Mark Stoops Monday Press Conference

Kentucky Football
Pre-Florida News Conference Quotes
Commonwealth Stadium – Lexington, Ky.
Sept. 5, 2016


Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops

Opening statement
“OK. A lot like I said after the game, I felt like it was a very disappointing loss and we know that. But there were a lot of good things in that film. We are a better football team. 

“Offensively, we played very well. Defensively, it’s a game of third downs. You saw in the first half us convert some third downs and we had them off balance. When they drop-back passed, we had pressure. We got a sack. We had the ball on the ground twice. We had three interceptions, two fumbles. Didn’t get the fumbles, but had our opportunities. Had them off balance, had good pressure, had good coverage, had interceptions and in the second half it came down to third downs. They were getting aggravating yards, two, three yards, four yards, five yards. Too many. That we need to shore up. We cannot get milked in the run game and then we have to convert third downs. They won the one-on-ones in the second half, put us in some situations where we had to win some third downs on third-and-medium and lost just about every one of those, whether it be by penalty or not covering. So then they hit us on the critical screen and we’re off balance. 

“Again, it comes down to making plays and this is where the frustration does come in because, again, there’s any number of plays – I can think of five plays – that we make any one of those and we win the game. And that’s what it comes down to: We have to make those plays. We put ourselves in position, we’re a better football team. 

“Offensively, we moved it at will in the first half. In the second half, we didn’t have enough possessions. And that comes by not getting off the field defensively and winning some third downs. It also comes with converting. What was nice to see was the first drive of the second half when the offense got the ball, moves it right down the field just like they did in the (first half)—and then we get the turnover. And Drew (Barker) makes that same play earlier and throws a touchdown pass. Literally the same move. He just didn’t protect the ball quite as good the second go-round and we didn’t pin the defensive end long enough. That’s a technique issue. Our tight end has to pin their defensive end longer to not give him the opportunity to rush. We had it open. The play was there. It was good for a big play, possible touchdown. Instead it’s a turnover. 

“And then when you look at it defensively, there’s no question we need to do better. Again, look at what we did in the first half, what we’re capable of: the big plays, the pressure, the interceptions, the whole deal. But also, you get worn down. Don’t take this out of context because I always want to score points, but if you look at our offense in the first half we scored touchdowns with two-play drives, so the defense is on the field, on the field, on the field. You start three-and-out, five-play missed field goal, then it’s two-play touchdown, two-play touchdown, seven-play touchdown, then there’s another three-and-out in there. We had 10 possessions of under three plays. And so your defense is going to be on the field and we just got to find a way to respond. We just got to do a better job of mixing in our depth and getting some guys in there because that’s a lot of possessions and they did a really good job of keeping us off balance and give them credit. They played exceptionally well, just like I said after the game, and we got to make some third-down plays. You can’t have the turnovers. With the fumble in the second half and then the interception, that was the only play that really stood out to me that Drew had a bad play. That’s just not a good throw, not a good decision. That’s not how he’ll play. That’s not how he’s coached and that was the one play that he made a really bad decision and a bad choice and a bad throw and that didn’t help our cause at that point either. That’s a bit of hitting the panic button right there and just throwing it up and we won’t do that. 

“We feel the same way today as we did after the game. It hurts just as bad, but I promise you, as I said all year, this is a good football team. They knew what to do. We got to execute. And the thing that we have to do that I have to get coached, is when things go wrong, we have to go back and execute. We talk about that constantly and I’ve got to look at all ways to get that relayed and taught and get us to execute that to the team. When things go wrong, we have guys on there that start rat-trapping and doing some things that are inexcusable. And that’s got to stop. That’s a losing mentality that we will not tolerate and that’s got to change because there are so many people doing so many good things and we cannot do that. Players have to make plays when things are going wrong. Again, it’s just a simple play that jumps out at me, but the first possession of the second half the ball hits directly in the chest. A gift for the fourth interception of the day and we get in great field position going in. Instead we drop it and they go down and score. Those are winning and losing plays, bottom line. And there’s many of those. And the players know all the time, no one play changes a game. But you never know what one play would because you don’t know what the difference is going to be. And there was a bunch of plays in there. There’s 10 plays at that game, whether we don’t execute because we’re rat-trapping or we go back to a losing mentality or whatever it is, but that’s got to change. That we will get changed because the vast majority of this football team is much better. And so we’ve got 11 games and we’ll move forward.”

