Kentucky-Georgia Postgame Quotes

University of Kentucky Football Media Conference
Kentucky vs. Georgia
Commonwealth Stadium
Saturday, November 5, 2016

Mark Stoops

MARK STOOPS: It was a very difficult loss. There's a lot of disappointed people in that locker room, and I feel for them because I think, again, I think our hearts and our minds are in the right place.

We had really good preparation all week, and I really didn't feel like we had an edge about us today though. I just didn't like – just a certain look in our eye. I think our players wanted it to happen, and I don't know, I just got to do a better job of getting them to play with that mentality and that edge. And get off on some third downs. We were going to take the penalty and try to pin them. I believe we went three and out and got the ball right back, if I'm not mistaken. So if you pin them you get the ball back in great shape. If you miss it, you give them great field position, and so once we got the penalty, I took – I was going to take the delay of game and punt it and try and pin them inside the 10. And again I don't think – I think that was the right strategy at that point.

Q. Did you consider calling a timeout at the end, once they got in field-goal range?
MARK STOOPS: I did, but there wasn't -- at one point they were going so slow, if we could have got a tackle for loss it would have been a long field goal. So, I wanted, at that point, you're gambling with wanting them -- you want to take snaps away from them, too, because we had them at that point it was, whatever, in that range of 25-, 30-yard line where it wasn't a gimmie. And so you're trying to see if the clock will run out and they have a longer field goal. Because they had two timeouts, I don't think I could have saved much.

Q. During the win streak you guys really controlled the clock, but today they got several more minutes. Was it more of what they were doing or what you were doing?
MARK STOOPS: Both. Again, I think that – both – they did some good things. We needed to play more physical. we needed to make cleaner tackles and get off on some third downs. They converted 6 of 14, but we only converted 3 of 13. So possessions hurt.

When, again, we were off balance. And then the turnovers don't help either when you're reeling a little bit and just a couple plays.

Q. Was that time of possession discrepancy and then for the defense to be on that field in the last drive trying to make a final stop, I mean, do you think it caught up with them at all?
MARK STOOPS: I don't know. I think our guys were playing hard. We need to execute better. And it started, and I've been on them -- I was on them from the beginning of the game until the end about urgency. And, again, we had a miscommunication on one of those where we should have been rolled into the boundary on the play that they, that we looked, soft cornered, and we weren't supposed to be.

And so that's the urgency that I'm talking about. That's the difference between winning and losing. It takes extreme discipline in pressure situations. And we didn't execute it tonight.

Q. You talked in the past about nights where it felt like things were teed up for you guys in this program. Was this one of those nights where, obviously, you go into the night with a chance to take over first place in the east?
MARK STOOPS: No doubt.

Q. And then all those things you have the lead --
MARK STOOPS: No doubt about it. But we're going to keep on swinging and keep on going back to work. So we're not going to let -- you win and you lose. And these guys are battling and they're in the arena, and they're competing and coaches are working hard and we'll all stay together and we all can do a better job and we will. We'll go back to work, but we're not going to stop. And we had some good times and tonight was a hard loss and it was teed up. And, again, I said that, and I appreciated that support because it was a great environment and you wanted to deliver, and again, a game comes down to a few plays.

Q. Talking about how this program has changed and these guys have changed, with all the things that went wrong, (what does it say) that your guys kept coming back and obviously you were able to ride Benny (Snell) all the way down there and get a field goal?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, you have a great opportunity, and it was a good game. Both sides did some good things and some bad things, but our players battled, and we certainly had an opportunity to win the game. And we didn't. But yeah, there was certainly things we could have done better, and I would like to execute better in the two-minute situation at the end.

Q. When you guys were trying to stall a little bit offensively now that you look back, do you wish you went to that Benny more earlier when there's that stretch where it was either a quick three and out or a turnover?
MARK STOOPS: Yeah, I think you could always -- yes. I think that certainly that's fair. I was thinking that and talking to them about that, yeah, on a possession or two. But you can't let anyone call -- I had some calls that I wish I could do over, too. I definitely do.

