Mark Stoops Monday Press Conference

Kentucky Football
Pre-Louisville News Conference Quotes
Commonwealth Stadium – Lexington, Ky.
Nov. 21, 2016


Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops


Opening Statement …
“Excited about this week, another great opportunity for us and it’s going to be a lot of fun. I was pleased with a lot of things we’ve done this past game and there’s a lot to learn from as well. We’ll do like we always do, we will go in and watch this film and see the good things we did and bad and try to get better. We need to play our best football this week against Louisville. They are a very good football team, as you know. They are very well coached and very talented across the board. There really is not a weakness on that team, they are strong everywhere. They are very good defensively. They are extremely dynamic offensively. So it will be a challenge but we are excited about it.” 

On if it is a relief that the team does not need to win this game to go to a bowl and how that makes it different from past seasons …
“I don’t know if it is relief, but it is certainly better. I wish we were at 6-7-8 (wins). But definitely a better situation.” 

On if Stephen Johnson will practice this week …
“I do. (Athletic trainer) Jim (Madaleno) told me there was no setback yesterday when he came in for his treatment. No swelling and he came out of the game fine. That was good to hear.” 

On if Lamar Thomas gave the defensive staff any information on how to slow down Lamar Jackson …
“Well, I don’t know if anybody has any good idea on how to slow him down. He is an absolutely phenomenal player. What I admire most about Lamar Jackson, is you can see his leadership and you can see his toughness. Just watching some of their games when I could get a chance throughout the year, and of course on film you don’t see as much as on TV, but you could see how strong he is and what type of leader he is. They are good across the board and well coached across the board, but when they need a play he is there. He will either run or throw it or make a good decision and will his team to wins. You have to have a lot of respect for someone like that.” 

On what it did to his team to see Stephen come off the bench and play well with an injury …
“Well, a lot the same way in that regard. It is hard not to admire Stephen Johnson and see him play banged up and he was hurt last week. To see him come in and have the poise and the confidence, you could see that throughout the team. He threw a beautiful pass, I think that was his first pass, and he laid it out there. So I think that was great for our football team and says a lot about who Stephen is. He is a tough guy, like I said after the game. He is a leader and we have been very pleased with him.” 

On his emotion following Saturday’s game …
“Yeah, I was just trying to be honest. You asked me how I felt and I certainly don’t want to show you anything, but yeah I was (emotional). How could you not be proud of the football from the players’ point of view. For them first, but for so many people. There is a lot that goes into the wins and losses. Behind closed doors the progress we make and the progress we talk about, you see it. Again, I have made no bones about it, you get judged on wins and losses. And you have a fan base that is starving for wins and have been there and been loyal. We want to build that fan base and they deserve it and our administration. They have been through the good and the bad. One thing for sure is that Dr. (Eli) Capilouto and Mitch Barnhart have been there every step of the way. You have heard me talk about me wanting to deliver. You want to deliver for those people and you want to deliver for your team, players, administration, fan base, there is a lot of people involved and an awful lot of hard work going into it. And it is tough when you are building a program and you are knocking down one door after another. It is not always going to go according to script. There are going to be ups and downs and you are going to have to weather the storm and stay the course and stick to the things that you know are going to make a difference. We have done that and we know there is still a lot to do.” 

On what he knows about Bobby Petrino …
“He’s obviously a great play caller, there is no doubt about that. What stands out when you look at Coach Petrino and all the success he has had, there is a lot of offense there and you can see how well they do in the second half of games. They score a lot of points. I think they have a good way about seeing what you are doing and what the problems are and coming back to something else. Obviously, he has a lot of offense. He is a very good play caller and keeps you off balance and obviously it doesn’t hurt having Lamar Jackson because when things break down he can kill you. He is a dynamic player.” 

On if Lamar Thomas talks about recruiting Lamar Jackson when he talks to recruits now …
“I think – I don’t know. I mean, I don’t. But I am sure Lamar, I mean people know him and maybe it comes up in conversations with him and recruits, I am not sure. It is not something we are going to advertise much. But I expect him to find us one of those guys (laughter). I told him that last week in a recruiting meeting. I was rattling his cage and said, ‘find me somebody like that.’”

On how Lamar Jackson has improved from last season …
“With experience, with playing and decision making. He is an exceptional athlete. I think maybe we shouldn’t have had all those interceptions in the game last year and would have kept him on the bench (laughter). That would have been the best thing that could’ve happened. But he is just improved in a lot of ways. You can just see like I talked about earlier with him in the leadership and toughness, he is just a complete player. He can throw the heck out of the football and sit in the pocket, but obviously is an exceptional athlete as well.” 

