Kentucky-Austin Peay Postgame Quotes
University of Kentucky Football Media Conference
Saturday, Nov. 19, 2016
MARK STOOPS: I was very thankful to come away with the victory. I thought our team really showed their toughness all season and it was evident again tonight. When we needed it, we got physical, and the guys played exceptionally well.
It's been a season of a lot of ups and downs – and we got one big game left – but I've been proud of these guys, their effort, and their resiliency. So, it's a good starting point. We're thankful to get to six victories and proud of the seniors. We wouldn't have done it without them and without their leadership. So, just an exciting locker room.
Q. Were guys a little bit nervous early when they came out? Started a little slow.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, we were overrunning some things, too. I think guys were a little jacked up and we were over-pursuing and they were getting some cutback yards early, aggravating yards. But they possessed the ball a little longer than I wanted to at the start, but we felt pretty comfortable.
Q. Talk more about what happened in the locker room with the kids and the excitement and just what happened.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah. The guys were, they -- it's a happy locker room. I told the team that we talk about toughness and an attitude, every day, and being resilient, and this team has showed that. It wouldn't have happened without the great leadership of our seniors, and I'm very happy for them. They have been through some ups and some downs. And they knew very clearly when I got here that what we were up against and what we were trying to do, there was going to be some tough times. And they stayed the course. They never flinched. And it's not always easy, but that's been a fun group to coach, and we're going to continue to push forward.
Q. This has to bring out a lot of emotion. You try not to be emotional with us, but can you talk about that?
MARK STOOPS: Trying to be like 60 Minutes or something. I could be, believe me. I mean that. It is. It's hard to control the emotions right now. It is because I'm very thankful and appreciative of this team, the administration, our fans, the people that sat out there tonight – and it was cold, nasty day – and stuck with us through the good times and the bad. And I greatly appreciate everybody. I said it day one and I continue to say it, that it's going to take all of us to take this program to new heights. So, it is. It's hard, for me right now, to be totally honest with you, because I'm very proud that have group.
Q. Why control the emotions right now?
MARK STOOPS: Never flinch.
(Laughter.) Good or bad.
Q. What do you know about Stephen Johnson’s injury? Was he able to practice this week?
MARK STOOPS: He did not practice at all. I take that back. He did very little Wednesday and very little Friday. So, he is tough as nails. He was banged up and was not able to practice, was not able to be on his leg very much. He fought through it and came in there tonight.
And Luke (Wright), I feel bad, we didn't put him in the best situation. That was not the way we wanted that to go. I wanted to take the ball -- they got it and took it and possessed the ball. And we put him in a bad situation to start the game. And that's on the team, not on Luke. So, that was tough for him to start that way.
Q. Is this the type of injury where you expect Stephen to be able come back with some rest?
MARK STOOPS: Hopefully it won't -- nothing will swell up and he'll be good to go. He is extremely tough. He's been that way all year.
Q. What was the thought process in terms of – they told us that he was available in an emergency (situation) – 13-0 down, you needed him.
MARK STOOPS: Well, obviously an important game. So, and again, I just, I feel like we put Luke in a tough spot to start that way. But we needed to calm him down and we did. And Stephen is that way. We talked about it all year, his poise, and he showed that tonight.
Q. Do you think when Stephen went in he lifted the entire team both offensively and defensively just with his presence on the field?
MARK STOOPS: I'm not sure. I think guys were going to settle in and play and we knew we were more physical and we would settle down defensively and be in a good situation. But it was important or we wouldn't have put him in. So, hopefully, the guys fed off that a little bit and just calmed everybody down.
Q. Benny (Snell) broke the freshman rushing record tonight. Talk about that.
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it was good. It was nice to have Moe (Williams) here. And Moe give him the hug when he broke it. And I thought it was significant for him. I think he went over a thousand tonight. To have two over a thousand was a great mark for the team. And all those guys, it was good to get Jojo (Kemp) in there and get him some touchdowns. So it was just a good night overall.
Q. Do you consider this one more step in the culture change that we so often talk about?
MARK STOOPS: I'm sorry?
Q. Do you consider this one more step in the culture change that you were talking about?
MARK STOOPS: I think it is. I think it's a big step in the culture change. And we want this to be the norm to go to bowl games and win over six games and that's our plan.
