Mark Stoops Press Conference

Mark Stoops Press Conference - Monday, Nov. 2

Opening statement … 

“Just like I said postgame, this past week I was very upset and disappointed in the way that we played vs. Tennessee. Going back and looking at the film, the frustration is still there. Just inconsistent in all phases and that’s not winning football. There were some good things on each side of the ball that we have to take and build from. There were a lot of winning snaps and good snaps but too many explosive plays. In particular, if you look at us defending Tennessee, there were a lot of good plays on first and second down. The majority of the game plan, what I always look at first and foremost is structurally were we set up right and what were the problems. Going into the game we knew they were going to present problems and put stress on you. I thought structurally things were set up pretty good. I thought it was pretty defining early in the game. We were successful on first and second down and we were getting aggravated on third down. They were converting third downs, in particular, third and shorts and third and mediums. On third and long we were right around 70 percent, which you should be. But manageable third downs – third and medium and third and short – we didn’t win any of those battles. 

Offensively, same thing not a lot of people had a lot of success early in the game against Tennessee. We didn’t either. Later in the game we found some rhythm. The turning point again was we had a long extensive drive and punch it in on third down and get a lead and lose it one play later. You can’t do that. You can’t give up 75-yard touchdown passes. We had good pressure and were a fraction off on getting a sack that we have got to get there. We were beat on the coverage for 75 yards and that takes the wind out of your sail. After that we were battling back and forth and a critical moment again is we were down 10 and they had third and five and have them covered and have them in the pocket and we lose contain and he converts on a third down. That was aggravating. Again, first and second down we are fine and the next third down we sell the farm and they hit us on a screen and bust it and the next time you are on the field they have 52 points on the board. That pretty much sums it up real quick. They hit us on a screen, punt return, kickoff return, interception return, game over. 

Can’t win that way and that is frustrating. There is no panic. It is not good enough and not acceptable, but we know there are plays in there we have to build on and good things on both sides of the ball we can do and will do. It is a loss and we can’t let that shake us up and worry us as we move forward.

We are looking forward to Georgia. That is the beautiful thing is we have another great challenge going in and playing at Georgia, on the road, and a team that is probably upset just like us. The only way you can erase this feeling in your program is to get a victory, I am sure they feel the same way, just like we do to go out and play a very good game this week. It will be another tall challenge to play a team as deep and as physical as Georgia. Certainly, when we watch them on the tape and when I go watch them in pregame warm up, they will be everything that I think they are going to be which is big, strong and athletic. A very good football team and a coach that has been around for a long, long time and has an awful lot of wins. Coach (Mark) Richt has done a great job for a long time and a very good and storied program. We are excited to go down there and see what we can do. 

We are anxious to get back to work. I don’t see one bit of anything within our program or in our players after watching that film – there is not one bit of me that thinks our hearts were not in it. Not at all. Our speeds were good, they were flying around and playing football. We have to do a better job in critical situations and a lot of that comes down to third downs on both sides of the ball.”

On Boom Williams’ status …

“Boom will be out. Boom has an elbow injury. It will be week-to-week, but he is out right now.”

On if he is more all in with the freshman at certain positions …

“We’ve been. Listen, I could have very easily listed him a year ago, but I am not going to do that to Cody (Quinn) and other guys that have been doing a good job. Cody has battled his tail off for us. He still needs to do that and will do that. I have a lot of respect for Cody and the work he has done and A.J. (Stamps) and all of those guys. They have worked their tails off and been a big part of this program and doing the best that they can. They will all continue to play. But yeah, based on results, you have to go with who is producing.” 

