, 6-3, 287, So-Sq

Right guard
69 Ramsey Meyers, 6-5, 300, Fr-RS
74 Cole Mosier, 6-6, 348, Fr-RS

Right tackle
70 Jordan Swindle, 6-7, 306, Jr-2L
73 Kyle Meadows, 6-5, 294, Fr-RS

Wide receiver
9 Demarco Robinson, 5-10, 158, Sr-3L
6 Blake Bone, 6-5, 198, Fr-HS

Wide receiver
1 Ryan Timmons, 5-10, 195, So-1L
87 Joey Herrick, 6-1, 197, Jr-1L

Wide receiver
8 Javess Blue, 6-0, 191, Sr-1L

Wide receiver
19 Garrett Johnson, 5-11, 176, Fr-HS
2 Dorian Baker, 6-3, 197, Fr-HS

Quarterback
14 Patrick Towles, 6-5, 238, So-1L
12 Reese Phillips, 6-2, 218, Fr-RS

Fullback

39 D.J. Warren, 6-0, 251, Sr-3L
10 Jeff Witthuhn, 6-3, 246, So-Sq

Running back
18 Stanley "Boom" Williams, 5-9, 200, Fr-HS
5 Braylon Heard, 5-11, 189, Jr-Tr
4 Mikel Horton 6-1, 230, Fr-HS
3 Jojo Kemp, 5-10, 194, So-1L

Defense

Defensive end
94 Za'Darius Smith, 6-6, 263, Sr-1L
91 Farrington Huguenin, 6-4, 275, Jr-2L

Defensive tackle
90 Melvin Lewis, 6-4, 320, Jr-JC
69 Matt Elam, 6-7, 375, Fr-HS

Defensive tackle

50 Mike Douglas, 6-4, 288, Sr-3L
67 Cory "C.J." Johnson, 6-3, 299, Jr-JC or 96 Regie Meant, 6-4, 286, Fr-RS

Defensive end/Linebacker
47 Jabari Johnson, 6-1, 276, Jr-1L
6 Jason Hatcher, 6-3, 242, So-1L

Defensive end/Linebacker
2 Alvin "Bud" Dupree, 6-4, 264, Sr-3L
41 TraVaughn Paschal, 6-4, 257, Sr-2L

Middle linebacker
45 Josh Forrest, 6-3, 236, Jr-2L
41 TraVaughn Paschal, 6-4, 257, Sr-2L

Weak-side linebacker
33 Ryan Flannigan, 6-2, 225, Jr-JC
22 Khalid Henderson, 6-1, 228, Jr-2L

Nickelback
24 Blake McClain, 5-11, 194, So-1L
29 Kendall Randolph, 6-0, 168, Fr-HS

Cornerback
3 Fred Tiller, 6-0, 170, Jr-2L
11 J.D. Harmon, 6-2, 201, So-1L

Safety
5 Ashely Lowery, 6-1, 220, Sr-3L
15 Marcus McWilson, 6-0, 210, So-1L

Safety
1 A.J. Stamps, 6-0, 199, Jr-JC
28 Eric Dixon, 5-11, 193, Sr-3L

Cornerback
16 Cody Quinn, 5-10, 172, Jr-2L
21 Nate Willis, 6-0, 168, Sr-1L

Special teams

Long snapper
59 Kelly Mason, 6-3, 223, Jr-2L
56 Matt Howard, 5-10, 208, Fr-RS

Holder
13 Jared Leet, 6-3, 196, Jr-2L
12 Reese Phillips, 6-2, 218, Fr-RS

Kicker
99 Austin MacGinnis, 5-10, 168, Fr-RS
95 Miles Butler, 5-9, 160, Fr-HS

Punter
9 Landon Foster, 6-1, 198, Jr-2L
93 Bryan Kirshe, 6-0, 155, Fr-HS

Kickoff returner

18 Stanley "Boom" Williams, 5-9, 200, Fr-HS or 11 J.D. Harmon, 6-2, 201, So-1L or 5 Braylon Heard, 5-11, 189, Jr-Tr or 9 Demarco Robinson, 5-10, 158, Sr-3L

Punt returner
9 Demarco Robinson, 5-10, 158, Sr-3L
1 Ryan Timmons, 5-10, 195, So-1L

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