University of Kentucky Football Media Conference
Saturday, September 17, 2016
MARK STOOPS: What we mentioned at halftime was let's get some things adjusted, let's make some, let's get some things corrected, let's not panic and let's just go play football for 60 minutes. That's a step in the right direction. There's many things to get cleaned up. They will get cleaned up, once again, you can't play bad in all phases to start a game. We're putting the ball on the ground, we're moving the ball, but we put the ball on the ground. I think three turnovers in the first half? When they're already moving it. That’a bad. We got impatient after the punt return and when a zero blitz hit us on a trick play, we probably got impatient and made a bad call there. We should have made them grind it out and get it in the end zone. We still could have executed it better, but those are the things that, as you pull up different pressures and everything, you can't possibly work to all different looks on a trick play, but Coach Martin, Doug and his team played unbelievable. They really played hard and give them a lot of credit. I was happy with the way our team responded. A victory's a victory and we're 2-1. We have a chance to get to .500 next week and that's the next opportunity, and that's what we have to do. Our team will get better and there's no doubt about it. I thought it was good to see Stephen (Johnson) come in and play like that with Drew (Barker) getting hurt right at the start of the game. For Stephen to come in and play like he did, was really good.
On that first play, Drew (Barker) was already hurting. I think he got hit on the first or second play. His back was bothering him. He made a very poor throw in the first interception, but he was hurt. That's not the start you want, obviously. But again, good victory, we're always going to be proud and take any victory, any which way we can and we're going to learn from it and get better and we'll push forward.
Q. Update on Drew (Barker)?
MARK STOOPS: I don't.
Q. If he's healthy, can you take Stephen out at this point?
MARK STOOPS: I don't know what the situation is. I'm not going to make any decision like that right now. Obviously, I have no idea. He's hurt. He has an injured back. He did go to the hospital to get it examined today.
Q. Talk about (Benny) Snell and his touchdown.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, that's what we have seen and it was really good to get him some reps and get him in the game. You see him keep those legs churning and hitting guys and playing physical and he played much more mature than a true freshman and that was that was really good to see.
Q. Was it in the game plan to use him that much or was that an adjustment?
MARK STOOPS: As we said earlier, you never know when opportunities are going to present itself. With Stephen in there, we were running the ball good, that sets up some RPO's (Run-Pass Options) to the tight end off of that. The designed screen we had in the game plan, we had been working that for a couple weeks. And so I think some of them were targets and some of them just worked out that way.
Q. As far as you could see field level without film what did you like most about what Stephen did?
MARK STOOPS: I thought he really calmed down and made some good decisions, because early on it was a little rough and he settled in and he has a lot of poise. That is what we need right now. It was really nice to see him make good decisions. What it appeared on the sideline, was when to pull it down and get some yards with his legs. He made some good decisions on the zone read play where he could pull it and run and made some good yards there as you could see. We did that to them and they certainly did that to us a few times and that gets aggravating when the quarterback can run it that way. He gets you a little off balance and I thought Stephen did that. Then when you get the run game going and we could hit the RPO and hit the guys down the middle, the tight end down the middle, and hit some guys off the run/pass options puts the team in a difficult situation.
Q. What did they do to give your defense so much trouble?
MARK STOOPS: It wasn't good. It was a combination of things. I talked all week about having a higher football IQ, and we didn't do that. With the first touchdown off of that split. Again, I'm not taking anything away from them, but we flat blew it. That can't happen. We gave up that touchdown that gets you off kilter and gets you out of whack right from the beginning. They got some aggravating yards. They were doing some things to us that we got fixed at halftime with how they were running the ball inside on us. And it's a combination of things. Right now, we have got a lot to get fixed there, but we will. When we're playing both fronts and we're playing the front and then the over front, we're searching right now. I don't want to get too complex, but, we have got to get some things ironed out. It's getting a little bit confusing to them, even though we're trying to be simple. So we have got some experience there and we got to figure out how to get them to play better. We have to coach them up.
Q. How encouraging though was it for the defense to see Derrick (Beaty) make that play with the game on the line?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, that was a really big play. I talked about that all the time to the DB's. I just told them that after the game, that they can't flinch. With that pass that I was mentioning, where we blew it early. That really got us angry to start, but you have to be able to play that position. You have to be able to jump, get back in the fight, and let it go and move on. As I always say to DB's, they're going to get some of theirs and we got to get ours – and we got to make some plays and that was big for him to step up and get that ball at the high point and get that interception.
