Stoops Previews Florida at Weekly Press Conference

At noon on Monday, Mark Stoops will preview Kentucky's return to Commonwealth Stadium for a Saturday matchup against Florida.

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Head Coach Mark Stoops

Opening statement …
“I thought we played with a lot of poise and a lot of confidence. It was a great team victory and the good thing is that we can play a whole lot better and I think we are going to need to starting this week against a very good Florida team. We are looking forward to it.”  

On Chris Westry’s play Saturday …
“He did play a good game, he really did. I told you that and said he did some good things. He made some mistakes and as coaches we tend to have the mistakes stick out in our minds more than the good things. He really is doing some good things and handled himself against a quality wide receiver. I thought he grew up a lot and did some good things in that game.”

On the corner blitz with Westry …
“It has been effective for us and we have done some good things with it. Even last week, Coach (D.J.) Eliot and the defensive staff really did a nice job and we kind of dressed that up a little bit last week and played some different coverage behind it, which really helped us. We always try to get a wrinkle or two against a guy like Coach (Steve) Spurrier and just dressing things up was effective for us.”

On the win being a big step for the program …
“It was a very big step for us because like I said, I was just very proud of the way the team handled the adversity in that environment with some young players playing. To start the way we did with the turnover and getting them ahead 7-0, to our composure and our poise to drive 80 yards and chew up four or five minutes the next possession of the game to answer and tie it up was very big. I thought the fourth-down conversion on the first possession of the game was huge. And you look at that play on film and the guys didn’t flinch. It was fourth and four and we got the look that we expected and Patrick (Towles) stepped up and threw a bullet and Garrett (Johnson) made a tough catch and made it look routine. That built a lot of confidence moving forward. I just think the way it unfolded, we talked about that the week before but to do it against an SEC opponent on the road after the adversity of the first possession and going down 7-0 and the adversity to have the momentum totally flip on you in the second half and have to overcome that and get a win says a lot about our team and the mental toughness and focus we have and the confidence. I think it helped us. And the good news is I know we can play a lot better and there are a lot of things that we need to get ironed out and fix. That is what’s great is we have a great opportunity this week against a very good team that has beaten us for a very long time and we have to go do something about it. We have to continue to improve fundamentally and do the little things.”

On the team’s growth in third-down situations, especially in the redzone …
“I think it has been helpful. I think we are executing some things better. We have to find creative ways. We are not built to just – it is easy to just come after people and play some kind of one-free or zero or man. A lot of people can draw up a lot of things that way. We have to protect because we play some very good people. You have to find a way to get doubles and get matchups you like and that is not always easy. I think we are growing and executing things better. The coaches have done a nice job. D.J. had a nice plan last week that was very helpful.”

On if he will bring up the losing streak to Florida to the team …
“I don’t know. I am not sure. I will go with my gut come meeting time. I have a few hours.”

On Mikel Horton’s status …
“No update.”

On if he would prefer to win a game like last Saturday over an easy win …
“Yes, I think so, I think it is good for us. Anytime you go through adversity and win a tough game it helps you and helps you grow and helps your program grow. We look for all opportunities to educate our team and help our team grow and mature and you find many different ways to do that. Certainly, I think a tough win like that in that environment helps us.”

On if there is a carryover next time in that situation that guys perform better …
“I think so because that is part of the point I was making earlier that I know we can play better. I know I will get a question coming up about that third quarter and that is something that we need to do is just execute and do our job. That is really what it comes down to. Last week, all the preparations we had and all the time I talked to the team, it really always gets down to no matter what is going on and what chaos you are involved with it gets down to do what you are trained to do and fundamentally play. We are a more prepared and trained team and I think our guys are understanding that. When things get hostile you have to go back to what they know and that is technique and playing good football. That is the beauty of us coming off a win but we could get so much better technique wise there are always things and so many teaching opportunities from that last game that we can play a whole lot better.”

