Mark Stoops Previews South Carolina

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KENTUCKY FOOTBALL
Monday News Conference
Wildcat Den – The New CWS – Lexington, Ky.
Sept. 7, 2015

Coach Mark Stoops

Opening statement …
“Much like I felt in the postgame. It was a good night overall and I was happy to get the victory. I thought we did some very good things and obviously there is quite a bit to learn from and get better. I am looking forward to getting back out to practice this week and getting out to South Carolina.”

On Patrick Towles’ play …
“Just like I said after the game, he was just a little bit inconsistent. He had some great throws and some explosive plays but just missed some opportunities.”

On his evaluation of the younger players' performance on Saturday …
“Well, it was a combination, certainly there were some plays that the young guys need to do better, but what we need to do better is play better as a team. When things were going bad, certainly the defense had to do their part and didn’t until late – getting that three-and-out was huge in a tie game. But prior to that when things were getting off balance if you look at the drive chart – offensively was the same way – we got the ball on the 29 yard line and lost a yard and went three-and-out. They score and then we go one-and-out. That is a bad combination. We need to play better as a team.”

On senior linebacker Ryan Flannigan’s status …
“Same. He is day-to-day. I told you, I can’t answer. When he is ready, I’ll tell you.”

On Eli Brown not playing Saturday and if the redshirt is back on the table for him …
“I don’t know, we will see. We will prepare him to play if we need to. We felt like Jordan (Jones) was the best answer there at that point in time last week. Jordan did some good things and had some glaring mistakes that you are going to have with a true freshman. And the long run, with what you talked about earlier, was another true freshman just, you know, it was bad. Letting a team get back into it with an explosive run, but quite honestly it’s a simple fix. And again, I understand, when teams are rushing the ball for a lot of yards at some point you have to quit doing it and get it fixed – no matter who it is. But you look at what we are doing schematically and you have a guy not get to his responsibility and they crease you. That cannot happen. We have to get it fixed and get in a position to get the job done. It’s not like you are sitting there getting manhandled, it’s a guy that is completely wrong that we have to get straight.”

On the wide receiver blocking …
“I thought the really good part also from this game is I thought we played really hard. Even when we didn’t play right all the time and made some mistakes, the guys meant well and played hard and played with a great deal of desire and passion and that is evident right there with the blocking down the field. I thought our receivers blocked probably as good as any time we have been here. That is what we have always been looking for. Tommy Mainord, this is something I have said in the past, that is part of the reason why he is here. When I used to watch him at Texas Tech and how his wide outs played, they were very physical and aggressive and they did a good job at that Saturday.”

On stopping the run because of young players in bad spots or bad tackling …
“It’s all of it. Clearly we need to do some things better, but it magnifies things when you completely blow something and give up a big run. That compounds your problems. We know there are always things to get better at. We have to get more physical, we have to be more precise, we have to make more open-field tackles. You are going to miss certain things in the first game and you are going to miss things all year. The people we play against are going to make you miss and we make people miss as well. You are always striving to be perfect in that area. But responsibility wise, we aren’t good enough to let them have something by us not being responsibility sharp.”

On freshman offensive lineman George Asafo-Adjei’s play …
“OK. He did some good things, but he had some things you would expect a true freshman tackle to go through. That is where that experience comes in across the board, getting those game reps and the things you cannot possibly always rep whether they see it against us in practice or the defense does something new. We were a little unsure going into the game how they exactly were going to defend us and they did defend us differently than we had anticipated. That changed some things and that is part of the issue too. Again, to play good run defense or defense in general you would like to possess the ball a little bit, but the way they played they made us go up top and we hit them. But that is where we have to do a better job because early we had a chance to put them away even more and all that is a factor. Then the momentum switches and we didn’t grind it out until the last drive. The last drive was a three-four minute drive to ice it, but prior to that everything was shots and quick because of the way they were playing. So we were getting big plays and had a one-play drive and later the one-play interception and even our drives were quick with big strikes. We have to do what we talked about doing, which is grinding out and getting tough yards when we have to. Even if they are loading the box, we have to run the ball a little bit and we did that late with the last touchdown run. Prior to the last play of us scoring, we were close to popping the one before that as well. We have to continue to work on that.”

