Stoops Recaps South Carolina Win, Previews ULM
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Head Coach Mark Stoops
COACH STOOPS: Still obviously very excited about this past week and the victory against South Carolina. As Tony said, to come down from 14 in the fourth quarter shows a lot of toughness from our football team. It's good the way we're winning, too. Two weeks ago played great defense, maybe not as well offensively. This past week played extremely good offense, and defense not as good as we have. Special teams has been steady and I think that's going to help us as we move forward. Excited about this week's challenge. Todd Berry, ULM, will be very tough task for us. They're a team that's used to playing in the Power 5 conferences. They've won their fair share over the years and very well coached team. So we just need to continue to worry about ourselves and continue to improve. I think that's the good thing. There is an awful lot on this film from this past week that we can improve on, that we will improve on. So looking forward and excited to move forward.
Q. (Question regarding how special this win was for him as a head coach.)
COACH STOOPS: It's different. It is special. It is different when you're the head coach. As you said, been in a lot of great environments and big games, certainly felt that pressure before. But as a head coach, it was special because, you know, the progress that we've made. We know we're better. Our team knows we're better, but until you go out there and win some of those big games, it's hard to quantify it. So I feel very good about where we're headed and I feel good. As I said in the postgame press conference, I feel good for our players and our fans and everybody in the organization. It's good to move forward.
Q. They got a lot of guts.
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, they do.
Q. (Question regarding how he gets the team to refocus after all the excitement the team had after last weekend’s game.)
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we do a few things. We'll stay with the plan we do, but the message will be different. Again you've heard me say it before, they're going to hear enough good things from a lot of people and they're excited, I'm good with that. But they're going to hear about some of the negative, too, because we knew it was going to be a big environment. We stressed all week about taking care of the details in technique, not being too caught up in it where it hurts, and that showed. They're going to hear about that and see that. That's the good news. There is a lot to correct from. There is still a lot more in this team. We can be a lot better and we're going to continue to work extremely hard to improve. Extremely proud of 'em. I've said that, again, after the game and still feel that way. Feel so proud of the effort and the toughness and the resolve of this team, and that says a lot about what we're doing. But with that being said, there is just so much more to improve on.
Q. In the press conference after you had your biggest win, you were frustrated. You used the word "angry"
COACH STOOPS: I calmed down a little bit (Laughter.)
Q. Is that indicative of how much you know of the defense has to improve moving forward as games get tougher and tougher?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, we always learn. There is always obstacles and challenges in each game that you have to overcome. So the good news is there is a lot of things we can correct and they will get corrected. Some of that would be coaching. We need to coach better and put them in a better position, make quicker adjustments. Some of it is players need to play better and some of it is the technique and the simple things we talked about as well. So we'll improve.
Q. (Question regarding the team not starting fast on Saturday and what he attributes that to.)
COACH STOOPS: I don't know. I think you have to give South Carolina some of that credit. They took the ball and just pounded it down our throat to start the game and that took some momentum away. Then on offense, we made a couple critical mistakes even though we moved the ball, and that's stuff we can get corrected. You give South Carolina credit where credit is due. They came out strong. Our players you know, it's going to go one of two ways, right? So, again, we showed toughness and the courage and 'hang in there.' It shows a little bit about our conditioning and mental toughness to be able to hang in there in the fourth quarter and come back and win like that.
Q. (Question regarding if the four suspended players last week will be reinstated for ULM game and comment on the fan who injured during Saturday’s game.)
COACH STOOPS: About what? I can't comment on any individual. The players will be reinstated, yes, and they'll be back in the fold this week. They will be back at practice and play in the game. With anything else individually, I can't comment on any specific individual. But I'll just say that with the great support and energy we had in that stadium, it was sad to hear that somebody got injured, and definitely our hearts and prayers are with anybody that got hurt at the stadium.