Q. Talk about Benny, that he was able to play that way on that last drive. What does it say about him?
MARK STOOPS: It says a lot. He has great heart and great toughness and maturity for a freshman, that's for sure. And we talked about it with Boom (Williams) and with him and all of our guys that they were going to be tough yards today. We needed to grind them out, and we did, and we came up a little short.

Q. Does it tell you that your guys lack the edge, as you put it, and how do you manufacture that?
MARK STOOPS: I don't think you can manufacture it. I think that, I don't know if you can offset it. Our guys really had good preparation. To me, you could see things during the week sometimes, and I didn't see that (today). I saw great urgency and I saw us preparing to win the game, but I didn't feel like we played that way today defensively. I just didn't. And offensively, really, because look at the plays that we left out there. Look at the – there's a lot of things we could do better.

Q. In that third quarter on those back-to-back drives, it looked like Stephen (Johnson) was maybe having something going and then with the Garrett (Johnson) fumble and then Jeff (Badet) dropped that deep pass. How did you see Stephen respond to that or what was that like out there?
MARK STOOPS: Well, he's a resilient guy. We talk about it all the time. That's not going to affect him. No, I didn't see anything with him. We just had to put our players in the best situation to move the ball and try to get that last score. It gets hard when you get in the red zone and they got a bunch of guys in there and they're a physical group.

Q. What did you think of Jordan Jones’ play?
MARK STOOPS: He plays hard, he plays with an edge all the time. So he's playing good.

Q. You won with a last second field goal and then you lost with a last second field goal. What can you learn from this, take away from this?
MARK STOOPS: There's always things that you can do better and that we're always going to do that. We're going to look at ourselves and look at every situation and try to execute better in critical situations. And there's certainly things we can do better and start -- like I said, it starts with me and there's a few calls in particular that I wish I could have over and didn't happen. But I thought our guys made some critical stops and were battling and grinding it out, and when they were at 16, I think, that's when we needed to make a stop there.

Kentucky Players

#15, Stephen Johnson, Junior, QB

On turnovers …
“We knew that it was going to come down to who had the least amount of turnovers. We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game between both teams. We knew we had to protect the ball and we didn’t do that tonight. We had some really good plays.”

On what he saw on the throw to Dorian Baker in the end zone …
“I saw press-man coverage on the outside. I just knew that he was going to beat him. I just need to put that ball there with less air and put it where he can catch it and where the defensive back can’t get a hand on it.”

On the deep ball that bounced off Jeff Badet’s hands for an interception …
“I really didn’t see it. I just threw it and saw him go to catch it. I didn’t see the end result. I saw it on the big screen. I told him I’m going to keep coming to him. He made one mistake. That’s not going to change anything. I told him to keep his head up.”

On losing on a field goal vs. winning off one and the learning experience from the game …
“They had the ball last. We just need to start working on Monday. We can’t dwell on this. We face a good team next week and we’ll have to fight to win that one.”

#26, Benny Snell Jr., Freshman, RB

On what allows him to be powerful on the run and carry the team at times …
“This group of guys that I’m surrounded by, I love them to death. I just try to play hard. I want to get the first down and win the game.”
On where the team will go from here …
“We’re just going to keep growing like we do each week. We came up short this week. We’re going to fix our mistakes, throw it behind us and keep it moving.”
On if he hears any of the opposing players say anything when he has a successful drive or run …
“I hear them arguing and blaming it on one another. I’m playing football. I just keep it moving.”
On if he gets tired running the ball on opposing defenses so much …
“No, sir. I don’t.”

#15, Marcus McWilson, Senior, S

On if the defense got tired after being on the field so much …
“We were on the field a lot but it’s no excuse to be tired. You got to have the will power. You got to be willing to fight through when you’re tired through the adversity. I mean, I’m sure their guys were tired too, but yet they had long drives, extended drives, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to give them anything easy.”

