Stoops Previews Trip to Vanderbilt in Weekly News Conference
Nov. 11, 2013
Head Coach Mark Stoops
COACH STOOPS: I'd like to start by recognizing and thank all of our veterans for all the work that they do today on Veterans Day. Going back and watching the film of this past week, again, there are some very frustrating things in there in that we can't be that inconsistent and play with great football teams. Missouri's a very good football team and really outplayed us in all three areas. But with that being said, I thought there was a good percentage of the game on both sides of the ball, offensively and defensively, we did some good things. We all know you're not going to beat a top 10 team without playing a complete game. So we need to learn how to some way, somehow, play a complete football game in all areas and we'll have an opportunity to win one of those games. Until then, we won't. So, just like it has been, it's been frustrating, but there has been some good and there was some bad in that game. Special teams is an area where we've been extremely strong this whole year. Really, there have been some ups and downs through the first eight games, but there was only one critical play in special teams and in this past game we had at least four that were big difference maker plays. So that hurt us, and we can't afford to do that. So that's a summary of that game. Looking forward to Vanderbilt, going to Nashville, playing Vandy. It will be a heck of an opportunity for us. Vandy is coming off a very big win for them in beating Florida and playing very well right now. They're good in all areas. They're a team that just plays very hard, plays very smart. They capitalize on your mistakes, so it will be another good opportunity for us, a big challenge for us to go down there and win. So we're excited to get back to work. It was a tough day to get through that film this past Sunday, but we're on to Vandy and looking forward to our preparation here this week for Vandy.
Q. (No microphone)
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, it is. It's focus and it's just little things. We're not good enough to not play at our very best. There were a number of things in that game that we didn't respond to very well, and we need to learn how to do that and we need to play our very best to play with a team that's as explosive as Missouri. It was a little bit deflating. I thought that was a critical moment after we got the turnover (in the first quarter) and didn't get anything out of that. So it was tough. There were just a lot of mistakes. Lot of things we can look at. I could bounce around. There are a lot of things that changed the way the game is being played. Early on, I thought we were hanging tough. We talked about starting stronger, starting faster. I thought we did that. But then again, few mistakes here and there really hurt us. Even after that when we were moving the ball, had the ball out to the 40 and we got the holding call on Jordan, I believe, and brought us back and then we shanked the punt, gave them field position, and it went downhill. We lost it very quickly there in the second quarter.
Q. The offense has been sort of desperate for somebody to take the reins and show some leadership. Talking about positives, maybe Jalen has started to do that?
COACH STOOPS: I think so. I think most people recognize that. That he made a conscious effort to be tough and to lead that offense. I thought he did that at times. I really did. He's not perfect, but he's tried awfully hard and he showed a lot of toughness in that game and had some good runs and was doing some better things.
Q. Did you have the same conversation or discussion with Jalen early on about him coming out you seemed to walk away from him a couple of times to allow him to make his own decisions?
COACH STOOPS: About what?
Q. He seemed to look to the sidelines a couple times but he didn't come out.
COACH STOOPS: No, I didn't.
Q. Was he communicating was at the sidelines?
COACH STOOPS: No, I was not communicating with him at all. I was talking with Neal to get to the next play. I told him let's get on with it. But, no, there was no communication between he and I about coming out or anything like that, no.
Q. When you watch him on film, what are some of the things that you guys are telling him?
COACH STOOPS: Well, to continue to make good decisions is a big thing. Our offense, as a lot of offenses in this day and age, you have options, and the quarterback has to make that decision very quickly. He's got to make the right decisions with the football with what plays to get into. I think that is a big part of it. I think we're improving in that area, and then to hit some open receivers at times we're just a little bit inconsistent in our execution of the pass game.
Q. What about Ryan Timmons? Do you think you can get him back this week?
COACH STOOPS: I hope so. We're going to see. That's what we're shooting for. He's going to be out there working with our trainers today and running around a little bit. The idea is to try to get him out there tomorrow.