Q. Did you have to exaggerate the "bad cop" angle this week in order to get the players back to the working mode?
COACH STOOPS: I don't play games that way. It's not "coach speak," and they don't read it in the textbook, but they will because it's the truth. We hammered that all week. We knew we were going to play well, and we knew we would have an opportunity. We knew there was going to be a lot of ups and a lot of downs and we talked about taking care of ‘your’ business. A lot of times we didn't do that. There is a lot more we can do. We can play better and that's our job as a coaching staff to get them to play better.
Q. (Question regarding if the defense tells you when it is time to use the Wildcat formation.)
COACH STOOPS: No, we always have certain packages. Like I said in the postgame, if it's working, you're going to continue to run it on both sides. You know, like coach said after the game, I believe somebody told me it was one play, it was a little more than one play. It was a couple sets. The offense was doing very well and the defense couldn't stop. And that's what brought me to the frustration I was talking about before. There were things they were doing well that we couldn't stop and there were things we were doing well that they couldn't stop.
Q. (Question regarding the offensive line’s play helping the Wildcat formation be successful.)
COACH STOOPS: You're right about that. It's not just Jojo, I think he has a great feel for that. He was courageous, dug down deep. He played with great effort and great vision. But the O-line did a great job. That's the best we have played since we've been here as far as playing physical and really playing tough. So that was really good.
Q. (Question regarding if UK’s win Saturday helps the staff’s message to recruits about success.)
COACH STOOPS: As far as the new class?
Q. Do you think it was important that they see
COACH STOOPS: I think it's always important. Everybody may see what you're doing and understand that there is progress being made. I never shied away from that. You heard me talk about it before the season and everything, that I will be judged on wins and losses. It's a bottom line business. We got to continue to do that and keep on fighting for victory. It's the same with recruits, yeah. I think there is a lot of people believing in what we are doing and how we go about recruiting players. We help the players once they get here, they see that. But it's important for them to see progress on the field.
Q. Did you get a sense that it was big to them, what happened?
COACH STOOPS: I did get a sense from that, yeah, and I said it in the postgame. We had it teed up pretty well. We had the enthusiasm. The stadium was packed. We had a night game against a traditionally very good SEC team at home, and you want to deliver. You want to play well. You want to get a victory.
Q. (Question regarding Matt Elam’s play on Saturday.)
COACH STOOPS: He really did. That was the best Matt's played. He is starting to do some good things. He has to be a consistent player and do some special things with his work habits throughout the week. But Matt has a good heart, and it's our job to help him be a better technician, but he really did play well in that game.
Q. What did he do?
COACH STOOPS: He was physical at the point of impact inside. He was using up a couple of blockers, being disruptive in the run game. In the pass game, he did a nice job driving the center back and getting in windows and had a big deflection. So he played the best he's played.
Q. How big is that, given future opponents are going to look at that?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I think it is. You know, we have to look at ourselves and anticipate certain things. We had been doing some good things in the weeks leading up to this last game as far as pressures and teams and 10, 11 personnel and what we were doing. In the big sets, it hurt us. Coach Spurrier, they stayed in it because they were having success and there was no reason to get out of it. When they started spreading it and started to throw it, we actually did some good things. So you always got to look at what you're doing well and get it fixed, whether it be by scheme or personnel or technique, whatever it is. We'll work on it.
Q. (Question regarding Josh Forrest’s play Saturday.)
COACH STOOPS: It's about how I've been talking about him all year. He did some good things. In particular, like late in the game, he is long and rangy and fast. And he does a nice job on pass coverage. We need to be better in the run game and be more physical at both linebacker spots, not counting the outside linebackers. Bud (Dupree) and Jason Hatcher did some good things. Hatch missed one tackle, but outside of that, he had a very good game. Inside we need to continue and improve and play better. They did some good things. It's not just on them as well. They did some good things, but we need to play better and they need to play better.
Q. (Question regarding UK having so many young guys in key situations and what gives Stoops the confidence that he knows they will play well.)
