Frustration bubbled over multiple times in the form of fights, penalties and loud disagreements in Kentucky defensive huddles.
Those things frustrated UK Coach Mark Stoops just as much as the 44-17 loss to Louisville on Saturday at Kroger Field.
“It bothers me to the core, and I don’t want us to represent this university that way at times,” Stoops said in reference to the early brawl that got two UK players and two Louisville players flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Stoops wasn’t sure how the fight even started between UK linebacker Jordan Jones and Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, but he was frustrated with how out of hand the emotions got in the game.
The Kentucky coach was especially bothered by how it carried over for Jones, who was hit with two personal fouls early in the second half and was seen storming out of the UK huddle at least once during the game.
“Jordan is an extremely emotional player, and there’s times when it gets the best of him, and I need to do a better job of working with him and holding him accountable and holding his feet to the fire on that,” Stoops said of the junior, who was allowed to come back into the game later.
“He is definitely an emotional guy. He needs to control that better. I’ve got to coach it better.”
Jones’ position coach and defensive coordinator wasn’t happy with the junior after the game.
“Just not acceptable,” Matt House said. “That’s the bottom line. There’s no sugarcoating it. It’s not acceptable.”
It’s not the first time Jones, who declined to talk after the loss, has upset his coaches.
The junior linebacker opened the season at Southern Miss by appearing to go back and forth with the opposing fans behind the UK bench, including gesturing at them and spitting in their general direction.
It’s something he apologized for more than a month later when he finally agreed to do interviews.
“I’m sorry for that,” he said last month. “It’s not who I am. I just let the emotions get the best of me. First game, first road game of the season, I just let the emotions get the best of me for sure.”
For his part, Jackson said the melee “was nothing. It was just football. It happens sometimes.”
Louisville Coach Bobby Petrino said he thought the officials did a good job of managing the emotion and intensity of the rivalry game.
“I was proud of our coaches being able to keep our guys on the sideline,” he said of the scrum on the UK sideline. “Although it’s not fun to see your team over there outmanned, outnumbered.”
A frustrating tweet
There was more than just usual Senior Day emotion on Saturday.
There was drama beforehand from senior offensive lineman Nick Haynes the night before.
In a tweet that went out at 10:51 p.m., the offensive lineman said: “Most of these coaches don’t care about us personally. It’s all about that check. That’s the one big thing I’ve discovered here at UK. They’ll use you up for all your worth and then throw you to the side.”
Haynes took the tweet down shortly thereafter.
The senior from Niceville, Fla., has been having a public battle with diabetes, and the subsequent weight loss has kept the senior on the sidelines — except for a few special teams duties — since the Cats’ off week on Oct. 14.
He participated in the Cat Walk on Saturday morning before the Louisville game as usual and hugged Stoops as part of the pregame ceremony.
After the game, Stoops said he was notified of Haynes’ tweet at the team hotel and went down to discuss it with the senior, which he said they would keep between them. Haynes didn’t meet with the media after the loss.
“He and I talked about it and put it to bed last night,” Stoops said. “He was emotional as well. He was rubbed the wrong way after curfew by one of our younger coaches, and we’ll just leave it at that.”
The entire incident was disappointing altogether because a team discussion earlier that night was “one of the best team meetings I had been a part of,” Stoops said.
“We’ve got a really good group of seniors, and we had a really good, emotional meeting. There were a lot of good vibes in that room.”
The mis-tweet had zero effect on the outcome of the game, UK’s quarterback and running back insisted afterward.
“Nick’s got nothing to do with this,” Benny Snell said after the loss. “Nick is a great guy and I’ve learned too much from him for this negativity to even be on Nick.”
Everyone on the team understands how frustrating the season has been for the senior lineman, quarterback Stephen Johnson said.
“He’s one of the leaders on the team,” Johnson said. “He’s extremely passionate. … Maybe (he should) not say exactly what he said or put it on Twitter, but no one else loves this team more than Nick.”
‘We’ve got a solid class’
A 44-17 drubbing by your in-state rival isn’t exactly the momentum that Kentucky wanted to carry into the postseason and then the offseason, especially with the new early national signing day coming in a month.
But Stoops didn’t seem concerned about the loss having an effect on the Cats’ upcoming class, currently rated No. 22 nationally by Rivals. It’s unclear still how many of them will sign in December and how many will wait until the traditional February date.
“I don’t think that will be an issue at all,” Stoops said of the loss. “We’ve got a solid class. We’ve been recruiting at a very high level. Guys are excited to come here. Most of the people we’re recruiting against that had some ups and downs as well.”