Q. You had to play a lot of young guys all season, but with three games left, do you play those guys more times to prepare for next year?
COACH STOOPS: Well, yes, I think we have to. We have to continue to build our program and develop our young guys. Yes, we will do that. Jaleel (Hytchye) got a bunch of snaps last week. It looks like he may have to play a little bit more again this week. So we'll see how he does. Even the guys that are redshirting, we'll work with them and bring them along and get them up to speed, I think, for two reasons: We need to know exactly where they're at and where they're going to be in the spring and just to continue to work with those guys. We're going to prepare to win. I'm talking about depth and how we go about our practice and just continue to work with those guys.
Q. You were able to play Jason Hatcher a little bit more?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah.
Q. Did he look like he lost much?
COACH STOOPS: That was the best he's played in a while because he's playing with that (broken) hand. In the previous weeks we've been saying we need to play him more and bring him along, and we want to. It's hard for him to play in our four down stuff when he's on the ground because we have to use our hand so much at D line, and he's had that big club on him. With the 3 4 stuff where he's up moving around, he's been able to do some of that. So we need to continue to bring him along and work with him. He got good snaps last week, and he is getting better. He is. We're able to trim that cast down a little bit more and have a little more function with his hand.
Q. Re: mentality of the seniors with no hope for a bowl game?
COACH STOOPS: I think you do. I think I really like the mentality of our senior class. I don't think there's not a guy in that group that's going to lay down. I think they'll work extremely hard and help turn the page in this program. I think they take pride in that and wanting to help being a part of turning it around and building for the future.
Q. Is it clear for the quarterback specifically what he does over the next three weeks could impact the depth chart next spring?
COACH STOOPS: No, I mean, we always go about our business. It's no different than any other day. He (Whitlow) knows he's got to perform. We're just looking to get him better. Every guy on our program knows we need to improve at every position, and he's no different. He knows he needs to continue to work.
Q. You seem to be at a crossroads in this particular season ?
COACH STOOPS: I don't feel like we're at a crossroads. I just feel like I understand. It's tough. It's frustrating. I get up on Sunday and I'm frustrated. I admitted it after the game that I was frustrated during the game. There are plays in there you know, I'll go back and I look at everything we're doing and we all do. We're very critical of ourselves and we know we can do things better, that's for sure. You look at some plays and you see a lot of good plays out there. I saw some plays that we didn't have very good match ups on, and we aren't going to win those battles right now all the time. But I saw a good percentage of plays that were good football plays. And that we have to build on, that we have to learn to play a hundred percent of those plays as best we can. Then we have an opportunity to beat a top 10 team. Until then, we have no chance to beat a top 10 team. If we play 80% of our snaps on one side of the ball or the other that's pretty effective, that 20% is going to get you beat.
Q. Was Missouri a particular case of bad match ups for you considering what their strengths are?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I think they're a difficult match up also for a lot of people. I really do. Offensively and defensively, they're a complete team right now. They're very explosive. You feel very good when you get some stops against them. Then you have to put it together, move the ball, score some points and keep it a very manageable game. You turn it over, a shank punt here, block punt there, and you get out of here real quick. You know, there are a lot of good plays in there. I thought our run defense, we played them as good as anybody. I know they hit the long run that skewed the statistics. But if you look at how we fundamentally played them, I was proud of that. We gave up the long run. That is something that's very easily corrected. But the rest of it is fundamentally toughness, responsibility, our hands and our feet. I thought we did some very good things as good as anybody played in the run game.