On the kickoff return for a touchdown and the punt return for a touchdown …

“The kick return was the kick. We had one guy out of position and the kick. We had one guy go the wrong way. Again, those are good guys with good blockers. We have been strong all year. I have 100 percent confidence in what we are doing on the coverage units. The guys have been busting their tails. They have been flying around and covering well and take pride in that kickoff unit. When it is a low line-drive kick, man we are in trouble. I think it was a 3.1 hang time to a guy that can run and guys that can block. We had a guy get out of position and the rest is history. We had a few guys that needed to defeat some blocks and that is all I am going say about it before I get in trouble. We have to do better things and defeat blocks no matter where they are at or what they are doing to you. We have to do a better job, but we will. I have great confidence in what we are doing and how we are doing it. You have to kick the ball well and Austin (MacGinnis) is doing the best he can. He has been solid and battling a nagging injury. He is doing the best he can. On the punt, same story. Not a great punt, but we did have a couple of guys that will be challenged today in the meeting that didn’t produce like we need them to. We need guys that have a very strong burning desire to get to the football. Again, I think we had that across the board in this game, but in that particular play there will be some guys that will be called out and I am not going to get into who that is.”

On if he is happy with the coaching arrangement on special teams …

“On special teams I am. Again, everybody is going to do that. If we get a good punt that hangs in the air and it’s a no gain then we aren’t even having this conversation, right? Protection has been solid and covering good, guys have been busting their tails. That is not an issue, it really is not. Do we need to do better? Absolutely. Do we look at all things? Absolutely. When the game is out of hand would you like a hanging punt that you get guys down there? Yes. You certainly don’t want line drives after you are down a few points, I can tell you that. It is human nature to not have that same juice that you do when the game is on the line.” 

On Joey Herrick’s injury status …

“Yeah, right now, Joey and Boom will be out this game for sure. Joey has a bone bruise. We were glad it was not a more significant knee injury.” 

On if Drew Barker was available vs. Tennessee …

“He could not play this past Saturday. He was not able to play. We do anticipate he will be able play this week.”

On if Drew Barker would have played if he would have been full strength on Saturday …

“I really can’t even answer that because he wasn’t. I don’t know. I didn’t think about it.” 

On Darius West’s health status …

“It is, but we are hoping he could play this week. I will let you know more as the week goes on. But anticipate he will be in there. Again, a lot of those guys that are in there and practice, it is just how effective they are. A lot of that goes around to game time and how effective they are and moving around in pregame.” 

On if he misses Melvin Lewis more than he thought he would …

“I mean, I don’t think it’s more than I thought. We knew it was significant when it happened, right? It is what it is. We have to move on.”

On if Matt Elam made some progress vs. Tennessee …

“He did, you are correct on that. Again, no one is proud when you give up 52 points, but what I look at is the structure of things on first and second down and what we are doing and are they just pushing us around all over the place. That was just not the case. There were several things and what we have to take from this – I am not trying to make any excuse at all, I deserve any criticism I get – but we know we can get things fixed. The first touchdown we have a guy in position to make the play and misses the tackle and the quarterback runs it in. The long run before half we get a four technique that gets weeded out of his gap and gets pushed out and we were rolling the opposite way so our secondary support was none because we were going the other way, but we get weeded out. Then we get beat on a 75-yard pass and then the screen pass. That comes from frustration and desperation because you have to sell the farm because you are not getting off on other third downs. That score is what it is. You need a stop and sell the farm and they skip a screen out on us and it goes to the house. Those are things that we know we can get figured out. First and second down was good a lot of time, not 100 percent but a lot for as much stress as they put on you and how physical they are, especially how difficult that quarterback and running back are to get down.”

On missed tackles …

“You need more guys around the ball. It is not uncommon to watch these guys make people miss. We watch a lot of film and you know the quality of some of the guys you talk about. You guys write about it or certainly should because we are playing some super talented guys that are going to make people miss. You have to be able to overcome that and have secondary support and have guys get there, you know. Certainly, on that 35-yard pass, the long one and the screen, you can’t give those up week in and week out and expect to win. But some missed tackles are going to happen. You just got to have other guys rallying to the ball."

On if A.J. Stamps is physically OK after his injury late last season …

 "Yeah. He's physically OK.