COACH STOOPS: I felt like we've got the team in a good place. They're practicing hard, preparing well. We have enough pieces in place to play well on all sides. I said in my opening statement it's good to win that way, because two weeks ago we played good defense and not as well as we can offensively. This week it was poor defense at times and the offense did exceptionally well. I credit Neal, D.J. and the staffs. We're not perfect, but they do a nice job of coaching. And do a nice job of playing for each other and being united. The special teams have been strong all year. That's what makes you optimistic about the future because we haven't put it all together yet.
Q. (Question regarding Neal Brown saying the fourth quarter was the first time all season the offense and defense both played well at the same time.)
COACH STOOPS: Obviously when you get 21 straight points at the end, that's true, and that's the difference in the game. We did get a stop. We didn't have many, but I believe they had three three and outs, and that's the difference in a tight game. The offense was able to capitalize on it. Even early in the game, we did get a three and out to give us field position that led to the first touchdown. That's what you have to do to continue to let them milk it down the field a little bit. But, yes, we had a couple of stops and the offense did a great job of converting.
Q. How fun from your perspective was that trick play?
COACH STOOPS: Oh, that was fun, definitely fun. Like I said, during the game when Neal called it, I said, I like it. I thought it was the right time at the right spot. Before we ran it, you know, after I called it and it was getting signaled in, I said, I like it, it's going to be good. It's always good when it works.
Q. You mentioned the offensive line playing well. Zach (West) came back and played well. It looked like there was some places where he was pancaking opponents
COACH STOOPS: That's the best Zach played. What's nice now is we have four guys inside now. We had two, but we had some injuries. Now we're getting back and getting healthy, so now we're going to rotate all four guys. I think that helped us and I think it helped us in the fourth quarter on both sides of the ball. We're starting to develop that depth. We talked about Matt Elam played around 20 snaps and just resting those guys and developing those guys, Regie Meant inside did some good things.
We're getting quality snaps from our back ups and that will help us move forward.
Q. You said you felt good going into the game. Did that start with the good preparation?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I think we're starting to understand that and really like the way we go about our business. And they're focused. They've done a nice job. For some positions being young, they've hung in there pretty well, I think. We've got to continue as we build this program. Our older guys have really bought in and done well and been good leaders for us. We have to hold them accountable to be better leaders and continue to push this team. I think it's just been good. I think what we do and how we look at some of the sports science data and how we're practicing, I think it's helped us. I think you put all those things together and things are going well. We've got a long way to go and after this game, we will be midway, right, and we have to continue to do what we do and improve in certain areas. But their attitude has been right and their preparation.
Q. (Question regarding UK having big wins in the past but not being able to sustain the success and how he handles that moving forward.)
COACH STOOPS: I can't really speak on that because we certainly didn't start fast last year with me here. So I don't know about that in previous staffs. I don't know. You know me, I talk about it and it's true, we're back to this week. You know what I mean? It's a one week season for me. We gotta go play well this week, and it starts over. Win or lose, it starts over for us on Sunday. That's the way we approach it and that's the way our team needs to approach it. We do the best we can, whether it be sports science and how we practice and how we monitor their health, we do certain things. A great coach told me a long time ago, To be a great head coach, you have to have a good gut. We'll see how that plays out as the year goes on.
Q. (Question regarding UK in the SEC East race.)
COACH STOOPS: I don't comment on that. One week. We need victories, you know? That's the bottom line. We can't worry about that. We will worry about ourselves and getting better.
Q. This week there was an electric crowd. You talked about it earlier, but can you elaborate on that?
COACH STOOPS: As I said, in the postgame, it's how much we appreciate it. The fans have really bought in. Sure we like it packed, but we always have passionate fans and it was a great environment. I know our players felt that electricity in the stadium, our recruits felt it, and it makes our team proud to go out there and play well and do the best they can. This team cares. Their hearts are in the right place. We're not perfect but they're trying to do the right things.