Q. With special teams, is there one thing you can kind of pinpoint on how things fell apart?
COACH STOOPS: How it fell apart? No, I think we've done a nice job. It's no mystery. We don't have the depth that we need to have. That's not an excuse, this is a fact. We're running out of bodies to play defensive back in that last game. We were just running out of guys. You start taking those guys off special teams and you have other guys in there. Coach (Bradley Dale) Peveto has done a great job with what he's had to work with. I thought those guys have really worked hard. Our players have bought in, worked hard and been effective in special teams. We weren't so effective this past week. They just didn't play good enough. We had assignment mistakes on the blocked punt and that cost us. You can't ever have those. Those win or lose games for you. I'm not saying that one play changed this game, but it certainly can. You know, we just didn't play as well. The kickoff coverage unit was not nearly as good as we've been. We got blocked and they made somebody miss. You make one guy miss, and it's an extra 60, 70 yards and that doesn't help either. Again, one of our DBs was out of that spot where he makes it in the first kickoff for basically three or four extra yards early in the game. We have somebody, a freshman in there later, and it's an extra 70.
Q. What do you say to the fan who, just like you, is frustrated?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I understand. I understand their frustration is what I say. I appreciate your support. I appreciate them being there. I think they've been very fair. I know they're frustrated because they haven't been here nine, ten months. They've been here nine, ten years or 20 years or 30 years and they want to see things changed. I recognize that and I understand that. The only thing I ask them is to continue to stay with this team because, again, I'm not ever one to make excuses. It's just a fact that we have some work to do. I've never said since day one that I was going to come in here and change it overnight. I promised to work extremely hard, and the players will work extremely hard to build this program the right way to get better. That's what we're going to continue to do. I appreciate the people that have stuck with us, and I know it's tough. It takes a lot of people to be successful, and I think there are a lot of people pulling in the same direction, and we need to continue to have that.
Q. Re: officials calls. Did you talk to the SEC and get any answers?
COACH STOOPS: No, I did not. Just staying away from that. Just moving on to Vanderbilt. It's just on to Vandy. It's just tough, you know, but it is what it is. We have a tough time overcoming things. We've got to coach better, we've got to play better. There's no excuse there.
Q. Re: good start running the ball in the second half. Can you talk about getting off to that start? Going forward, how do you change that?
COACH STOOPS: I made that point very clear at halftime. I was tired of going the wrong way. We were going to go forward, and that was a way to go forward and not take sacks and negative yardage plays and moving the wrong direction.
Q. What kind of challenges do you think you'll face against Vandy?
COACH STOOPS: I think they've been just a good football team across the board. Not flashy in any area. Just good, sound, fundamental football team. They play very smart. They're a good team. I think they've been very efficient at quarterback. They have the wideout that's lighting it up, Jordan Matthews is one heck of a player, and defensively they play very hard. Just like last week they made some great plays in certain situations that set them up to win the game. They've just been a good, solid football team.
Q. Do you ever look at Vandy as a team you can draw comparisons to as far as in the SEC?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, I certainly can compare it to back when we were back in Arizona and everything, and you're just doing the very best you can with what you've got. Just trying to play good football. Like I've told you guys, and that's what's frustrating, you talk about that whether it's fans or other people or anything else, we've resembled a good football team at times. We've got to put it together and play a complete game.
I think we're making strides. That's frustrating to everybody. Like I said you can't play 80% and beat a good football team or beat anybody.
Q. (No microphone)?
COACH STOOPS: It was very similar. It was very hard to go through this. But, again, I've said it before, I know what I was getting into. Sure, we come in here to prepare to win every game. You know, I don't care who we're playing. That is where the frustration sets in because you're competitive and you want to win. But it is similar. You've got to get to the point where you play good football across the board. Just good, sound football in all phases. Coach them to play the right way. What I take some (indecipherable) in is when I turn on that film and see good, sound football, and I see that from 80%, and I know that's not good enough to the common fan. But I see us coaching and putting into position and see the players executing and playing hard. I see some good plays, and I know there is progress being made, even though that's difficult to see on the scoreboard and all that. But I know when we're moving forward and we're getting better and when we're not. We have our limitations. We all have to overcome them and do a better job, but I think you just get to the point where you play good football across the board.
Q. Re: the Nick Saban interview on 60 Minutes.
COACH STOOPS: I saw the first part. I think there were two parts. I didn't see the second part. Yeah, I didn't see that.
