Mark Stoops Press Conference

Opening statement … 

“We are looking forward to our preparations for Tennessee and looking forward to a great game. It will be good to come back off of such a disappointing loss and play a rival. It will give us some extra juice this week to get out there and play a lot better than we did last week. 

Just like I said in the postgame, after the Mississippi State game, just really disappointed in all areas. I think we can definitely coach a heck of a lot better, we can play better. Again, there were some tough matchups and there were some critical moments in the game that once again changed the game. You never know what those plays are going to be. I felt like we were scratching and crawling and it was 14-10 and we had two stops and possessions to go up with the ball in scoring position and we let the game get out of hand and away from us at the end of the first half was critical. We have to do a better job and I have to do a better job of managing that situation. We have to make some plays to keep it close there at half and regroup at halftime and come back and finish the game. Even after all that and all that adversity and some poor play and poor coaching, we had an opportunity to cut it to a one-possession game with first and goal at the three and have a penalty there to push us back. There are lot of things and blame and it starts with me. We will get it corrected and move on. 

That is a very good football team with an exceptional quarterback and how anybody is not talking about that guy in the Heisman race, you need to have your head examined. He is a terrific ball player with a lot of poise and a lot of good weapons. Like I said going into the game, they do an excellent job and put a lot of stress on you and they beat us. They beat us and outcoached us and played better than we did. I think certainly it could have been closer than it was and those are the things we have to get fixed to put us in a better position to win. 

We are excited and I have no doubt we will get some things fixed and we will move on to Tennessee and be excited to play a big game here this Saturday night.”

On the play of Mike Edwards and Darius West in the secondary …

“I was pleased with the way they are playing. They are doing some really good things, Mike and Darius. Darius is a little dinged up. He has an ankle (issue) and will more than likely be out this game and maybe a couple more – I don’t know. We will see. But he has an ankle sprain. But they did a good job and Derrick Baity did a good job as well. But Mike is playing some good football. He is very athletic and he covers and has good instincts. He makes loose plays and plays where he is just playing football. He has some instincts and is just making some plays.”

On A.J. Stamps’ play this season … 

“I think without going right into specifically A.J. I think all of us could do a better job and I think A.J. would be the first to tell you that too. Sure he could do a better job and I do expect a lot out of him. He is a guy that has played a lot of football for us and he has been representing us as a captain. I would think he expects more out of himself as well. Certainly, there are some things, but missed tackles in the open field when you have a guy on the sideline is not good football.”

On Tennessee … 

“Tennessee, again, a lot like last week in I think they are a physical team with good size and good length and good strength across the board and it’s skilled. A lot like last week, they put a lot of pressure on you in a lot of ways. I really respect the way they play defensively and how hard they play. I think they play with great effort and are very well coached. Offensively, the same thing as last week in that they put a lot of stress on you in what they do. There is a lot of deception in what they do and a lot of power in what they do. Their tailback is exceptional. Their quarterback is an exceptional runner and thrower at times. They are really balanced and just put a lot of pressure on you. They are a well-coached team and they are physical and again I just really respect how hard they are playing.”

On how the team will prepare for Tennessee …

“It’s always a challenge. I talked about that last week. I thought, with everything that they did and winning some one-on-ones, when we didn’t do that, I thought some things (went bad). We have to do a better job of staying with the plan and just counting on our players to step up. You try to do some things to protect, but you can’t do that. There is not a lot of magical things you can do all the time. You have to win some one-on-one plays, especially when teams put you in the run-pass conflict all the time and can hurt you in the pass game. We will have our hands full and have a good plan, but we have to win some one-on-one battles and cover some people. This group is a lot like last week where the deception and the power run game off the deception with the flying motions and all of that, then they have great play-action pass off of it as well.”

On what ways the coaches need to coach better …

“We all share in that, you know that. I am always going to own that. There are things we can do better as a staff and I can do better. We have to put our players in a position to win. It is not all on them and never is or ever will be. There are things I have already addressed on both sides of the ball and I have touched on it briefly in the media, but I don’t want to beat a dead horse publicly. There are things that we are going to get fixed and ironed out in the staff and I am not panicked about it, but there are things we have to get better at.”

On who stood out for him vs. Mississippi State …

“I thought Matt Elam did some good things. Josh Forrest is always a guy that runs around and we are asking an awful lot out of him. We are putting him in a situation where he is doing a lot of things and really still giving us everything he has and doing a very nice job. Garrett Johnson is still playing very good football. The catch he made over the middle that gave us a chance and gave us a first down was just a tough hardnosed play that we count on Garrett making that play. He has been very consistent with that. If you just look at us at times in that game we were doing some good things on both sides, but it got away from us very quickly.” 

On Garrett Johnson’s health … 

“He should be fine. He has a shoulder injury – a shoulder sprain. I would hope he would be alright over the next couple of days.” 