On how to change that mentality …
“We show it to them and we put it on them. And here’s the deal: Because there’s so many guys doing so many good things, we’re beyond having to be delicate with these guys because they can handle more. They are tougher and they can handle it, but you got to be honest with them. We got to show it to them and the guys that are having either a losing mentality or losing play when the game is on the line is unacceptable. You’re not going to win when that happens. So we’ve got to change them. Sometimes, after so many opportunities, they either can’t or won’t. They either can’t change or won’t change. So we’ve got to continue to find guys that can get them. And you’re talking about just a few guys because most of it has been very good and the effort’s there.”

On Blake McClain not being on the depth chart …
“Yeah, he’s injured. We anticipate him back but he won’t practice today.”

On the point in the second half when he said ‘what the hell is going on?’ …
“At what point—you’re always questioning—I don’t know what kind of question that is. I don’t know if I ever in my mind said, ‘what the hell is going on?’ but I was not pleased, that’s for sure. We came in at the halftime and, as I mentioned after the game, you give up the one big play – and I addressed that immediately with the team, about that’s one play, go back to what we’ve been doing and execute. When stuff goes haywire, you have to lean on your technique and your assignment. That, we don’t always do. Again, that’s what I was just talking about, about pointing out to the guys in front of the whole team, when you have an opportunity to do something and make a play and you don’t, that’s just inexcusable. We’re playing a high level of competition and we expect you to make those plays. And if we’re going to go to where we need to go, we need to do it. That’s not scapegoating. That starts with me getting it taught on down to everybody. But there’s a lot guys doing a lot of good things. There’s a lot of good coaching going on and there’s good things happening. We just got to be more consistent and we can’t have those momentum shifts.”

On what happened on the play before the half …
“There was a missed assignment and one person tried to cover for another.”

On how difficult it is to get the team to focus this early in the season … 
“I don’t believe that will be difficult at all to get them back on point and get them focused on Florida. That won’t be difficult. We’ll have a meeting today and we’ll show them all the things we did well, all the things we need to do better and we’ll get going on the Gators, but I don’t think it will be hard to get them motivated and get them going.”

On worrying about putting too much pressure on the team this early in the season to win …

“I think when you’re looking at us, it’s the world we live in. Every game is very important to us and we knew the first game was important to us. I don’t think I think we put any added pressure on that. I think we went out and executed and did the things we thought we were capable of, we’ve just got to continue to do them and when things go wrong hone in and be very precise when bad things happen. Until we do it, until somebody makes a big play when those games are on the line and flip it then that’s the result. That’s what we have to get changed and will get changed.”

On the team responding vs. Florida and if that will be make or break for this team …
“I don’t ever want to put a make or break on one game because say we win it, it doesn’t mean anything. You all know that. You’ve written plenty about starting (the season) good and not finishing so what good does that do? It’s a 12-game season.”

On coaching against a losing mentality …
“I believe it’s both. I believe we have to point out the issues. Again, we’re beyond dealing with fragile mentalities. They’ll be called out and showed in front of everybody the plays that we had the opportunity to make so everyone keeps their confidence and knows things are in place to win the game. And then eventually the players will start making them and we’ll get over the hump. That’s the last thing left to do in this program, is finding that winning attitude, that winning culture and ways to win games instead of losing them.”

On the unknown during the preseason and what he found out about his team that surprised him Saturday …
 
“Well, I don’t know if it was an unknown, but I think there were some guys on defense who did not play as well as they can. We know we have some inexperience there and some limitations, but we can play better than we did.”