On if anyone stood out on film that didn’t during the game …
“I don’t know if anybody did, but I think across the board we did some really solid things. I thought the receivers were open quite a bit and that is what we anticipated and talked about. I don’t know if that was anything I didn’t anticipate or notice. I think some guys did some good things. I though Josh (Forrest) played well, but we anticipated he would. I thought he did after the game as well, and he missed a few things but he isn’t perfect and I think he is playing pretty good. We have some inexperience and we have some guys that we have to get better in a hurry. We are going to have our hands full this week playing a great South Carolina team. We will have our hands full that is for sure. With us beating them last year we have to go into their place and it will be a very, very difficult environment and they will be hungry to get after us with a very good football team, so we will have our hands full.”

On getting the run defense cleaned up after South Carolina ran the ball well in week one …
“It is very important to get settled in and get things cleaned up. You certainly can’t give up big runs, that is how they won the game last week. They hit a big long run. We can’t be in a situation where we are playing 80-90 snaps on defense and 60 on offense, that is not the recipe that we need.”

On South Carolina’s defense improved from last season…
“I think they are going to be improved. Prior to last year, they had always played good defense. The last two, three, four years they have always had solid defense. Last year probably wasn’t up to their standards. I know Jon Hoke and what he will do and have a lot of respect for Jon and his defensive players. I know they are working hard to get better and they played solid in the first game.”

On some kicking-game miscues …
“I thought our kicking game – that magnified things again Saturday as well missing an extra point and field goal for us. That cannot happen and normally doesn’t happen, but you put all that perfect storm together. Again, I am glad we came out with a victory and win or lose there are always things to go back and get better at and that is what we are anxious to do. It is a heck of a lot more fun for us to go into our meetings on Monday and get things correct (after a loss.) We are always going to be hard on our players and strive for perfection, but it is nice to come out of there with a victory.”

On having so many freshmen on defense against a good ULL offense…
“It is hard. There was no getting around some inexperience for us and obviously Flannigan not playing didn’t help matters because we had talked all camp about being a little bit more solid inside knowing we were going to go through some growing pains with some guys outside. Then throwing a new starter and playing a freshman inside along with the outside backer compounded things a little bit. I mean, it is what it is. I cannot recall playing that many true freshmen. I thought Chris (Westry) held up well. C.J. Conrad played a very good game. I know people are probably wondering why he didn’t catch a ball, we didn’t have a lot of completions honestly. We had a lot of big plays but didn’t have as many completions as we probably will moving forward. But C.J. did an excellent job of blocking. I want to say 80 percent of our explosive runs he was in there as a primary guy getting some blocks, even the first play of the game. He did some very good things.”

On what he says to Patrick Towles when he’s misfiring …
“Not much, he knows he’s going to be held accountable like (the rest of) our team … I think the fact that he missed one (throw), he started with an overthrow, and then had an underthrow. I think it does play into it a little bit. He put a lot of pressure on himself. I think he cares a great deal and wanted to play very well. That’s the only thing I’ll tell him, to settle in and be who he is. I don’t want to get too much in his head and over coach that. I’m very confident in him that he’ll make the throws but just like everyone else on our team he’ll be held accountable. At some point you have to go, you have to make those plays.”

On keeping the team focused when it has a big lead …
“We’ve got to do a better job with just focusing and being confident and doing our job. You’ve got to play with an edge, you’ve got to play with an attitude, but it’s also a long season with long games, you’ve got to be able to handle your business and play every snap, and that’s the big learning opportunity we have to take from this game. Defensively there cannot be one fraction of a let-down, or bad things happen, as we saw. It’s a great opportunity for us to learn, on both sides (of the ball). At 33-10 we had an opportunity to expand on [the lead]. You’d like to see us put it away right there.”

On his confidence in freshman CB Chris Westry…
“He’s fine. I have a lot of confidence in him. He’s so long and athletic, he’s out there playing and he’ll get better with every opportunity. Obviously it’ll be a greater challenge this week.”