On how they will respond going on the road next week …
“It’s a road game but were all playing on the same field so it’s anybody’s game. Like I said before, 50 percent of the teams lose on Saturday.”

#18, Boom Williams, Junior, RB

On losing after coming off of strong wins …
“It sucks very badly, especially when you lose to a last-second field goal. It is probably one of the worst ways you can lose besides a Hail Mary at the end of a game.”

On what the team will take from this loss …
“Just got to keep playing. Three games ahead of us. Strong Tennessee (team) next week so we just have to come out, practice well and prepare well, and play a good game against a Tennessee team in their stadium, which we knew is going to be very hard. So we have to do what we do and be able to make plays.” 

On if they knew Florida had lost and possibly moving up in the SEC standings …
“Yeah, I think everybody was very aware. I think that we just came up short and then missed some critical plays that could’ve turned the whole game around. So that’s what happens when you don’t make those routine plays against a good team like Georgia. It comes back to bite you in the end.”

#2, Dorian Baker, Junior, WR

On being over the hurdle this season …
“This was just a big opportunity for us to capitalize on the situation given to us. For us to fall short today was just – it kind of grounded us a little bit and it will just allow us to come back and get ready to work.” 

On picking up the pieces of the loss …
“The pieces are there. We just have to learn how to finish. We were up the whole game and we just keep thinking there are ways to get better and we have to keep gashing it down and gashing and gashing and not let up. Even though we were winning, still, it’s possible that they can come back, and they did. So they did and got the win, so congratulations to them. We just have to come back and work harder.” 

On if it’s attitude or simple mistakes costing the game…
“Just a lot of mistakes. Not a lot of mistakes, but little mistakes that that were really big at the end of the game, in the game, towards the end of the game. Everything adds up.”

On being of the losing side of a game …
“Being on the other side of that, it hurts. It hurts deeply and it’s just because you sit there and you watch the time go down and you know that they are going to kick the field goal. So, we are just – it hurts. It hurts and you have to take your time and think about what is going on and what you could’ve done wrong and what you could’ve done better. So it’s painful.”

On having the fade pass attempt to him at the end of the game … 
“I didn’t know how close I was to out of bounds until the ball was in the air. I think that was a big play there but I knew that if I did catch it, I would be out of bounds anyways. So, it doesn’t hurt to put your hand in and make the tip (and try to catch it).”

Georgia Head Coach Kirby Smart

Opening statement …
“I have a lot of respect for that football team we just beat and their coach. I know a lot of people talk about them being Kentucky, but that’s a good football team. They’re an extremely physical football team. They know how to run the ball and they run it really well and they play really hard on defense. So, make no qualms about it, that’s a god team. And I’ll brag on my team a little bit: They never quit, they fight as hard as any group I’ve ever been around and they just challenge each other. They challenge each other on the sideline and they respond when adversity hits. I can’t thank those kids enough for that because it’s been tough and those guys bought in and really have done some good things. I’m proud of them.”

On his level of confidence and strategy going into the game-winning drive …
“Well, Jim (Chaney) and I after the kickoff concluded that we were going to be patient. Our goal was to give us a chance to win but not give them a chance to win, which is tough because you go out there and run it a few times and punt, then you question everything; you go out there and throw it, the clock stops, so you have to call plays that can be successful. Nobody panicked. The clock was rolling a lot, but every Monday and every Thursday we do that drill. We give them situations, and sometimes it’s less time and sometimes it’s more time. But I think Jacob (Eason) managed it well. He made some good decisions with the ball. We threw and caught the ball on that drive. Imagine that. Throw and catch. We threw and caught the ball. When we do that, we’re a balanced team. And when we’re a balanced team, we’re a good team. But when we don’t catch it or we don’t run efficiently, it hurts us. But, I was proud of the way the kids executed in that situation; even Sony (Michel) during the last run. We told him to get what he can get. If he can get in the middle, get in the middle, and he did. And I’m also proud of Rodrigo (Blankenship). Who would’ve thought after the spring game and everything else that that guy would hit four field goals? I’m so happy for him because he has worked so hard. He’s been drilling those things in practice lately, so that’s why we’re willing to put him out there.”