As I mentioned earlier, when things start turning, we'll start making those plays instead of dropping those plays and that was much more difficult that other ones we did make. He actually went up and made a heck of a play. So we need more of that.
Q. You substituted your offensive line a lot today.
MARK STOOPS: That was the plan.
Q. What brought that on?
MARK STOOPS: We had a plan to do that. We feel like some of those backup guys on the interior give us a physical presence. So, it was nice to see him in there. He's been playing physical, and a couple of the other guys, so we had planned on doing that.
Q. Overall, are you pleased with the secondary, how they played today?
MARK STOOPS: No, no, no. We need to get better. But they will. They will. We have got a lot of work to do. But they will get better. They mean well. That's all I could say. We're going back to work.
Q. Did you ever think it would take this many points to get your first win here in the season?
MARK STOOPS: I'll take it any way we can get it. So, it was nice to see us hit 62. It was nice to see us hit a punt return. We finally were right about getting a special teams touchdown. That's a good thing. Really, y'all didn't ask me about it all year, because I know there were so many other negative things to talk about, which I get. I really do, but our special teams have really been solid all season and nobody wants to talk about that.
But the minute they make a mistake, you know that's the first question y'all are going to ask me, right? So how about giving them a little hand? They have really played solid all year. Our guys have been really unselfish. That's the mark of an unselfish football team. They have been busting it on special teams.
Matt House has done a great job and our kickers are kicking it better. Austin (McGinnis) obviously missed the field goal last week and the extra point. We have got to get back to work, but Grant's (McKinnis) been fairly consistent the last couple weeks, getting better, he's a freshman, he'll get there, but our coverage teams have been really good. When we get good kicks we're pretty good and our kick-off return has been really close to hitting one. I thought we'd hit a kick-off return before we hit the punt return.
Q. Now that you got your sense of humor back --
MARK STOOPS: For a day.
Q. The joy of just winning a game, were you relieved a bit? This has been a touch stretch.
MARK STOOPS: It is. There's nothing fun about it when you're losing like that. It was tough. We always get back to work, win or lose. We're going to work the same way and have the same attitude and be positive in everything else, but it is hard. There's no doubt about it. They say that it's no fun when it gets to the point where it's just relief, there's no joy in a win. It's just relief. But I know we'll get better. I really do. We got a good football team, we don't have a great football team, we have a good football team and they will get better. Defensively, we have a lot of things to iron out, but we'll get better.
Q. Did you even have any hesitancy at all about putting Charles (Walker) back out there?
MARK STOOPS: No.
Q. Was Benny's strong running style kind of like that perfect complement to what Boom is doing?
MARK STOOPS: I think so. It really does. He's a physical guy and it's really important, as you know, through the course of the past couple years, those short yardage situations are very critical. It's good to have a guy like that physical presence.
Q. What does it say about your mentality that you can lose your starting quarterback, lose your senior running back early in the game and have their two backups come in and lead you?
MARK STOOPS: It's a good thing, it really is. I was very pleased with the poise of Stephen (Johnson) and Jojo (Kemp). Hopefully, they will be healed up. He was close. He just wasn't a hundred percent all week, so those other guys are plenty good enough. We have a lot of juice at running back and we have some guys that can go. So if you're not 100 percent, it's going to be hard to get out there.
Q. What did you tell the team at halftime?
MARK STOOPS: I went right in and I went right in and talked to the defense, because I knew a couple things right off the top of my head before I talked to anybody else and the defensive coaches. We had some things we had to iron out very quickly, but I told them that it was going to be a 60-minute game and that that was not the start of the game that we wanted, but we're going to be fine, let's get it corrected and let's go out and make some plays.
And not to flinch. That's what we had done early in the season, and we can't do that. You have to just get them corrected, learn from our mistakes. There's plenty of things within our system that we get some things fixed. You don't just have to start grabbing and players trying to do too much and all that. So, just settle in and do what they're coached to do.
Q. In a weird kind of way, was it good that the game started poorly, so that they get punched in the nose?
MARK STOOPS: I think that it does. Because of the state, you know, and I told our team after game one that I didn't think we were a fragile crew. I didn't think we were a fragile team. We didn't respond very well in game two when we got hit in the mouth. And so in that way, I am glad that it was a difficult game and we're going to get better from a victory in, again, making those adjustments and coming out and playing a good second half.
Q. On Courtney Miggins having two pass break-ups …
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it was good, because any time you're going back out there and they're essentially in a two minute drill, any deflection's going to be big and a sack is even bigger.
#26, Benny Snell, Jr., RB
On the biggest factor for him to improve on as a freshman…
“You know I’ve got Jojo and Boom, those guys are like big brothers to me. I’m just learning as much as I can all the time so you know, those are the guys I look up to.”