Q. (Question regarding if the offensive line has more success blocking when UK is in the Wildcat formation.)
COACH STOOPS: Sometimes if you can get somebody removed from the core like the one we hit for a touchdown, you got the middle third guy out of there. But I don't know if it changes them. Their rules and all that doesn't change. Their mentality shouldn't change, either.
I guess some of the runs we're doing and what we are featuring out of that, we had good success with.
Q. In laymen's terms, why is it (Wildcat formation) so hard to defend?
COACH STOOPS: Well, when I talked to Neal about doing some of that, because it had hurt me, so over the years you know some things that hurt you, and you say, Look at this, because in certain ways you do it, it changes. It does change. We all have rules to go by on defenses and that stuff starts happening and your quarterback is in different motions, it changes things. Sometimes you have a hard time adjusting to it and sometimes you don't. We've gone to some things that we do, rule wise, because of trial and error, some things that have hurt us in the past. So we look at it. It's hard to explain, other than it's not as simple as it looks (Laughter.) I understand. Take it from a defensive guy that's been burned on it before, it's not always that simple.
Q. The offensive playbook, have you guys got some left?
COACH STOOPS: Sure, there is always more you can do. I tell them all the time, This is what you guys do? This is fun! Draw stuff up and make defensive coordinators crazy.
Q. (Question regarding UK having to lean on freshmen much of this season but how nice it was to have some older players make plays on Saturday.)
COACH STOOPS: Extremely important. They've been great and they've been leaders and working hard. We're all one team. I know a lot of people talk about that, and the guys that came in, this, that, whatever. They're all my guys. I care about all of 'em. Our coaches do and we're trying to do the best we can with all of them.
Q. (Question regarding Jeff Badet and Alex Montgomery’s status.)
COACH STOOPS: No, continue to work and rehab and run around, and they're doing some things. If they were 100% and ready to practice 100%, then I would have a decision to make. At this point they're not 100%.
Q. Does that make the decision for you?
COACH STOOPS: We'll see. I'm not ready to put that on them. They read these quotes, too, and they lay off. I need them to get back 100% and get ready to go.
Q. Does that depend on your current guys staying healthy, too?
COACH STOOPS: It does, it does.
Q. I thought a huge play in the game was Landon Foster getting field position in the second quarter, how nice of a luxury is it to have him?
COACH STOOPS: Very. You take him for granted sometimes and people don't talk about him much, but he is so solid, along with Kelly Mason and just that whole unit. Coach (Craig) Naivar has done a great job with special teams, he really has. We've been really solid. I thought the guys have been really motivated and very unselfish and playing well on special teams.
Q. (Question regarding how important it is to have a guy like Jojo Kemp running the Wildcat formation.)
COACH STOOPS: It helps. Some guys have a good knack for it, good patience and vision, and he's been very effective out of there.
Q. (Question regarding upsets in the SEC and his thoughts.)
COACH STOOPS: I just think it's the great parity that we're starting to get in this league. It's a tough conference and there's not a heck of a lot of teams going backwards. Everybody is trying to move forward like we are. We are trying to do everything we can to improve our program, and I think you see that from a lot of the teams in this league.
Q. (Question regarding ULM having a successful program and what concerns him about how they play.)
COACH STOOPS: They are not intimidated coming into an environment like this. They are so used to playing big teams. In the past four or five years they have played SEC teams well, beaten SEC teams, come within one possession of beating great SEC teams. Coach Berry does a great job, fundamentally sound, creating problems, they're an odd front defensively. They do more of a three three stack concept. You will see offensively they just do a nice job of spreading the field on you. So when teams are spreading the field on you like that, you can't give up gashes in the running game because your guys are so removed. So your support from the second level is coming from a long ways away. So we have to play good up front and be sound in what we're doing. And, again, with all that space, you can't let them get free in the secondary. They're good at what they do so we've got to, again, have a great week of preparation and worry about fundamentally getting better in certain areas.
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