On fatigue playing a factor next week at Florida … 
“I’m not sure. We’re in good shape. Our defensive guys played 95 snaps. I think Matt Elam played 70 or 80 plays. He played quite a few plays, more than I thought, so we need to do a better job at developing and bringing some guys along and getting that depth going. We did have some guys play an awful lot of snaps (against Southern Miss). I believe Courtney Love played every snap. We had some hydration issues I think you see across the country. Some of these guys have very little body fat and they don’t keep a lot of water in their system. That’s an issue and will be an issue as we go down there. Depth is an issue but I think our team is in good shape.”

On the status of Josh Allen … 
“ We’ll see how the week goes on. He’s injured. Whether it’s one day, two days, three days I don’t know.”

On any other significant injury update … 
“Nothing that I feel like somebody is definitely out. If someone was definitely out I’d tell you but I don’t think that’s the case yet. Too early.”

On if he feels the depth on defense is going to get better …

“It’s about bringing guys along to where you trust them to put them into a game. There was a lot on the line in (the Southern Miss) game as you know and as the momentum got going against us sometimes you’re a little hesitant as a coach to put in some guys that haven’t had a lot of experience. We have to get more confident in the guys that we have to develop that depth in game situations.”

On what he is seeing from his younger guys on defense …
“I think it’s a combination of things. When the lights go on and things start happening guys really want to make plays and their heart is right but they have to rely on the things they were taught. Fundamentally, when things go haywire, it’s not good. Execution of run pressures in critical situations (against Southern Miss) was unacceptable. We had some things called that would have been great and they don’t execute them and the game is on the line. Instead of 2nd-and-12 it’s 2nd-and-4. It’s hard to manage it that way.”

On what rat trapping is and how it relates to football …
“How in the world would I describe that? It’s a (Florida State coach) Jimbo (Fisher)-ism. It’s going back to bad habits. When pressure is on the line you go back to bad habits.”

On how much beating Florida would help to create that winning culture …

“I think it would do a lot because it’s a big game. It’s a conference game, a divisional game and it’s on the road. It would mean a great deal for us to respond and bounce back and go get a victory.”

On being competitive the last two seasons against Florida and if UK can draw from that …
 
“I do, but I always say every year is a new year and a new team. Last year’s game – win or lose – is behind you. But I definitely think that our players will respond and play well. We have quite a few players on our team that are from Florida and they like going down there and playing. We know it is a real challenge. We know that we have to play very well or we will not have a shot. I think they deserve the respect that they get, but our players also know it is about us and what we do. And if we go execute and play the very best that we can then we will have a great opportunity. And if we don’t, then we will have no chance.” 

On utilizing the tight ends more and not being able to do that against Southern Miss …
“You never can tell, it doesn’t help that we go to them on the first play of the game and they drop it. That doesn’t help the cause. In this offense – and this has been preached the whole time – that you never can tell who is going to get the ball and when. Our receivers have seen that in scrimmages where they may not get a touch or as many as they can. Then they go out in games and get a few and just like Garrett (Johnson). Garrett goes out and gets six receptions for 143 yards and two TDs. That wasn’t the gameplan, it just happened to go that way with the calls and the plays. I think you will see through the course of the year that certain running backs will have big games and certain receivers and tight ends.” 

On Jordan Jones’ play …
“Jordan Jones played exceptionally well. As you know, I went back to the first scrimmage and was disappointed in assignments and he kind of did that rat trapping thing and got out there and wanted to just round around instead of taking care of his assignments and then play. He only had two missed assignments and he played again don’t quote me exactly, but he played in the neighborhood or 80 snaps and he was all over the field. He made 19 tackles, a sack and a quarterback hurray. So he was running around and he showed the explosiveness and speed that you are looking for and that is good to see.” 