On the third quarter …
“I got ahead of you there. That was it. First of all, we had two good plays on first down on drive-starting plays that work. One for 16 yards and one for six that get called back that we hold on. Now you start first and 20 and that doesn’t help. You put that on top of their drives and their momentum and their juice and things flip. That is partly the reason you have to be a good football team to overcome some bad things. That is why we went so long with losing because we weren’t good enough to overcome momentum shifts like that.”

On Denzil Ware …
“I see Denzil much like a lot of our young guys, just getting better and getting more confident. As we get some depth back and get Jason (Hatcher) back this week. I think he is getting better and growing and the fact that we can spell him a little bit and mix him in will only help him moving forward. But I was also pleased with him because he was really sick last week as well and went through some things late in the week where he was really sick and needed some IVs and I wasn’t sure he was going to play. That gets back to the team effort. Our offense controlled the ball the whole first half and we didn’t have to be out on the field one side or the other the entire game. I think it helped in particular a guy like that which we didn’t have a lot of depth at that position so he got rest. Our doctors and Jim Madaleno did a good job of getting him healthy. I was pleased with the way he played.”

On the plane ride home …
“Everybody was sleeping to be honest with you. I don’t know what the big fuss was about. No, I am just kidding. We enjoyed it. It was good postgame in the locker room. Guys enjoyed themselves and like I said the week before it is good to see them have fun because they have worked hard and things are coming together. They enjoyed it and should. The plane ride was kind of quiet once we got in there and situated and got home. Now it is another opportunity to get back to work and get better.”

On how much the team missed Jason Hatcher and his message to him …
“I think Jason needs to show some humility, as he has. He realizes he made some decisions that have hurt himself and the team. He has paid the consequences and needs to earn his way back on the team to some extent. He has been out there and been very supportive and has done everything he can to help us win without being able to play. Again, I have no problem with bringing Jason back. He has taken his penalties like a man and has to move forward and grow and get better from them.”

On what he brings to the field …
“As a player, he gives us some experience at that position and pass-rushing ability and gives us some depth. It can only help us.”

On preparing for Florida with a new head coach …
“It is new each and every week. We all grow and tweak and evolve as seasons go on let alone years. Yes, it is quite different than a year ago. They are a good football team like always with very talented players. We are looking forward to it.”

On Florida’s talent …
“Just as you would expect from a Florida team, they have some very dynamic playmakers in Demarcus Robinson at wide receiver and Kelvin Taylor at running back. Defensively, Vernon Hargreaves – I know he didn’t play last week – but arguably one of the best players in the league at corner and a very impressive player. I expect him to be back out there this week against us. You see a very hard-nosed football team. I see disruptive guys up front like usual and they have some guys that look very sudden and very quick on the defensive line. I know they have good cover guys. Brian Poole has been around forever and I have known him since I recruited him at Florida State. They have good cover guys, disruptive guys defensively up front and then offensively like I said with Taylor and Robinson. They are playing two different quarterbacks, but that really doesn’t affect us at all in our preparation. They both are very good football players. We expect a good game.”

On how last year’s Florida game will affect his players mindset this year …
“I don’t think it will affect them very much. As I said a week ago with South Carolina, one year to the next shouldn’t matter. If anything I think our players know that we have moved beyond the belief, we know we can play. It’s just a matter of attention to detail. The big message this week is worrying about us continuing to get fundamentally better. That’s what’s always going to carry you. You can’t talk your way around wins you just have to get better and continue to push forward. That’s what we are looking forward to this week. It’s always easier to get them motivated after a good win, so now we just have to put some days together.”

On Dorian Baker dropping the first pass but him recovering and making several catches after …
“It doesn’t surprise me at all. We have a lot of confidence in Dorian. And going back to him, there was no doubt we were going to go back to him. I think the first play was disappointing for all of us because it was a big gain. It was just like we drew it up and worked all week on. I think he was worried about making one guy miss and going the distance instead of just getting out of that hole.“

On the Boom Williams play during overtime at Florida last season …
“The play he ran in overtime to score was special. It certainly was on the big stage.”

