UK Football

Perhaps some UK players want more passes, but Stoops wants balance — and zero drama

Mark Stoops saw a goose egg on competitive plays

On Monday, Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops did not give his team a high grade for competitive plays in 45-7 loss at Mississippi State.
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On Monday, Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops did not give his team a high grade for competitive plays in 45-7 loss at Mississippi State.

A 45-7 loss brings out its fair share of emotional responses.

Sometimes those emotions spill onto social media.

That’s pretty much what happened this weekend with a couple of Kentucky football players.

And that’s pretty much going to stop, Coach Mark Stoops promised at his weekly news conference to discuss the Cats’ loss at Mississippi State the weekend before and their upcoming game against Tennessee.

“We want it to stay in house,” Stoops said of any disagreeable social media posts. “We’ll get it corrected. Very easy fix. We had a discussion yesterday. We’ll talk about it as a team today and it’ll be gone.”

When asked how that discussion will go, Stoops replied: “About like you’d think.”

On a Snapchat post, wide receiver Blake Bone called for UK to throw the ball more often and nearby quarterback Stephen Johnson seemed to approve.

The Cats’ coach went into great detail Monday explaining the need for Kentucky (5-2, 2-2 Southeastern Conference) to keep running the ball. It was a central part of UK’s offense last season, and the Cats were the league’s third-best running team behind Boom Williams and Benny Snell.

In its past 18 games, UK is 9-1 when it outrushes its opponent and 3-5 when it doesn’t, Stoops said.

“We all know we have to throw the ball, but you have to be able to run the ball, too,” Stoops said. “We have to have balance. So Benny running the ball and pounding the ball, we need to be more efficient. We’re trying to find that. We know that we need to. We’re not built to drop back and throw the ball all over the yard.”

So far this season, the Cats have run the ball 57.5 percent of the time (258 runs to 191 pass attempts). Kentucky has an equal number of rushing touchdowns (nine) as passing.

“You have to have balance,” Stoops said of the offense and quoted what he thinks is another key stat: “Eighty percent of SEC football games are won when you outrun your opponent by 1 yard. Does anybody not understand the importance of that?”

But is the Kentucky coach confident that UK can run the ball as effectively this season with its present personnel?

“We need to find that balance and have some sort of physicality about us,” he said. “We haven’t been as efficient as we need to be. Do we feel certain we can find that? Yeah. We have to be more efficient than we’ve been. There’s no excuses. We just have to get better in a lot of areas.”

Are his players on board with this balanced plan given Bone’s social media message?

“We’ll all be on board after today’s meeting,” Stoops said.

The ground game isn’t likely to be abandoned against Tennessee (3-4, 0-4 SEC) on Saturday. The Volunteers, coming off their own 45-7 loss at Alabama, are No. 123 nationally at stopping the run.

Only seven other schools in the country have been able to stop the run less than Tennessee, which is allowing 247 yards rushing per game and has ceded 16 touchdowns on the ground.

Opponents are running the ball nearly 50 times a game against Tennessee, which means the Vols have defended only 153 passes all season (fourth-fewest nationally).

‘Could’ve been a lot worse’

It didn’t look good when trainers helped Kentucky left tackle Landon Young off the field at Mississippi State, but the sophomore remained on the depth chart for Tennessee.

Stoops called Young “day-to-day.

“Landon is better today,” the coach continued. “Better than he was yesterday so that’s a good sign. All the tests that come back have been very good. He’s feeling better. He definitely took a very awkward hit. It could’ve been a lot worse. We’re grateful that it wasn’t a more significant injury.”

In preseason camp, UK lost senior starting left tackle Cole Mosier for the season to a knee injury. Senior Kyle Meadows, who usually plays at right tackle, remained listed an “OR” at left tackle with Young on the newly released UK depth chart for Tennessee.

News and notes

There were a few tweaks on Kentucky’s depth chart for the Tennessee game, including an “OR” between Nick Haynes and Drake Jackson at center. Jackson, a redshirt freshman, earned his first start at Mississippi State last week.

▪ Freshman Quinton Bohanna has moved up to the No. 2 spot at nose guard behind Naquez Pringle, who has had an undisclosed injury that has kept him from practicing, Stoops said.

Pringle came in and did some good things, Stoops said, and Bohanna has been active at that spot.

“We’ve just got to get more production,” from the nose tackle position, Stoops continued. “We can’t get single-blocked at the nose guard position all day and have winning defensive football. Can’t do it.”

Junior Jordan Jones was moved back to the top spot at weakside linebacker. Last week there was an “OR” between him and Eli Brown as Jones came back from injury.

“Little rusty, but he’s still active,” Stoops said of Jones, who had seven tackles Saturday. “He’s still productive, which is good. It’s good to have his production back and his energy. He did some good things. Hopefully he’ll clean up some things as well.”

▪ The Nov. 4 game between Kentucky and Ole Miss at Kroger Field will be played at 4 p.m. and shown on the SEC Network, the league office announced Monday. It will be the Cats’ fourth 4 p.m. start this season, including games against Southern Miss, Eastern Michigan and last week at Mississippi State.

Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran on his team’s struggles in 45-7 loss at Mississippi State on Saturday.

Kentucky outside linebacker Josh Allen and defensive coordinator Matt House talk about Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald after 45-7 loss to Bulldogs.

Kentucky football players Stephen Johnson, Josh Allen, Courtney Love and Benny Snell talk about 45-7 loss at Mississippi State and what comes next.

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops and Eddie Gran talk about taking a shot on a third-and-1 pass late in the first half that missed. Mississippi State then drove for a TD on the way to a 45-7 win.

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops after his team’s 45-7 loss at Mississippi State.

Jennifer Smith: 859-231-3241, @jenheraldleader

Next game

Tennessee at Kentucky

7:30 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network)