Stoops Previews No. 1 Miss. State at Weekly News Conference

Oct. 20, 2014

Kentucky Head Coach Mark Stoops

COACH STOOPS:  Just get back to work today and get back on the practice field with our players after a disappointing loss.  After reviewing the film, as I said in the postgame, you have to give credit to LSU.  They outplayed us, outcoached us, but there are certainly a lot of things that we need to get corrected and can get corrected, so looking forward to getting back out there. Another great challenge this week, playing the No. 1 team in the country.  We will have our hands full and need to play a whole lot better.  So, again, need to get back out there and improve this week on the practice field.

Q.  The way they run the ball and the way you have struggled at times stopping the run, how heavy will you handle that?
COACH STOOPS:  Well, it's very important.  Another physical football team, but not only physical, it's a numbers game as well. Very well coached, puts you in some hard predicaments.  Obviously the way Dak (Prescott) is throwing the ball as well, they stretch you constantly.  So it is a concern.  If you look back at last week, I think we did    believe me, I'm not crazy, I've coached defenses that were pretty darn good against the run.  The good news is if you take away some of the explosive runs, that can get corrected in certain spots, just physically we actually did some very good things.  They ran the ball, what, 51 times, something like that.  And a good portion of some of that yardage came late and it came on some finesse runs, some 11 personnel Q run, and things like that.  So if you look at the power run game we actually improved quite a bit in that game and had some good plays and some good stops and did some good things and, again, I know you can write it how you want, I'm not crazy!  (Laughter.) I know what good run defense looks like and does not, so certainly we all know we need to get better and improve in certain areas, but like I said, I think some of it was improved.

Q.  (Question regarding updates on Stanley "Boom" Williams.)
COACH STOOPS:  Things look better, not cleared to play yet, obviously.  I'll wait until the doctors tell me he can get on the field but, I think, yeah, things are looking better.  When he will be cleared to practice or play I have no idea.

Q.  Coach, maybe it will be your run defense that responds but when you have a tough loss like that is there good news for the team when you're able to look at somebody and say this is what we do well?
COACH STOOPS:  I think that was part of it.  We all knew going into that game that was a big, physical football team that wanted to run the ball and they certainly did, but, again, I thought there were quite a few plays in there where it wasn't, just constantly getting pushed around, where I thought    just right at the start, again, there's a lot of mistakes we can look at in that game but we start the game with the poor kick off return and get the penalty. Then we get a zero yard gain on first down, incomplete pass on second, and get the penalty.  That's just the discipline we need to continue to work and get better and get more disciplined on this team, but that penalty hurt.  If you look throughout the first half, when we get the punt return for a touchdown, but we were hanging in there.  We knew it was going to be difficult, not an easy task, but physically defensively we were holding up pretty well and doing some good things. Then it gets to be a little much when you're on the field that long, and obviously some big plays that we can and will get corrected.

Q.  (Follow-up question regarding needing more depth.)
COACH STOOPS:  Well, I'm not going to make any excuses, but we just need to find a way.  As I said, going into that game you really need to play well on all sides and we certainly didn't do that.  We didn't play good enough on any side but I thought we had a chance defensively.

Q.  Is the gist of what you're saying you feel like a lot of things went wrong and when you went back and looked at it you didn't feel like you were dominated as much at it would appear ...  
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, that's fair to say.  I don't think we were physically dominated on the field and, again, they ran the ball for 300 yards, you're not generally going to win a lot of games when teams run for 300 yards.  We know that's not acceptable but there are a lot of good, physical plays in there by our defensive guys.  But when you make mistakes, they're magnified.  Mistakes are going to cost you games, they're going to cost you on the road at LSU, making mistakes we did early in that game, it's going to cost and you it's going to be magnified.  It gets out of control at that point. We can't have that and we've got to coach 'em better and be more disciplined across the board.

Q.  Re: similarities of LSU cornerbacks and Mississippi State cornerbacks?
COACH STOOPS:  They're different, a different style of play and they're just different guys.

Q.  What does the film show about special teams?  Was there any common theme?
COACH STOOPS:  Well, there's mistakes.  There's mistakes that can and will be corrected.  We've all made our mistakes this year, offensively, defensively, special teams.  Again, they're magnified against a very talented team on the road, and when you open the game that way, it doesn't set the tone.  That's not what you want.  So they're magnified but they're things that can and will be fixed.  The punt return, same thing.  A little unfortunate that we hit it so good    he kicked it so well, outkicked his coverage a little bit.  We had guys down there, we had, honestly, five or six guys clean and we've got to do a better job of closing that gap, spreading the net and getting him down.  Once you get a talented guy started and give him some space, bad things are going to happen to us. So those are things that we can get fixed and will.  We all take responsibility for that, and we'll make the corrections and we'll move on.