On if they did different things with Marcus McWilson against Tennessee …

"We did. We did. With our outside linebacker situation going into last week, and with (Jason) Hatch(er) not being 100 percent and where we're at and what we had to do schematically against them, and also trying to put our best 11 in position. And that was playing – Mike Edwards is playing very good football. Mike Edwards has earned the right to be on the field almost at all times. And I think with the decision to either play Marcus McWilson or A.J. at free, or rotate them at free and leave Mike at strong, and then with moving Marcus down lower to the ball, it gave us a bigger nickel that we needed against this team. Blake (McClain)'s done some very good things at nickel. Blake covers probably better at nickel, but with the way they were running the ball and what we had to do it put a bigger guy down low, so Marcus and Blake at the nickel."

On what he's seen from Edwards … 

"He's been a very sure tackler. What I love about him is he's making loose plays where he's a middle third safety but he made a play, a tackle for a three-yard gain. That's having the instincts and understanding of what it takes. When it's run it's run, and when it's pass it's pass. There's only so many indicators and how fast people trigger and how much they understand that, that's instincts. And then getting down there with a burning desire to make a tackle. I thought McWilson really did some good things. There's still some plays that he needs to do better, that we need to coach up and put us in better position and challenge some throws. But, he had a lot of production – let’s put it that way. He had a lot of tackles. He had some PBUs. I think he had the caused fumble. You know, he had a lot of production.”

On creating pressure with secondary blitzes … 

“Yeah, we did. Again, we sold the farm on the one that we caused the fumble. We brought everybody. He got there and we got the seven points, which was big. That is the cat and mouse game. Again, we caught them once or twice on the screen when they were blitzing and got a big play in critical moments. It is just going to go back and forth. When we were sitting there playing coverage, they did a nice job of beating us in our coverages. When we had pressure and had them covered, he did a nice job of buying time and getting the first down. That is where frustration comes in sometimes. You have to find a way to get it done and get off the field.” 

On having to get creative due to not winning battle up front … 

“It is huge. It is huge. It is a big, big part of it. It is a pretty darn big thing. You have to have guys up front to create that pressure. Look at our offense. We had a hard time when it was predictable pass. We had a hard time blocking them when we had a predictable pass.” 

On if the running game changes with a bigger back (Mikel Horton) carrying the ball … 

“Not much. Not much. Certain plays, certain things we do to create space for Boom (Williams) to use his skill set. But the running game in genre wasn’t bad. I thought if there was any one thing, as we all look at things, (offensive coordinator) coach Shannon (Dawson) will tell you and as we looked at the film and break it down, I just wish we had gone to our power-running game earlier. We did have some success against them, without going sideways and getting behind the chains too much. Just running it and getting some tough yards. We did that at some point in the game but again when you are not dealing with that many possessions and certainly when they are scoring on special teams and in different ways, it gets away from you real quick. And they you are reaching.”

On if UK needs to find something to hang its hat on … 

“You do. You always look at what you can do on both sides of the ball. We went in with a game plan last week of wanting our guys to play fast. You had to have your change-ups but you have to have some simplicity with all the misdirection they have and all the QB running game. Offensively, the same thing. When you start the game with three and out, three and out, and I believe those are the only two we had. But when you start at three and out, three and out you are not getting as many opportunities. You are not getting in that rhythm to run a bunch of plays and get going. There are always things we can do to get better. We have a good idea of who we are and what we do. We just always want to put our guys in a position to be successful against who we are playing and what they are doing as well.”