Fortunately we have another game left this season and it's against our rival. And we'll be fired up and ready to go for that. But yeah, it is part of it. And you know you're going to go through tough times, and I think the team and myself and you know very clearly kind of what you're getting into. That doesn't make it always easy.
So, I've been just proud of the guys just really, just grinding it out and listening, and taking the coaching, taking the counseling, and a lot of the hard work that they do in the offseason is starting to pay off.
Q. Would you say after -- you said at the beginning of this week, that you felt like the program was starting to knock on some doors. Do you think after being stuck on five wins the last couple years that this is kind of a big door that you knocked down?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, we're knocking doors down as often as we can. This was a significant one. I've said that all along. Like I said, I've said it in the preseason, and I said it when we sitting here at 0-2 and not playing very good football. And I still had a lot of confidence in this football team and knew, without a doubt, that we were going to go to work and get better every day. And this team has gotten better every day and every week. Doesn't mean you're always going to play perfect, but we're getting better, and they're getting better. And we're getting -- there's just always things to learn from and this is part of it.
Q. What did you see in Snell on his recruiting trip?
MARK STOOPS: As I mentioned before, just like he is, a strong, steady, disciplined player. He's physically strong, he has great balance and vision for his size, and he's a solid guy. He's a disciplined guy. So, I think that he's been good for us.
Q. You always --
MARK STOOPS: But, excuse me, but over the years we have had, we have been inches and yards short, and we needed a guy with that type of physicality. And he's brought that to us. And of course, we're getting more physical in the O-line across the board.
Q. You always say don't flinch. But was there any point this season where you doubted that you were going to get to six wins?
MARK STOOPS: Never. Never. No. I answered that question before. I never really looked at the end, at the wins. I never doubted for a minute what we were doing.
Q. After a couple deep balls were dropped, what does it say about (Jeff Badet) to be able to come back and make that play?
MARK STOOPS: That's exactly what we said. We knew we were coming back to him tonight and he was going to get more opportunities tonight and he went and made a more difficult catch. And that's important. It was important for him and for us to see him get that completion.
Q. Your wife and kids were standing over with Alex (Montgomery). Was that your idea? What was the thought there?
MARK STOOPS: It was our idea, because Alex, his grandma was not able to come. And so we have been very close with Alex and he's a remarkable young man and I'm excited to have him come work with me next year. So he'll be around for a year and work with us. But he's a strong kid and it's hard for him to give up football. But he's been through so many injuries and it's been a tough road for him. But we're going to get him over, get him coaching. I hurt my knee in college, too, so we'll get him going.
Q. Have you figured out what part of your staff he's going to be on?
MARK STOOPS: No, not sure.
Q. You watch the kids, you develop them, and some go to the NFL and some move on to other stuff, but having one that's had some injuries and has to sit, is it hard?
MARK STOOPS: It's hard. It's very difficult. Because he's just a salt-of-the-earth guy. He's a great kid. He was a very good player, if you remember him back -- and he's had so many injuries since then -- but he was a starter and a good player and playing at a young age and doing good and he had great hands and he was physical. And so it's tough. He's going through adversity right now and it's not easy, but the big thing is for us to give him the support here. He's a long way from home, from Fort Lauderdale, and being here and for us to support him and be around him, it's awesome. It's part of the big family, and he's just another example of that. But he is a special guy.
Q. Can you spill beans on what senior cried tonight?
MARK STOOPS: (Laughter.) None that I know of. None that I know of. But they were definitely emotional and I could just see it in their eyes, all of them. And for the guys that, the great ones that, the great kids that we inherited were awesome to coach the whole time. And the ones that I remember were going into those homes that first year and it seems like it's gone very quickly. Maybe not all the time. When I was banging my head into the wall for 14 hours a day it doesn't, that day went slow. But no, it's gone fast. I think those guys realize it, too, that how quickly it goes.
#18, Stanley “Boom” Wiiliams, RB
On the emotions the team felt post game…
“We were very loud. Everybody is happy. Most of all we’re happy we have to do it for our seniors. They’ve put a lot of work into this program since they got here so we just want to make sure we send those guys out on the right note and be able to give them an extra game.”