On Kemp always playing well against South Carolina …
“No he’s going to play well again. I am very proud of that position group because as you become a better football team and get more and more players on your team you start looking around and guys want to get on that field. There’s only one football offensively and defensively some guys are playing well in tight games. I talked early in the season about playing guys and being deeper, and we have to continue to push and do that. It gets hard as a position coach and coordinator, I have been there before, because every play matters so much. But we have some good talented guys we have to continue to bring along. But that’s a group that has been very unselfish. It’s not always easy to those guys. Jojo had a huge game a year ago and then some other guys start playing he might get an injury, and sometimes it’s hard to get back on the field when other guys get hot. Last week was a perfect example, Mikel goes down with an injury and Jojo is right there. Boom (Williams) needs Jojo to play well and we need Jojo to play well. I think it’s a good lesson to our team that you’re always just one play away. I feel like we have three quality guys there and I’m thankful for that and will continue to bring Sihiem (King) along as well.”

On replanting belief in the players after last year ended …
“No, I really didn’t. You get that confidence from all the work that you put in and I knew we were progressing last winter after the season and through spring and summer and camp, that’s where you get the confidence and belief in the work that you do. That’s why I say you can’t really talk about that stuff. I needed no motivation to say hey we have lost our last six games. Let’s go to work and let’s get better and push forward.”

On if he has remind them to stay grounded after two big wins …
“Big time, I mean they are young kids. They’re young guys in a lot of situations and I love them, but a lot of them are very immature. They are going to hear it because there are things that bother me that you have to reign in. The focus has to be there. I do not like to get guys uptight when we are traveling, but there has to be some discipline and accountability. Young guys have a fine line there with everything, so coaches are always in that situation but we are getting better.”

On the depth of the offensive line …
“Yeah we're pleased with that depth. I always do go back and look as I look at the coaches grades as they give them to me on Sunday, I always look at the plays and you know how many guys are playing in certain positions. It’s not going to work out to perfection with what our plan was going into it you know so that’s where I was touching on earlier, some games certain guys are going to get hot and have a bunch of catches or a bunch of runs or defensively a bunch of plays. But our team needs to continue to get better and you know I did notice that on Sunday the depth on the O-line and what we’re doing. That’s very helpful.”

On Kobie Walker’s status …
“No (update), not at this time with his injury. I’ll touch on that another time.”

On an injury update overall …
“Yeah we’re in pretty good shape. Mikel, I’ll give you an update later in the week unsure of that right not, but other than that we’re in pretty good shape.”

On redshirting Eli Brown …
“I don’t know we have not played him to this point. We’ve been working with him and preparing with him to use him if we need to. It’s kind of a wait and see as we’ve been waiting on Ryan (Flannigan) to get back out there so we’ll see how it goes this week again. There’s a good chance we may have to play him, we’ll see. And that has nothing to do with Ryan. It has another position, Nico (Firios) is a little bit banged up. I know I just talked about injuries but that one just popped up in my mind.”

On avoiding the team playing tight this Saturday against Florida …
“I really, I can’t speak to that to the 28 years. I can only speak to the years that I’ve been here and like I said we need to just worry about ourselves. We know we can play with Florida I said it a year ago and I just felt like we were getting better and had some opportunities and this year again we have great respect for Florida obviously. They’ve been a great program for a long time and we really just concentrate on ourselves and getting better and doing the work and preparing to go win the game. The streak really doesn’t bother me. You know it doesn’t bother me. Somebody asked me if I’m going to touch on it, or rant and rave, there’s nothing to talk about on that. If it bothers some player and gives him some form of motivation to do extra then so be it, but I’m just worried about our team constantly doing those things to put ourselves in a position to win. We need to be disciplined in our approach all the time.”

On if that is coach speak …
“I never give you coach speak. (laughter) But I was tired of hearing about that”

Closing statement …
“Also looking forward to recognizing Mike Slive this weekend and bringing awareness to prostate cancer. I’ve been in the league a short time but could not be more impressed with him and what he’s done for the league and certainly for myself and helping me the first two years in the league so looking forward to recognizing him this week as well.”