On Tennessee starting two freshman offensive linemen vs. Alabama …

“Yeah, I mean, nobody feels sorry for me when I start freshmen right? I had two freshmen corners out there against some monsters (last week) was anybody crying the blues for me? Ok.” 

On Matt Elam responding to the starting role … 

“Matt did a good job. He accepted the challenge and I thought his approach changed a bit because he really leaned on Melvin (Lewis) and had that comfort, but Melvin wasn’t around last week. Matt was more focused and I thought he played better. There are things that given that extended role and getting those reps he will get better and better at as we move forward.”

On his conditioning … 

“Yeah, it held up fine, it really did. You know, pass rush is not Matt’s thing. That is where we have to create some here and there and it hurts us at times, but we are asking Matt to be what he is and that’s a big nose guard that can play the run and we actually did some decent things in run defense as well.”

On if he thinks the receivers are over potential dropped passes … 

“I do. I would hope so. Some drops are a part of the game. If you watch NFL football, those guys are getting paid a lot of money and there are drops here and there.  It is no excuse. I don’t want to see it. You don’t want to see it. We can’t do it, not if you want to expect to win in critical games. Again, it is not something that I am going to panic about. We have receivers who can catch the ball and will.” 

On redshirt freshman QB Drew Barker’s NCAA debut … 

“Drew did a good job. I was really glad that he could get some reps, hated that it was in that kind of circumstance, but it was good for him to play. He looked comfortable and he made good decisions.  That was all we were trying to do in that last possession or two, is just go out there like it was 0-0 and run the offense, do the checks and just run it how you would run it. He got his feet wet and that was good to see. He got a little dinged up too unfortunately. He got a little bit of a shoulder so we will see where he is at this week.”

On if junior DE/LB Jason Hatcher will return vs. Tennessee … 

“Yes. I certainly hope so. The plan is to practice today. Last week, we were unsure, it was a game time decision that didn’t work out. But the plan is for Jason to be out there practicing today so we will see where we are at.” 

On if they can just flush the MSU game and move on … 

“No, we will never do that. We will always have the accountability in the program. You do as far as the question I got about being worried about how many points we got beat by and how it may have looked but no, that I throw away. Because I know we could play better than that. I know we are. That was a tough team. We were double-digit underdogs going into it and you know what you are up against. That part of it, I am not worried about. I know we will play better ball, we need to, and we will learn from it like we always do. But they will be held accountable, as far as doing what they are supposed to do, playing with effort and execution and all of those things. I can’t in a clear conscious just go in and say we are not going to watch that film and move on to Tennessee. That is just not how we are going to operate. But we will move on quickly.”

On tackles for loss and offensive line play vs. MSU … 

“(Tackles for a loss) are very disruptive. What is disappointing is we had some big runs as you saw and really Boom made some great individual runs on some of that. They are big and disruptive. The movement has hurt us at times. It hurt them at times as well. It was a little bit feast or famine. We got off to a good start, I believe we had around 150 yards in the first quarter, so we were moving it well. Really, we only had one three and out I believe the whole game and then up until the part where we talked, that I have to do a better job of coaching. There were four minutes in the half, we have the ball on the 40, second and three and we have a chance to pretty much get out of that half, either ahead or down one. That we have to do when you are on the road, against that type of team. That is my job. To get us to understand that and to execute to get us to do that.”  

On the Alabama-Tennessee game … 

“Alabama made a few more plays. That is the thing, if you look at to credit Tennessee, to play a quality team like Alabama. To know you are one or two plays away from winning shows you how close they are. Again, we’ve been in that situation before this year against some good teams but does it really matter? Do you all really care? At the end of the day, it is a win or a loss. That is how we are judged and that is how we look at it. I am sure they are very disappointed that they didn’t make a couple of plays to win. I know how good they are. Regardless of their record, I know how good Tennessee is. Again, I know what type of pride that team has because I see how hard they play. No matter what their record is, what the score is, they are playing hard.”

On Derrick Baity and shuffling the secondary in the depth chart… 

“Just practiced and played. At some point when you invest thousands and thousands of reps, and maybe someone is not making plays, maybe you have to move on to the next guy. And invest thousands of reps in them and see if they can at least make 50 percent. So that is really across the board, it is about production. As we get better and better players, and better and better competition, it is about producing. You are never going to be entitled to anything, just because you have been around, you have to earn your job every week and that is just the way it is. I would be doing an injustice to our players if they could go in and help us and they are not getting an opportunity. There is always a fine line because there is so much learning and so much that goes into it. But you have to be able to execute what you need to execute also.”

On how many 6-foot-4 corners are out there … 

“Probably not many to recruit. There are not many. We’ll look for them. We are glad we have a couple of young ones that have some size. Like I’ve said over and over, you probably get tired of hearing it, it’s like a broken record, but you see it when we play. There are big, physical guys at the skill positions. When you talk about being physical, it is not just up front, it is across the board. This is a big league.”