On if the team is traveling to Louisville Friday or Saturday …
“Friday.” 

On the Louisville-Houston game … 
“Yeah, you have watched Louisville all year, they are No. 1 in the country offensively for a reason. They do things very well and keep you off balance. If you are fortunate enough to get that kind of lead on them it helps. But it was just one of those nights you could tell where nothing could go right for Louisville and everything was going right for Houston.” 

On Louisville’s defense …
“They are very well coached. Todd (defensive coordinator Todd Grantham) does a great job. They are very good and multiple. They have very good players. I am quite familiar with a few of those guys and they are good players and play extremely hard. They will play both four down and some odd. They are good across the board.” 

On the team’s mindset heading into Louisville …
“Well, we want to play our best football. We have talked about that every week. Hopefully, we will put it together and play a great game this week. We are going to need to. But I feel good about where they are at mentally. Physically, they are in good shape and we go back to all the things we have talked about in the summer in being strong at the end mentally and physically and being able to finish things. They have been good. We have had great energetic practices. The first thing I challenge them with every week is preparation. We have to have great preparation and get energy in our preparation. But it comes down to focus and you can see late in the year with a lot of teams is that mental fatigue, that is where you have to be mentally sharp. I really feel like we have been good in that but we have a lot of ways to improve. Going back to some of the past two or three games, that is where they will be challenged again, is not growing weary and getting stronger and really have a great week with that great energy. We have been energetic, it is just discipline. There are a lot of teams that come in and there are new wrinkles and new schemes and you have to be able to settle down and rely on your system and your focus to execute. We will need that again with a lot of offense that we are going to see and a lot of different things. We will have to be disciplined.” 

On who will play Lamar Jackson on UK’s scout team …
“We will probably play (running back) A.J. Rose there.”

On if Rose can give the defense a good look at what he will do …
“I don’t know if anyone can give you the look you need, but as a runner he can when we are featuring some of that.” 

On some of the scout team players that have stood out this year …
“He (Rose) is definitely one. I absolutely love him. I think he and Davonte (Robinson) are guys and Drake (Jackson) really look good. Those are guys that could have probably played this year.” 

On Alabama using former players on scout team …
“Yeah, that is a good idea. We will get Moe (Williams) dressed out today (laughter). That is a good idea. I am going to tell Moe to go get his ankles taped. The players would like that.” 

On facing a running quarterback against Austin Peay and if that helps …
“Yeah, I think it is different but it is always learning opportunities. Just like last week, everybody wanted to go out there and make every play and think they are going to make every tackle and every sack and every run was going to go for a big gain and it is not about that. We harped on it all week. Early, it was a little like that. So we settled down and did what we were supposed to do, but another opportunity to learn from it.” 

On any challenges the staff faces with the regular season coming to an end …
“No, it is just a lot of film. That is the only thing different I would say, is that you are looking at an awful lot of film on what you may see and what you may not see. Trying to get all those things repped (practice repetitions) is impossible, so you have to zero in on the core plays you know you are going to see every week and you know you are going to get a new wrinkle every week as well.” 

On how to prepare the team for the up-and-down swings that rivalry games have …
“Yeah, I think that is a good point and again you just take the experience this season alone and the different games and even this past week. Again, just like I touched on and I hit on it all week about doing your job and preparing and respect everybody and fear no one and go out and prepare the exact same way and focus on your job. But you can say that all you want and then they get out there and they mean well, they want to do the right thing, but it is not about that. Same thing in this game, it is important to have intensity, but let’s have it Monday through Friday as well. Let’s prepare with that intensity and let’s prepare with that focus. Because after a few minutes in a game like that I expect us to play with that energy all the time. That distracts and then you lose focus and negative things happen. It is about being very precise with our focus and our discipline. That again, is easy to talk about, but it is different. These kids have emotions and you want that but you want to be able to control it.” 

On being able to control the ball against Louisville …
“Yeah, I definitely think that is a big piece of it. That has been our best recipe when we have had some sustained drives. But, as you know, against very quality teams you have to be able to find some big plays as well. You have to be able to get it in the end zone. So there will be a balance there and it is always a team effort. We have to play good in all the areas. I think, that was part of it last year and always part of it in games. When one side or the other is having issues, the other side has to pick it up. When you go bad in two phases and three phases then big shifts are going to happen and that you have to offset.”

On if UK can draw confidence in the fact they have led Louisville each of the last two years at halftime …
“Well, every year is totally different. We know we had our opportunities but those are gone and if we get in the same position this year we have to learn to make the plays now. That really is not much different when you think about it for this season. Each and every game there have been plays that have been made that helped turn the game and then there have been missed opportunities, but that is football. That happens every week.” 