On Williams and Snell topping 1,000 yards…
“I congratulated Benny. That’s a big accomplishment, especially as a freshman. That’s something I wasn’t able to do so it’s huge for him. It’s just an honor and a blessing to be able to have that achievement for both of us.”
On if there is a sense of relief going into next weekend…
“I wouldn’t say a sense of relief because we’ve still got a job to do against a really good Louisville team next week. I think this is just a moment where we can finally be able to be happy because this is something that hasn’t been done in a while. These seniors have put in a lot of work since they came here to now, so just to be able to see those guys happy. We were able to achieve something that hasn’t been done in six years.”
#3, Jojo Kemp, RB
On preparing for the Louisville game next week…
“I’m very excited for the game next week. We’re just going to take things a day at a time. I know my coach has a wonderful game plan, so we’re just going to take it a day at a time. We need to control the little things, be more detail oriented, go to practice and just go to work.”
On whether the team felt overwhelmed by being down so early in the game…
“It’s football. Everyone puts on their pads the same, so you can’t really judge a book by its cover. We just had to go out there and do what we do. I just feel like guys were overly excited, and we needed to calm down and go back to the basics. We just needed to remember what we needed to do.”
On emotions toward his team and going to a bowl game his senior season…
“I feel joy in knowing that I was able to affect so many people in this community and state. I said I wanted to come here and change the culture and outlook of Kentucky football, so just knowing that we took a step forward is just an awesome feeling. I just want to keep going, and when I leave I just want to keep getting better and better. I will always bleed blue.”
#21, Chris Westry, CB
On winning this game for their seniors…
“These seniors really deserved it. They put so much hard work and dedication into this season. What the fans don’t see on a Saturday isn’t the summer workouts and practices we do. These guys have been here for four plus years. This is a good experience for them to go out with something they didn’t have. It just feels good.”
On turning the game around after the bad start…
“The biggest thing is that we learned from our mistakes. We didn’t want to make the same mistakes on certain things, so we just buckled down. Coach Stoops got more involved with our defensive backs, and we just took it seriously.”
#27, Mike Edwards, S
On winning this game for their seniors…
“It’s a great feeling. You know, I love my seniors. I love all my teammates, but we got the win for them for their senior day.”
On turning the game around…
“We started out bad. It was a mess, but we just overcame our difficulties. Coach talked to us and we just had to change how we played.”
#26, Benjamin Snell, RB
On Snell and “Boom” rushing over 1,000 yards…
“It means we have an amazing O-line and a good offense.”
On pressure going into Louisville…
“I’m going to say it’s a regular week. You know a little bit of the pressure is off but we're going against a really good team and we’ve been playing a bunch of really good teams earlier in the season. You have to prepare for them. That’s all I can really say.”
On how it feels to clinch a bowl game, especially for the seniors...
It’s a real good feeling. You know I hear a lot of the seniors earlier in the season talking about they wanted a bowl. Last night Jojo and I were talking about it. So, being able to get that win, it makes me feel really good the seniors were able to go through this.
#15, Stephen Johnson, QB
On his injury and how healthy he is now…
“Oh, it’s fine now. I’m about 95 percent. It was really just a precautionary thing. We knew that going into this game we could do a lot of things we wanted to do on offense. So, just to try to keep me out if we could. It was just a precautionary measure and just in case of emergency to put me in.”
On what he heard on his headset before he checked into the game…
“Tell Stephen warm-up. Basically, they were just going back-and-forth about do you want to put Stephen in now. So, they were like yeah, just tell him warm-up.”
On how Coach Stoops says in his press conferences he has a calming effect on the team and if he feels the same way…
“I think the guys just really, kind of come around towards me. We all kind of bonded and clicked a little bit more.”