Q.  What happened on that opening kick off?  Were you meaning to kick it short?
COACH STOOPS:  That's something that in hindsight we would do differently.  (Laughter.)  So, you know, I told you that at one of my news conferences, anybody that tells you they wouldn't do it differently in hindsight is lying.  (Laughter.) It was poor execution and poor call and we didn't kick it where we were supposed to, either.  So what we were supposed to do on the kick wasn't there.  Therefore, it magnified it.  So, sure, we would do it differently.  That's one instance where we were too cute there.  Again, I take that responsibility.  We take that and we move on.  The rest of it is just fundamental things.

Q.  Mark, going into the year we thought Mississippi State was going to be a decent team but are you surprised they're coming in    if we said they were No. 1 coming in this weekend, would you believe that?
COACH STOOPS:  I wouldn't have put (any) thought into that, I would have no idea.  I would be going on a limb and I don't like to do that.  If you look at their quarterback and their team it's not a real big surprise.  They're a very talented football team.  You could tell they had a lot of confidence coming into the season just by the way they carried themselves at SEC Media (Days), just listening to them with their quarterback and leadership.  Dan (Coach Dan Mullen) is in sixth year in the process and they have a good looking team.  I noticed that a year ago.  I noticed how big they were and how long and just, you know, they're developed.  They do a great job of coaching, and good things are    it's coming together for them. They're playing red hot and it starts with their quarterback.  He's as talented of a guy as there is in the country.  He can run it, he can throw it.  He's making great decisions and their offense puts stress on you.  Like I said at the beginning of the statement, they're well coached, they put stress on you across the board.

Q.  Is there anything specific you remember about Prescott from that game last year?
COACH STOOPS:  Physically, good looking guy, strong, leader, tough, just everything you want in your quarterback and in particular with what they do, with the dual threat and putting that stress on you.

Q.  Is what Dan has done down there sort of a model for what you would like to do?  He sort of chipped away and had a low spot and built up the program?
COACH STOOPS:  Certainly anybody that's having success in your league and guys you watch, certainly you look at them and see what they've done. I think they've done a nice job of recruiting and a lot of times, give them credit under the radar with some of the guys that they get out of their state, that maybe not a lot of people know about, but they have that great length and size and you gotta give them credit for developing those players.   They're a good looking team top to bottom.

Q.  Do you have any fear at all about the confidence of your team after a loss like that, since you're in the process of rebuilding?
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, you worry about it and we need to address it, because you're going to go through ups and downs, you're going to lose some games.  When you self inflict against a good team and I'm not taking anything away from LSU because they flat beat us across the board, but when you make a lot of mistakes, you can have a tendency to lose confidence. I told you, other times, speaking to you and to our team, we've gotten beyond the belief, then it's about execution and doing things and then we go out and don't do it very well, so now we got to make sure they don't slip back and start doubting, and it goes back to preparation and work and controlling the things we can control.

Q.  (Question regarding if this is unfamiliar territory for UK having not sustained a lopsided loss this season like last weekend.)
COACH STOOPS:  Yeah, it is this year.  It's a new team, first time we have gone through that, it is new to this football team and every team is different.  So, yeah, we'll see how we respond.

Q.  What do you hope that your young wide receivers learned from that LSU tgame?
COACH STOOPS:  I hope they learned how to get open versus press.  That's a physical bunch that doesn't give you a lot of space.  You have to beat 'em, you have to make plays. We can compete at a higher level.  We need to be more detailed on some of our routes, and there is a lot of things we can all do better.

Q.  When you're playing a No. 1 team do you find yourself trying to not let the guys get too psyched about playing a No. 1 team one way or the other?
COACH STOOPS:  As I have said many times I would rather say "whoa" than giddy-up, so if we have a good practice and I got to hold them back, that will be a good thing!  But the emotion    I'm only looking forward in our preparation.  You certainly don't want them flat walking into the building, you don't want them being "down" and all those things but the excitement level and how we prepare and as long as they're focused and they go through preparation and are mentally ready to practice every day and putting ourselves into a position to win a game, that's what I'm looking for.

Q.  How important is it for them to get the confidence back?
COACH STOOPS:  I think it's always important.  It was important last week on the road and we fought it uphill the whole game. This week, even though we are at home, we're playing the No. 1 team in the country, you can't fall behind, I think it's important.  If we do, we got to learn to face adversity a little better than we did last week.