On stopping the run and the going from a 305-pound defensive lineman to a 260-pound defensive lineman and how much that affects the run defense …
“It just depends on what we are in and what we are doing and how we are executing. I was disappointed in getting blocked and getting driven off the ball late in the game. Early in the game it wasn’t about being soft, just about being more precise in what we were doing. We need to escape and look at different ways. Like I said, when we have some pressures and different movements and we don’t execute them properly it is tough because you don’t always know what is going on on the field. It could be simple things. I don’t want to get too technical. It could be two four-techniques (defensive linemen) are both pinching and only one of them are supposed to be then you have a real problem. You don’t always see every little subtle nuance until you put on that film. Certain blitzes you know you are not executing properly. But the movements and certain things (you don’t know immediately). But then you get away from it and it would’ve been good (if it was executed well). So those the execution things that we have to iron out.” 

On what he sees new about Florida …
“They are different. The first thing you see with the new quarterback and what they are doing is they are getting rid of the ball quick. They were throwing it around pretty good and he looked pretty efficient and he looked pretty smart with the football. They have some weapons and they’re a good football team.”

On how many different positions did Kobie Walker play against Southern Miss …
“He played one position, he just was asked to do a lot. And that we have to look at too.”

On how much getting away from fundamentals is experience …
“It does, but that is not an excuse and nobody wants to hear that anymore and nor do I.”

On special teams …
“I thought that our special teams were exceptional outside of the critical one, which was the blocked punt. Luckily it just got tipped and we got some roll out of that. But the things we look at with hidden yardage, we won that in a big way on special teams. Our coverage units were outstanding. We need to punt the ball better. So there was really one issue that you had to watch and that was a simple adjustment of being more firm with the guy inside on the one that got tipped. Outside of that, I thought they were exceptional really. Our coverage units were as good as they have been. When you look at our kickoff returns vs. kickoff and vice versa when you look at the hidden yardage on that we had big returns and a chance for bigger ones. We have to clean up some things because we missed some opportunities to hit some big ones on our kickoff return and I felt that going into the game. I felt that we would have a good chance to hit a possible home run there. We hit some good returns and had good starting field position, but we just need to clean some things up and we will get more out of that. And our kickoff coverage unit was outstanding. Again, I have told you guys this for two years and I understand when you talk about special teams, but you get a good kick and our guys are humping it down there. Our guys are busting it down the field and we got really good kicks out of Austin (MacGinnis) and our coverage units were really humping and flying down there and playing physical. We had some great kickoff covers. We punt the ball a little better then it will be better. The other side of that, we had one opportunity for a punt return and we had some really good things but got beat outside. One we had to fair catch it and the other two were really non-returnable and they made great punts. So we had a chance on the punt return too. We had some guys really do some fundamental things inside and got it blocked up. We have to get the outside secure so we can get it started, though. I was really pleased.” 

On the pass interference calls in the second half and how tough it is to be a DB when the offense gets so comfortable … 
“Yeah, the on Chris (Westry) he needs to finish better and needs to be locked in. We had great pressure and it wasn’t tipped, if it was tipped it wouldn’t have been pass interference. But he got pushed into and the ball was flopping around and that is tough on a guy. It is greatly underthrown and when you are in press (coverage) that is what you are giving up and if you are off then you are soft all day. That is what you have to play. The one with J.D. (Harmon), that was a silly mistake by him because he had him covered. He gave him a little extra shove that he didn’t have to because he had him covered perfect. Two other times you saw him play it exceptionally well, but that was a very critical play because it was third down if I was not mistaken on that penalty there.” 

On J.D. Harmon’s play …
“The two highlight reel plays (interceptions) were very good. We knew in the third and medium when they isolated the guy on the backside that we had the win (in the situation). But he and Chris both got beat on critical third downs on the slants. Fundamentally, we need to clean that up and play a little better. As I always say, if you are playing that position you are going to win some and they are going to win some and I was pleased to see J.D. win some of those. He had some good covers, had a tip and had the two big picks. Certainly, you have got to applaud what he did and how he played. Our other two corners didn’t play very well in my eyes and I think we are capable of much more and we expect much more.”