Austin Peay Head Coach Will Healy
For two quarters I thought we played well and hung in with them. I know how talented they are. I watched them on film all week long and knew it would be a daunting task for us but you try to preach to these guys every single day that no matter where you are, no matter what type of stadium you’re in, no matter what type of environment you’re in, you just go out and go compete. You play to the best of your ability and at the end of the day you live with the statistics. I thought for two quarters we played well. The interception in the red zone, we can’t have happen. We still find ways to shoot ourselves in the foot with turnovers but I though we went toe-to-toe. I know what happens at the end of the day. I’m sure Kentucky is looking ahead to what’s going on with Louisville and they’re ready to go play that game and get out of this one as healthy as humanly possible. You always have a chance to come sneak up on some people and I thought for two quarters we did it and then came out in the second half and gave them the ball 1st & 10 on our 36yard line. We never caught up from there and never really got any momentum going in the second half. I told them in the locker room that I’m extremely proud of them. It’s been a very long year and there is no doubt that this program is going to be absolutely unbelievable and a special place to play football. I think we showed glimpses of that this year but we don’t have the consistency needed to go win games but we’re going to find that. I told them we have the best strength coach in the United States of America and we are going to be so mentally and physically tough by the time next season comes around that we’ll have no choice but to win football games that we should. I’m proud of their effort and at some point in time effort has to match with execution and it definitely didn’t in the second half.
On what they did to take over the first half…
We didn’t do anything differently. I thought offensively and defensively we schemed for people like we have all year long. I thought JaVaughn (Craig) ran the ball well and Kentel (Williams) ran the ball well but it was nothing abnormal. I think sometimes you can get in the situation like this and you can coach caution in your kids by trying to do too many trick plays instead of just saying let’s not do anything differently than what we’ve been doing all year, let’s go out and execute well. If we execute well we’ll have success and I thought we did that in the first half.
On what he said in locker room after up by 13 points…
I’m going to be honest with you, I think Mark Stoops does a tremendous job. I really think this program has the right guy leading them. I think they play extremely hard and they have great athletes. I think we do some things on offense to give some people some problems but I think at the end of the day we executed well. I’m extremely impressed with Kentucky’s football program, how they run it, what type of character their kids have and at the end of the day their power kind of over ran us in the second half.
On being over 4,000 total offensive yards (hasn’t been done since 1994) but still being 0-11 …
That’s the kicker. You would trade 11-0 for 2000 yards any day of the week but I think what those offensive coaches and those offensive players were able to do all year long is awesome and we’ll continue to build on that. We found players as the year went on. Obviously we think Kentel Williams is going to be really special. JaVaughn (Craig) played really well at times and tough each and every week Wes (Satterfield) had a good plan, it was just if we were going to execute it well.
On goals for the season…
Losing is never acceptable here. I don’t care if you’re playing Kentucky or if you’re playing anybody in the Ohio Valley Conference. Our goal was to win football games. We did not accomplish goal number one. There were so many things that this group did accomplish that I’m extremely proud of. I think we played extremely hard all year. I think we handled adversity very well all year long. We never quit. I think our kids have bought into the culture we would like to have. I think at the end of the day we were trying to play catch up from June on from what a lot of people have been doing from December on, and we have to pay the price in the offseason to have a chance to win football games in this league.
Austin Peay Student-Athletes
#5, Kentel Williams, WR
On leading the team this year…
“This season I was really just trying to play for my seniors. I wanted to come out with a win because we didn’t get any this year and I knew the seniors would have really appreciated that. I really look up to the seniors, especially Rashaan Coleman. We were roommates all year and had a good connection. I always told him no matter what I am going to play for you guys because it’s not about me.”
On surpassing the 4,000 yard mark for total offense for the first time since 1994…
“It shows that this program is changing. We have a good coaching staff and offensive coordinator that knows how to put us in the position we need in order to make plays.”
On the things he could see on Kentucky’s defense…
“Coming to an SEC opponent we knew it was going to be tougher. On the offensive end I could see that they were over pursuing me so I knew that my cut-backs and my blockers would come in handy. I was just trying to get what I could for my team.”
#36, Gunnar Scholato, LB
On getting the pick-six…
“I was just blessed to be in the position I was in. Coach made the coverage and I just read the route. The quarterback threw it right to me and Shaun (Whittinghill) did a great job of disrupting the quarterback. When I caught it and got by the 10 yard line I figured I might as well score since I’ve come this far so I just dove.”
On taking the lead ahead…
“After the second touchdown, we stopped them somehow and gave the offense the ball back. We were just so excited and tried to keep that momentum going.”