COACH STOOPS: What I really admire about Coach Saban and it's so true, there are some simple there are many things he does. He does things right now in our profession better than anybody, point blank. But the things that I like about it, there are some simple things in there, do your job. You know, there are things that show up in that game Saturday that you want to pull your hair out because you're very frustrated because those are things we can control. Those are things that get very frustrating. Those are things that are a reflection of coaching that I have to change. If you're responsible for doing something, do it. Then we can move on to other things. Does that make sense? That's a simple thing, but it's so true. There are so many issues that it's hard for me to get into with all of that. But I think when he talks about this business and controlling the things you can control, I really try to take a lot to that and have our guys do the same thing. That's where you talk about getting here and our record and all that; I can't worry about that today. I was frustrated yesterday. It's hard. Sundays are hard. But today it's not because it's on to the next game. It's on to the preparation. It's on to preparing for Vandy, and I want our team to be the same way. That's where for a coach you could hold on to those snaps that are good, the thing that's we're doing good. Some things we can't change. A 6'6" receiver jumping over our heads plucking the ball out of the air, we can't change it. One of those throws we had two guys on him. The other ones are bad match ups. So that's just where it's at. Those are some things that I think he believes in along with many other great qualities that he has. But some simple things that we can do right now.
Q. Re: matchup problems vs. Missouri
COACH STOOPS: Absolutely. I think even Coach (Gary) Pinkel I think said that after the game too. In the scheme of things there were a thousand different ways. Throw it up to the big guy who makes a great play, that's good recruiting. And that's taking nothing away (from Missouri), you know that, because they do a lot of good things and he has for a long time. Coach (Pinkel) has done a great job for a long time. But they are tough to match up with.
Q. How is your secondary? How banged up are you?
COACH STOOPS: We're a little banged up. We'll see how it goes this week.
Q. We asked you the other week, but do you know James Franklin?
COACH STOOPS: I'm not exactly sure. I haven't followed him that well. I knew him a bit. We played each other a little when I was at Florida State and he was at Maryland, and he came here and they've done a great job. He's got everybody buying in. He's got a bunch of players that are playing very fundamentally sound and playing hard, and that's a compliment to coaching.
Q. Re: Vanderbilt finding a way to win with 189 yards total offense
COACH STOOPS: Obviously, you've got a lot of toughness within your team if you can do that. And, obviously, the turnovers helped them a great deal, and that's very good plays by them. And they set up two inside the 5, and one inside the 22.
Q. How are they doing that? Are they doing anything particular to create turnovers?
COACH STOOPS: Yeah, they just play hard and they play good. They really do. They do. If you watch the game, you could see the plays. One was a deflection off a wide receiver. The other ones were good plays.
Q. re: fan comments
COACH STOOPS: I catch my fair share, but I understand (laughter).
Q. When you hear things like, well, they're throwing it in, when you're not playing the way you want to play and you're losing, what do you say to those fans?
COACH STOOPS: I don't know. I can't listen to that. I know our team's not throwing in the towel. Just like I said, the long run afterwards most people say they ran up the middle. No, we just had a person out of the gap and a guy came down too aggressive to make a good play. Two guys are outside, nobody's in the middle, you have an issue. Our backside safety got cut off by the official, and it's gone. That looks bad. I understand that. But that's not it. Do I think we can play harder? Yes. Do I think we can play smarter? Yes. Do I think we can coach better? Yes. I understand all of that. But definitely this team is not cashing it in. We're not perfect. We're playing the best guys we can to help us win. Believe me, we understand the seriousness of having a successful football program, and we'll play anybody we can that can help us win.
Q. Vandy could become bowl eligible Saturday. You guys could stop that.
COACH STOOPS: That means nothing to me. Whatever motivates our kids, fine, but that won't be something I talk about. That means nothing to me. If that's good for us to stop them from going to a bowl game, I mean, we need the win for us, for our fans, for all the things we're talking about. For our people and our kids and our program. That's motivation enough for me.