On his last touchdown…
“On the last play, I think I ran through the hole and then there was a linebacker sitting right there waiting for me so you know my legs aren’t going to stop. I’m going to keep going until I make it, and then I made it. The coaches said it was an amazing play on the sidelines.”
#51, Courtney Love, LB
On falling behind early and the mindset from now on…
“You know, we know what we have as a defense, offense and as a team. We want to keep fighting until the end and finish. And I feel that’s exactly what we did today. I feel that it was a little sloppy and we didn’t execute on certain things like trick plays and those are the kind you really have to be focused in on your guy and your assignment. I feel like when we came back in for the second half and got the adjustments down, they only scored seven and that was a really good thing for us. We finished and I’m just happy to get this win.”
On Stoops talking about simplifying things this past week at practice…
“There’s definitely a lot of things we have to get straightened up, but we’ve just got to play. It was very basic this week and I felt like that was very good for us because we were just reacting and playing football, and it was fun.”
On what needs to be worked out defensively…
“You know we just need to be more consistent and physical. Just playing football like we know how and just simple assignments like covering our man and just doing our jobs and just trusting everyone to do the same.”
#18, Stanley “Boom” Williams, RB
On how important it was to encourage his team and keep the high energy …
“As a leader of this offense, I just felt like it was on me to go out there and get us going, get us in rhythm. Coach made the call and the O-line did a great job and they really gave us that boost that we needed to continue going for the whole game, which we needed. We were able to finish and get a win, which we are very proud of.”
On if this win helped the team’s confidence …
“Yeah, it does. But we know this is just one win. We are back into SEC play next week with a good South Carolina team. They are going to come ready to play and so we just have to enjoy this win, watch the film, see the things we can correct, and then go back to work and get ready for this home game next week against South Carolina.”
On the difference between this game and Southern Miss …
“We just needed to finish. A lot of guys stayed in the game. From the defensive side of the ball, we made some adjustments in the second half and we played great. Then on offense, we just kept rolling the whole game. It was just a good collective team win. I’m proud of everybody. We all did a really good job and this is a good win for us to going into South Carolina next week.”
#15, Stephen Johnson, QB
On what he saw on the field …
“As an offense we did a phenomenal job to be able to move the ball, run the ball and pass the ball efficiently. I think it was one of our best days on offense, absolutely.”
On his thoughts on his play …
“I think I did alright. There are a few things I can change. A few throws. I think I missed my first drive, but other than that as a team, I thought we did really well.”
On if he was nervous …
“At the beginning I was, yes, I was a little nervous. But once you hit the field all of it kind of goes away.”
On how the running backs had control on the line of scrimmage …
“Absolutely, yes. Benny (Snell) and Boom Williams did a phenomenal job today. I don’t know how many yards they had, but they did a great job. Being able to get those yards after hits, they continued to drive and get first downs. It was phenomenal.”
#87, CJ Conrad, TE
On tight ends being more involved…
“Yeah. It’s been exciting man. It’s been a process. We kept working our tails off, kept the faith, worked on our blocking, keep on trying to get better every week. It’s the only thing we can control and that’s what Coach Marrow kept trying to preach to us. I think Greg (Hart) and myself played a heck of a game today. We had seven catches between the two of us. So, really proud of Greg and all the guys that played today. I think we made a step in the right direction but we have to just keep getting better.”
On offense being changed with tight ends as weapons…
“It’s awesome because it gives you that threat of we are going to run it or going to throw or we are going to pass. We’re athletic guys. We can move pretty well. I think it keeps the defense on their heels pretty good. Me and Greg both can run so I think that’s a big threat that we have for the offense. You saw a lot of (improvement) out there today and I think we can use that in the future.”
On his thoughts on his first touchdown of game…
“When am I going to get tackled? No, that’s the first time I have broken away like that since high school. In high school I was faster than everyone but I know I am not faster than everyone here. So, I was just scared to look at the megatron because I didn’t want to see who was going to tackle me. But, I was just running. I really thought I was going to get tackled but it just never happened. So, I was just kind of nervous but once I got to the ten I was like ‘I may score here.’ So, I just protected the ball and got in the end zone. I was straightforward the whole time. No peaking at the big screen. “
On practicing tight end screens…
“Oh yeah. That has been a long time coming and since day one, you know, we repped it a ton and it was nice to see that work today.”