On containing South Carolina playmaker Pharoh Cooper…
“He’s a difference maker, he really is. I think you have to be well prepared for their wildcat package, and just wherever he lines up, whether that’s under center or at the different places they play him. He’s a difference maker, you have to be aware of where he’s at. He’s a guy that can definitely change the outcome of games, so you have to be prepared for him”

On how the team’s preparing for South Carolina’s offense …
“[Preparation] is no different. If we don’t do our job then everybody we face this year is plenty capable of hurting us. I don’t really think that [South Carolina’s] personnel is that different.”

On Jojo Kemp’s desire to get more touches …
“I’m sure he’s going to want the ball. That’s the thing with (last week’s game), we have to get better offensively as well. We didn’t have as many completions as we wanted, we didn’t have as many touches as we wanted, we didn’t have as many runs as we wanted; We only had 60 plays. We’ll get better and get more consistent on both sides.”

On J.D. Harmon’s improvement and the coaching staff’s rising confidence in him…
“I’m pleased with him. He earned some trust and some of our confidence throughout camp because he had been practicing better, playing better, and [showed] more discipline in his approach. And that showed up. Again, he’s not perfect, he made a few bad plays, but he helped contribute to the win as well and that I am proud of.”

On the importance of getting a road win in the SEC at South Carolina …
“It is very important. That has been well documented, our struggles on the road against SEC opponents. This is going to be another great challenge. A great opportunity for us. That is the big thing we will take from it. We have to worry about ourselves and our preparation. We have to go down there with a great mindset and try to get a victory in a very hostile environment.”

On what qualities are needed to be a good team on the road …
“You have to be a complete football team on the road and a lot of times you have to protect the football. It is a mentality. A toughness that you have to have to go on the road and be disciplined to come out of there with a victory.”

On how well freshman linebacker Denzil Ware played against ULL …
“OK. He did just like you said, he did a few good things. He showed up at some times, but he needs to play better.”

On how defensive tackle Matt Elam looks compared to last year …
“Better. He is doing better things. He needs to continue to improve and I anticipate he will. I like his approach. He is growing in his maturity, in his approach to practice and preparation and the importance of doing better. He is not there yet, but he is getting better.”

On South Carolina defensive coordinator Jon Hoke …
“Jon is just a very good football coach. A good guy, good coach. Been around a long time, has a lot of experience. He is what you want in any great defensive coordinator. He is tough and very sound. You are not going to get a lot of easy things, or things given to you. You are going to have to earn them and he will limit big plays better than we did this past week.”

On inviting the Special Olympics group on the field before the fourth quarter …
“We very much understand the importance of winning games but more importantly it is developing young men and having them be quality people. There is no reason why we can’t do both – win football games and have kids that give back to the community. This place is as good as anywhere I’ve been in terms of having quality people around. You have to credit Mitch Barnhart with what he does with community service with all the teams. We have a lot of good student-athletes on this campus so we just need to do our part.”

On if he has seen the stadium finished.
“Not finished. I’ve seen bits and pieces. I’ve seen certain levels. We had the 50-yard line dinner last Thursday prior to the game and I saw that level. I saw the recruiting room. I haven’t seen the suites all done but I’ll see that after the season.”

On South Carolina QB Connor Mitch …
“He looks like a guy that is going to get better with every snap. I was impressed, I thought North Carolina had a good-looking defensive team, they were very disruptive up front, had a good looking defensive line that created some problems at time for Connor. He is a very good quarterback and he has one of the best play callers that has ever coached calling plays for him. They’ll be ready. They have certain things, certain staples that he’s done for many years and then they’re doing a lot of creative new wrinkles with certain aspects of the run game and wildcat package. Different ways that the creativity and problems that offenses can create. We will always have our hands full.”

On the relationship with coach Spurrier since the win last year …
“It is good. I’ve only been in this a short time as a head coach but I am understand that what goes around comes around so believe me I am not one to be spouting off about anything. I just mind myself.

“We have a good relationship, but it’s not like we talk on the phone or anything like that. We played some golf during the spring meetings (in Destin, Fla.). (We) had a good golf match, me and Hugh (Freeze) lost to Gus (Malzahn) and coach Spurrier.”