On what UK’s identity is … 

“On offense, we have to be able to run the ball and throw it off the actions. Because predictable pass in not where you want to live. Third and long is not where you want to live against the guys that are rushing against us and all the exotics and what you see with the Oline and everything else. You have to be able to create. That is the fine line that you run into as a play caller. What do you do, take a shot on first down? Well now you are second and 10. If you don’t get yards now you are third and long. That is not where we are very good at. We had the one good drive, when the game was on the line, the 15-play drive, that is who we are. But being able to execute that time and time and time again is difficult. But that is who we are. We have to be able to run the ball and we have to be able to throw it off the action. We have some wide outs that we do get respect from defense for. What I mean by that is they try to protect against our wide outs sometimes and when they do that, we have to be able to run the ball. If they are rolling and protecting and covering our wide outs, you have to be able to run the ball. That is the game, you’ve heard me talk about it forever as a defense.  When you load up in the box, what am I worried about? Shots. What happened Saturday? You have to play with numbers and they hit a shot. We haven’t given up many shots this year but when we gave up that shot it hurt. They get the 75 yard bomb and again I thought we had a good play called. We had good pressure coming from the boundary. We were blitzing some guys and we were fractions off. We have to get that sack or the ball doesn’t get off. But again, give credit to (Joshua) Dobbs. He alluded that pressure, stepped up and still made a play. Still threw the ball down the field. Takes a strong guy to do that.”

On finding leadership with Melvin Lewis injured … 

“Patrick is a big guy with the leadership on there. A guy like Jon Toth has a lot of respect from the team. (Jordan) Swindle has played a lot of football. And I think our wide outs are starting to get that. Guys that our guys see that are out there, playing hurt and producing each week, guys like Garrett Johnson and Dorian (Baker) can get that role.”

On losing a game in different ways, whether it be physical domination or bad breaks … 

“There was a combination of it, don’t get me wrong. You can see where they were. That is why you miss tackles and do all those things. Because they are physical and big strong guys. Give them credit; I am not trying to take anything away from them. They beat us in all areas. They were more physical than us. They were better coached and they hit the big plays. I am just trying to say that I know we can get certain things fixed. If you can’t cover one on one, if you can’t cover shots in three-deep zone, then you are not going to win a lot of games. You have to be able to, when you have a man on a man, you can’t protect guys all the time. You roll under them or over them all the time, you have to win some one on one battles. It is frustrating either way, I don’t know what makes it any better. I know we have some work to do, both physically and in recruiting. I know we have to coach better. I know our guys, when we do have those chances, have to make those plays.”

On if he sees things differently now that he is three years in … 

“No. I know right where we are at. Not going to flinch one second.”

On a potential injury to freshman OT George Asafo-Adjei … 

“George is dinged up. He is. He has a sprain. He will be a guy that I’ll update you throughout the week but they told me this morning he will be out there this week, but not today.”

On if scouting Georgia can be difficult due to changing personnel … 

“It is not hard because they are who they are. They are physical, whoever they have. They have extremely talented running backs and a good scheme. They are different than teams we have played the last couple of weeks but in the same in that they have very big, talented guys. No matter who is in there, it just seems like another big, talented guy comes in. We will have our hands full. But it doesn’t change much, who is playing quarterback, or anything like that.”

On if the players think about making a bowl game … 

“I am sure they probably do. I hope they use any motivation they can. You know I don’t talk about that because I don’t want to talk about a number. With four games left, I don’t want to say, ‘let’s get two,’. What am I just going to give up on two? We are going to go try to get this one. I hope they feel like, like you said it is the last four games. That was the message after the game, don’t hang you head. Don’t question things. Get back to work. It is not fun. It is not okay. We are not happy. Now what are we doing to do about it? Get some sleep, take care of your body on Sunday and get back to work on Monday. That is going to be the message today. I do feel good about it, I feel like this team will be ready to do that.”

On wanting to replicate the feeling from the South Carolina road win … 

“The only way you make this feeling go away is to go get a victory. That is it. We are not alone. Georgia is going to feel the same way."

On what position Georgia is in … 

“I don’t know what Georgia is in. But I know enough about them to know they have pride and I know they are going to come back and want and need a victory like we do. They have prideful players and a prideful coaching staff.”

On if a previous injury in the game to Boom Williams was related to the eventual elbow injury … 

“No, it was something different.”