Q.  (Question regarding Demarco Robinson being physical at the line of scrimmage.)
COACH STOOPS:  He did do better, you're right in saying that.  Number one, he's a senior, that helps.  So he's got a lot more experience playing against these big dudes that are up there locking them down but Demarco has done a nice job of beating people and playing one on ones.

Q.  (Question regarding if his team can take anything away from playing Mississippi State close last season.)
COACH STOOPS:  I think every team is different but I hope it helps us a little bit and we'll see how we prepare and how we go through the week.

Q.  In your experience do coaches tend to set the same tone after a lopsided loss and what's the right approach?
COACH STOOPS:  I'm not sure if everybody takes the exact same approach every week.  I don't know what other people do.  It's been different from the coaches I've been around each week.  As I've said before, you have to have a good plan, but I go on my instincts and my gut a lot and they're sometimes right and sometimes wrong, even in making decisions on the field, and that's where that hindsight comes in. But I think, with this, definitely I put some thought into the message.

Q.  (Question regarding if some coaches put on an act after a loss.)
COACH STOOPS:  I don't think it's ever an act.  I would never use that word to define it.  It's about making sure that you clearly define the message that you want them to hear.  That really doesn't change much for us a lot as well.  Maybe how you deliver it and in those things it does, but the bottom line is we're all going to accept our responsibility and we're going to look at things, get it corrected and move on.  So, again, we'll see how well we respond this week.

Q.  Mark, even with the slow start last week, they had a chance to do something in the second quarter.  Can you take anything from that or is that sort of lost?
COACH STOOPS:  No, I don't know if you could take much from it, because I felt like, as you know, from watching the game it was an uphill struggle from the first kick off of the game.  But I do feel like we were battling there.  That's what I was commenting on defensively for a while there.  We were hanging in doing some things.  And offensively we were moving it.  We had third and 1, a long drive, and we missed that opportunity.  That was part execution and part would you do it over?  Well, yeah, because it didn't work you would do it over. So there are things that we can and need to do better in that situation.  The bottom line is we didn't make it happen, we didn't deliver, they stopped us and that was a big turning point, because I believe there was roughly five minutes in the half there.  If we get a first down, obviously that's time off the clock and even when we got the ball back after that I believe we stopped 'em right after that, maybe a three and out.  They hit a great punt and backed us up and even then I'm trying to get out of the half.  That's what I want to do at that point.  It's been an uphill climb, it's 17 3 on the road, we haven't moved it well, we're backed up, I want to get first downs and get out of the half, unless we make big plays and get moving, of course, but I'm really trying to cut our losses at that point and then as we know, they get 10 more points from there and that was impossible for us to catch up from that point on.

Q.  (Question regarding importance of playing well this week in front of a national audience.)
COACH STOOPS:  I think it's very important.  It's important for us to play well.  Anytime you're playing a No. 1 team in the country, you're going to have great exposure.  We want to play well and represent our program and what we've been doing and all the hard work, so it's important for us to go out and play well.

Q.  I don't think Jabari Johnson played in the game last year, what has he done to work his way into the line this year?
COACH STOOPS:  He gave us size and he's been doing a nice job at that position, what we call the "Jack linebacker" there.  He's big.  He has a nice feel for it.  He's good on his feet, and we felt like we needed more size in that game.  So he's done some good things, he's earned the right to play, so we'll continue to rotate between Bud (Dupree) and Jabari and (Jason) Hatcher at those spots.

Q.  (Question regarding how Jabari Johnson played.)
COACH STOOPS:  He did good.  He played well, he really did.

Q.  Your outside guys, they've had discipline issues playing containment on the outside.  How do you preach and emphasize the discipline with an exceptional athlete like Prescott?
COACH STOOPS:  It's not always on them.  I mean, it's always team defense.  Sometimes he may step up and then get out as well so they're trying to get speed rush and our inside guys have to be disciplined. We've had our discipline issues but containing on the pass rush is not always one of those with them, it's not always with them, let's put it that way.  But it does bring up the point that you're making here, that we need to have great team defense and great discipline with our pass rush.  They have disciplined runs and plays where he (Prescott) ad libs and makes plays.  He's very talented.  Anytime it's tougher on defenses and it's frustrating at times anytime you play a quarterback that has the experience and feel that he does of making plays.  That's why they're No. 1 in our league in total offense.

Q.  A lot of people have compared Dak to Tim Tebow.  Can you see that?
COACH STOOPS:  I could see that.  I could see people making that comparison.  I never played Tebow but just as a fan and watching him I could see people making it, just with Dan coaching them both.  The stress that he puts on you with that offense with a guy that could do both run and pass.  They're both physical.  I could see people making that comparison.  Obviously that's a great compliment to Dak, because, you know, Tebow won quite a few games.