On the tight ends being in the game plan today…
“Not really because every week we are in the game plan quite a bit. I wouldn’t say that I was in the game plan more than the last two weeks. I just think as an offense we did a lot better job executing. We are going to be on the field a lot more, us as tight ends when we are moving the ball down the field. We were doing that today. When we go three and out and it’s third and fifteen, we have to go small. So, it’s nice that we were driving down the field and getting a lot of first downs. You’re going to see that a lot that me and Greg are rotating in and out. It was really good. We picture what I thought our offense could be all year. That’s what I thought we could be. It’s exciting to see that and hopefully we can keep it going.”
#27, Mike Edwards, S
On the change in the second half….
“Pretty much just to stop thinking and play football. We were just trying to do too much and do other people’s jobs and just think about that. We just have to focus on our jobs, personally, and to focus in on what we have to do and just be a better team. “
On what was said by Coach at half…
“Just play football and focus in. We had blown a couple of assignments in the first half and we got that corrected and we just played football as a team.”
New Mexico State Head Coach Doug Martin
On biggest takeaway on the game …
“This game showed that we have come a long way in three years. The way we have recruited and the players we have now, we couldn’t have gone toe to toe with an SEC team three years ago. To be in the position in the fourth quarter where we could have won the game means that we’re making great strides. Obviously, defensively we had a hard time getting off the field but we kept ourselves in the game. Our players fought hard.”
On what led to the rushing yards given up…
“I would have to look at the film. I think a lot of it was just physical; we missed a lot of tackles. We got knocked off the ball a lot and again it’s an SEC team and they know we’re bigger and stronger, it’s still a challenge. We certainly should still be better than what we were tonight.”
On if the change of QB for UK threw them off…
“No, we kind of anticipated that. We thought that’s the way they would go eventually, so we worked on that all week.”
On the play of NMSU QB Tyler Rogers…
“He played an awesome football game. The only mistake he made was the last interception. We actually had a fullback throwback where he should have thrown the ball back to Xavier Hall (#22, RB) because they were in man coverage and nobody went with Xavier. I would tell you that was the only mistake he made all night, he really played a fantastic football game.”
On if he anticipated Tyler Rogers to have success on the ground today…
“Yes, because they play a lot of man coverage and when you do that nobody really has the quarterback. I will say this, Rogers is running the ball much better than what he has done in the past. It has taken a lot of pressure off of the offense. Hopefully we get Larry back next week and that takes some pressure off of Tyler.”
On being creative with the offense…
“I like doing those things. I think it is fun for the players. If they’re schemed the right way they have a chance to work, which it did. It’s a good way to score touchdowns.”
On the touchdown throw by Tyrian Taylor…
“He made a great throw. That’s a play we used when I was at East Carolina and we have carried that play since then. Tyrian Taylor looked like he was going to run first then he threw a strike.”
On if he anticipated the offense’s success…
“We found out a lot about our offense tonight and it was pleasant. We can run and throw the ball. We found out during the practices this week that we are capable of playing this good. If we can play like that with Sunbelt teams coming up, we can win a lot of games.”
On if UK did anything different in the second half…
“They got out of the man coverage schemes and switched to more of a zone. The two biggest plays was when OJ (Clark) dropped the big post route and when Tyler threw the interception. It would have been a one-score game if we scored there. Other than that, they didn’t really do anything else.”
On number of big plays that were allowed defensively…
“It was discouraging that we couldn’t get off the field. I know we missed a lot of tackles. We were trying to pressure a lot but sometimes guys went in the wrong gaps. We will go back and address it. A lot of credit goes to Kentucky. That running back is a great player.”
On the mood in the locker room…
“They are disappointed because they didn’t win the game. They knew they had a chance to win this football game. There is a lot of enthusiasm as far what’s coming up with the Sun Belt and mid-major games. We really feel like we have a good football team.”
New Mexico State Student-Athletes
#17, Tyler Rogers
On his feelings after losing this game …
“It’s a loss, but you have to try to take the positives from it. It still hurts knowing that we could’ve won this game. It’s just disappointing. It was on me. I missed that throw. Instead of throwing the corner, I should’ve thrown it through (the) back (of the end zone). It would’ve been 55-49. Defense had a stop and then we could’ve had a chance to score and tie it up, but that’s on me, I take responsibility for that game.”
On running the ball 15 times in today’s game …
“It was what they gave me. I like running. If they give it to me, I’m going to take it. A couple times they gave it to me pretty big so I will try to make a big play and get the first down.”
On the first touchdown ...
“That was huge. I think that kind of propelled us the rest of the game and gave us the energy. The defense, you know, they hung in there and played a hell of a game.”