On Blankenship hitting the last field goal …
“The last one? I knew he was going to hit it. The 49-yarder? I was hoping.”

On Blankenship’s character after losing the job as kicker and getting it back …
“Maybe it was just a bad coaching decision. Maybe he should’ve been kicking the whole time. But, he’s a high character kid and I appreciate all he does. He never stops. They had a lot of challenges in camp where we would try to challenge them to see who could kick better. He didn’t win all those, but he was resilient about it. He kept coming back and he now -- all we need him to do is kick off better. That’s what I want him to do: I want him to kick that ball off in the end zone.”

On his confidence in Blankenship …
“He does that in practice. So, it’s easy to show confidence in players who do things well in practice. People think practice doesn’t matter. Practice matters. He has hit a lot of field goals in a row at practice and the team almost gathers around and they just count them out. If he gets five shots, he’ll make all five and everyone is going nuts. He’s just really in rhythm, and I think a lot of that credit should go to (Trent) Frix too. He whips that thing back there fast, gets plenty of time and Jacob is a really good holder. But the kid has ice in his veins right now. He’s doing a really good job.”

On Eason in the fourth quarter …
“I don’t know that anything happens as much as we let it happen. We give them a chance to take over the game and do that. He does not feel pressure. That’s just the kid. He has a very calm demeanor, which is what you want a quarterback to have composure wise. He really doesn’t get flustered, and I’m proud of him for that. Hopefully he can grow and develop from that.” 

On coaching (Isaiah) McKenzie tonight …
“McKenzie is a thrill a minute. I was more upset with him about not calling out the ball rolling on the ground next to our player. That’s something that we control, something that Isaiah controls, something we practice. You point at the ball. You let the guy know it’s there so he gets away from it. Well, he didn’t do that so I was upset about that. Now the ball rolling down there on the 1-yard line, that’s going to happen. If you can’t catch it, it’s going to happen, and he was trying to be aggressive and make a play when he tried to catch it. And I thought it was pretty close to catch interference, but they didn’t call it so it wasn’t and he ended up fumbling one there. But, again, the kid is an aggressive, really-hard-practicing kid, and he sets the identity for our special teams a lot of the time.”

Georgia Players

#98, Rodrigo Blankenship, Freshman, PK

On not having missed a kick in a while …
“I’m just trying to take it one kick at a time. That’s the only way to go with kicking really, you just take it one step at a time and you move on, and short-term memory after every kick. Whether it’s make or a miss, you’ve got to treat it the same way and be able to move on to the next one.”

On the attempt that counted when UK had one timeout left …
“You’ve got to be ready for anything. So taking my steps back, I’m just thinking, ‘I’ve got to get a smooth swing and knock it through.’ Timeouts, I mean, it’s a part of the game.”

#6, Javon Wims, Junior, WR

On his performance as an individual and the team as a whole …
“Just whenever plays were there to be made, when my number is called I have to make them. I have a responsibility to my teammates. You know, we work hard in practice, and my number was called, so I just went and made plays.”

On the big game next week vs. Auburn …
“Oh yeah, that’s another really good team. There are no breaks in (the) SEC. We have another tough opponent next week. We are going to have a really good week of practice leading into it.”

#2, Maurice Smith, Senior, DB

On UK going with a freshman in the Wildcat formation …
“Oh yeah, we knew they were coming. I mean you have got to give your hats off to them. I mean, they played great and they really gave us a challenge that was physical and I think we just outplayed them. Finally we showed that we could play, and this is a good win for the team.”

On how the turnovers were in the second half …
“Oh, it was big. You know, Coach always says that turnovers come in bunches, and we knew that once we got one that the second one would come. We just have to keep fighting, stripping at the ball, and I think we really got lucky and blessed with the one that (Jeff Badet) caught because it just fell in his hands. But it was just a big blessing.”