Q.  Fourth year in a row that Mississippi State has had an open date before they played Kentucky.
COACH STOOPS:  Really?

Q.  Do you think that's fair?
COACH STOOPS:  We better talk to somebody!  (Laughter.)  Well, it is what it is.  Nothing I can do about it.  It's above my pay grade.

Q.  Mark, the college football spotlight is on the state of Mississippi, Ole Miss is No. 3 as well but with what you and Bobby (Petrino) are trying to do, do you think we could see this similar spotlight in  our state?
COACH STOOPS:  I don't see why not.  I really don't.  I feel like we're both working extremely hard to build our programs, we both have great support, and they've been a very talented and good football team and we're working our way toward that.

Q.  On the long runs, explosive runs that you talked about earlier, did they come from the same area, were they different people?
COACH STOOPS:  It did and I think some depth issues hurt us as well.  In fairness to a few of our players we got to get them out and get them spelled as well.  We're certainly    we're not as fast later in the game as we were early.  That's coaching.  We've got to develop guys and get some guys in there to help.  Give them credit.  If they're going to run it 51 times with those dudes, they're going to break some, too.  It's not like going into the game that you didn't think they were going to have any explosive runs.  I think I guess the point I was trying to make with the power run game if you take those explosive runs, it wasn't that bad.  We had a good dose of some good people in there and we played more physical than we had been.

Q.  Do you expect Zach West back this week?
COACH STOOPS:  I do expect him back but I don't know how at this point he will respond but I do expect him back this week.

Q.  What do you need to do to get the run game jump started a little bit and how important is that?
COACH STOOPS:  It's important, just like last week.  You know, that's where the run game is always important.  We all want explosive offense, and we need that and want to throw it and will throw it but you gotta have some balance. Look at Mississippi State, what are they, 264 (yards per game) to the run and 265 to the pass.  Try to defend that.  Makes a difference.  It's very important to be physical and to have balance.  It puts a lot of stress on teams.  We've done that well at times and against some teams it's a little more difficult for us because we're trying to physically get to where we want to be.  So to answer your question, it's important to get the run game going, at least be able to have those aggravating runs, three, four, five then break one here and there.  We'll continue to work on that.

Q.  Surprised with all those backs as explosive as they are at times that it hasn't been   
COACH STOOPS:  Like I said, it's been good at times.  Wasn't so good last week, and you have to give credit to LSU for that.  They beat us.  They played more physical than us and didn't give us much room.

Q.  (Question regarding Mississippi State having a high number of sacks.)
COACH STOOPS:  Well, they have an incredible front seven, number one, and number two, they've been ahead quite a bit and scoring some points, so teams are going to have to take some chances and maybe drop back and pass more than they want to.

Q.  Like you mentioned, LSU secondary did a good job.  Did Patrick (Towles) not have a chance because of that?  Were there things that Patrick could do better?
COACH STOOPS:  Certainly Patrick can play better and needs to play better.  We missed some opportunities and that's going to happen.  Again, not to make an excuse for Patrick because he doesn't need me to do that, but there are going to be some times where maybe they're covered, then maybe they're open and we miss them, either way it's not good. So when you are off and not playing your best, again, it's going to get magnified against a great team, especially on the road down there at LSU.

Q.  In a game like that when you get an opportunity you have to take that.
COACH STOOPS:  You have to make those throws, yeah, you do, and we gotta catch them and get open and all those things and we definitely were not at our best.

Q.  (Question regarding if Ryan Timmons lost a ball in the lights.)
COACH STOOPS:  I'm not even sure, to be honest with you.  I didn't ask him yet or couldn't tell.

Q.  (Question re: Timmons)
COACH STOOPS:  Ryan needs to continue to improve.  He needs to compete at a higher level and needs to step it up.  We need him to.  If we're going to win games at LSU or if we're going to win a game at home against the No. 1 team in the country, some of our playmakers need to step up and compete at a high level and make plays and win some one on ones and make some plays.  That's what he needs to do.  Again, you asked me specifically about him, there's others, there's all of us.  We all accept the responsibility and, again, accept the things that we need to do better and that's something that he needs to do better.

Q.  Was it clear on the film what happened on the squib kick?
COACH STOOPS:  We addressed it before they went on the field.  We had a good idea they were going to squib it.  We had a player make a poor decision.

Q.  Having young players in a situation like this, does it help or hurt?
COACH STOOPS:  I think that goes back to Alan's question.  You know, we'll see.  I think because we got whooped and because we made some mental mistakes, sometimes that can shake somebody's confidence, and we'll see how they respond.  I have no reason to believe that, though.  I have a good feel we'll bounce back and prepare well and play well.  Thank you.
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