On if he can see UK being what Miss. State’s program is in a year or so … 

“I don’t look at it that way. Certainly we build to do that. But I can’t sit back and say, in two years. It is very painful. It is hard for everybody. People want results. We are in a results based business. Believe me, I fully know where we were at and where we are headed. I know that people say ‘well you’ve been here two and a half years, how come it ain’t fixed,’ You know what I mean? But that is no excuse, but we have to do things right for 10 and 20 years. I am not saying it will take that long, but you want to be good and build. I do have a lot of respect for Dan (Mullen) and what they’ve done. That is a big, physical, mature football team. It’s even better that they have a talented quarterback like that, that is so experienced, so poised and such a leader. They have done a good job, they really have. I still fully 100 percent believe in this team, what we are planning on doing this year and what we are plan on doing this week. We are going to go back to work today to prepare to win the game, like we do every week. We can do it. You have seen it and I have seen it, we just have to play very well and play to the best of our abilities. And we have to coach to the best of our abilities.” 

On facing a border rival in Tennessee … 

“Anytime you are playing a team that is a rival and they are right down the road. We compete with them. I don’t get into it, you know I don’t, extra motivation with this team or that team, because we really take the same approach every week. Certainly, I was not very happy with the way the game got away from us last year. It was reminiscent this Saturday in Starkville as well.  Where you felt like you were doing some good things then it got away from you really quickly. That can happen to you against good teams on the road.”

On if facing Dak Prescott the week before Joshua Dobbs helps the defense prepare … 

“I think it does to some extent. Certainly, it put a lot of pressure on us all week. We need to do a lot better job.”

On UT facing Oklahoma this year and if that can help UK due to similarities … 

“Very little. There is certainly some. It doesn’t take much to see what we do and what Oklahoma does and understand it. Tennessee knows that as well. There are some things that carry over, sure, and some things that don’t.  All of us change things up, what calls you make at the right time, or the wrong time and all that goes into it as well. It is not like, because Oklahoma had some success against them it is going to happen to us as well because we line up the same way. There are a lot of variations that go into it every play.”

On a coach balancing decisions to be aggressive in play calling … 

“I think that is a really good question and a good point. It is hard to answer. A lot of it goes with instincts and what you feel in your gut and what you foresee that is coming and what is happening. At that point, I knew we would be fortunate, at that point in time, to go in (to halftime) with the lead, or down one. I felt like we had a few stops, and we were in a good position right then and there. That is where, to say you would never in hindsight go back and change things, I can only speak for myself, but you would be lying if you don’t believe that. It was second and three, we took a shot to the end zone that I okayed. That didn’t work, we are incomplete. Then on third down we convert. Now I am thinking we have to milk this and get some tough yards, at least guarantee a field goal and shorten the half. So you get out of there at 14-13 at the worst. It didn’t work out that way. That is where I have to do a better job and that is where that balance comes in.”

On how he can help play calling in key game-management decisions … 

“I need to be more forceful in my communication. I don’t call offensive plays. That is not, you know me, it is my job to get it done, one way or another, to get it done on both sides of the ball. And I don’t call defensive plays either, but I still have to manage the game on both sides. We all know that there were calls and things on both sides that we could have done better, and we would have been in that game.”

On if he is still learning game-management decision making in third year as head coach … 

“It’s not that. To me, it’s none of that. It’s a gut, when things work they do and when they don’t they don’t. But I was mad at myself because I knew what the situation at that time was and I knew where I wanted to go with it and where we had to get out of that half. You can’t give a Heisman Trophy candidate too many opportunities. You have to be smart. Especially when you are fortunate enough to get seven yards on first down. That is where you grind it out. Get those tough yards that I am talking about. Get second down, run it, third down run it, shoot I might have went for it right there and ran it again if we had fourth and one. Those are things that we all can look at and say we could have done it differently.”

On the ability to make in-game adjustments at halftime in more conducive setting … 

“Yeah. That is part of it. You have to regroup. That is part of it. That is smart. That is just managing the game. That is all part of it. Just like a golfer, sometimes he has to manage his way around the course and sometimes you attack. It’s the same thing.”

On injuries in game to Jordan Swindle, Kendall Randolph … 

“(Jordan Swindle) should be fine. But yeah, he was battling. (Kendall Randolph) should be fine as well.”

On comparisons between Dak Prescott and Joshua Dobbs … 

“They are both equally as talented I would say running it. Dak is just throwing it so much more. Just what they choose to do I guess. They can both throw it when they want to but they are both very elusive and very strong. It is a good combination.”

On if he’s ever faced a QB that majors in rocket science … 

“I doubt it. I don’t know. Maybe a first. Seems a lot like Dak in that he’s a super impressive kid. Very smart, very bright, great leadership. You can see it, it is evident.”