On playing some guys late against Austin Peay that haven’t seen much game action … 
“I think Jordan Bonner that looked good out there. Athletically, I think that he has a good chance. He is one that jumped out at me right away. Jordan Griffin is another one. I really like him. I think he has a very bright future. He really has great demeanor for a freshman and really cares and is very precise in the way he practices and learns and pays attention to his keys and has the ability. Anybody that has that kind of work ethic I am really high on. He is a freshman and it is late in the year, but he still has that focus and mental capacity to handle it and learn and grow. So I am fired up about him.” 

On where he ranks this rivalry game with other places he has coached, such as Florida State vs. Florida, Arizona vs. Arizona State, etc. …
“Right in there with it. It is always fun because every situation you are totally ingrained in that situation. For me, this is the most important one. Right now, we have another great opportunity. It is a rivalry and it feels like that. Certainly, as I mentioned, we are building our program to elevate us to make this game more prominent nationally and that is with us as we improve and get our program better, which we are doing, and then it will have more national attention. Some of the others I have been in have been phenomenal experiences. I was really hot there for a while, I was in good shape in a lot of those.”

On any indication of bowl selections …
“Absolutely not, no. I am sure that Mitch and our administration will fight to put us in the best situation we can for our fans. But we will be happy to go somewhere.” 

On Jojo Kemp’s excitement in the postgame locker room …
“It was important to him. He is a guy that has been here through all the ups and downs and has had some really high moments and lows and he is a competitor. He hasn’t always been perfect, none of us have, but his intentions are always right. Even early in the season when things were going wrong, I saw some real frustration in him and it was coming from a good place because he wanted at the minimum that – a bowl game. He is a guy that I have noticed through the year. He is emotional and a fighter and you love that.” 

On his first comment on Jojo Kemp during his first year …
“Yeah, and that is just it. Is there frustration, absolutely. These guys invest a lot. Look at the work that he has put in and been here. Yeah, that was the first week I think, we were doing some board drills and I made that comment. But that is who he is. He is a tough guy and a fighter and been that way. He has helped us because if you didn’t have that mentality that I have always mentioned before in other scenarios is there is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide. That is the beautiful thing about sports. You either man up or cave. He could’ve done that but he did not. He is successful and is going to graduate and has helped us in any way he could. That doesn’t mean he has always liked it or been prefect or other guys come in. But he has accepted his role and been a great teammate and that is why we have got to this point. Guys like that.” 

On the team being too pumped up for the game …
“Same thing. Again, just like I talked about, it is not about emotion. We need to have emotion on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday when we are having our preparation and focus and intensity during the week to put us in position to win. Without that, we will have no chance. Then when we get there Saturday, yes, they have to play with emotion but they always have to have discipline. If you remember in both of those games the last two years that emotion has hurt us. We had a guy come off the bench two years ago when we were in a good spot and get a 15-yard penalty and that set us back. Last year, we got a 15-yard penalty that set us back. They are going to hear about that today.” 

On if the message going into Saturday is focus …
“Focus, yes, it is always about that. Preparation, effort and focus. It is not just, ‘we are going to get jacked up to beat somebody,’ that is not it. You cannot win a game on that alone. Again, without that, you don’t have much of a chance because you don’t that in your preparation.” 

On Bunchy Stallings …
“Bunchy has come a long way, a long way. Again, his intentions are always good. Those guys being there that year (2014), that group. I remember Darius West, him, all those redshirt guys were there and traveled with us. That was a big part in that team having that intensity too. They brought something and helped affect the team in a positive way, just not on that play.” 

On costly penalties in the Austin Peay game being unfocused …
“One or two of them, I am not going to pick on any individual. But that is pure focus. You are negating some plays that are just – let me use the work silly instead of stupid. It is just not smart. Just do your job like you have been doing when we have big plays on both sides.” 

On other offensive weapons for Louisville besides Lamar Jackson …
“Yeah, James Quick has been around a long time, I knew him out of high school. He can run like heck. Really, I said it earlier, they are a complete football team. They are good in a lot of areas with a lot of good players. I agree.” 

On if punting issues have become mental …
“I am sure. Got any suggestions? I am going to call my therapist when I get out of here. (laughter).”

On if he danced in the locker room postgame …
“No, I didn’t bust a move, not really. I got in there and Boom (Williams) was on my chair where I normally stand and address the team, so I just let him go. He looked a lot better than me.”