UK Football

Stoops still sees room for improvement after win over Florida. ‘We can play better than we did. That’s our goal.’

MARK STOOPS

“Again, as I mentioned after the game and watching the film, truly a group effort. Great team victory. We really played strong in all three phases. In particular I thought we were very physical up front. Both the offensive line and the defensive line. Obviously Benny had a huge game. Got some very, very tough yards. That’s a team effort. Their receivers did a phenomenal job blocking on the perimeter. The O-line was physical. The tight ends really did their job as well. Created some big play opportunities in the pass game also.

“Defensively it started with our d-line playing a very good game. Being very strong at the point of attack. Then I thought the big difference was our corners. I felt going into the game that would be a matchup that we’d have to win. We really covered extremely well on the perimeter. Did some very good things, but there’s so much more that this team can do. We can play better than we did. That’s our goal. 24 hours we enjoyed that victory. It was a victory that was a long time coming for our fans and for our players. It was a lot of fun and I appreciate their effort. Now it’s time to put that behind us after we watch this film today and move on to the next opponent in Murray. Playing at home and looking to go out and play a good strong game. Play a clean football game and play the way we’re capable of.”

On Quinton Bohanna and how his replacements played: “Quinton had an ankle. He’s had a couple of these ankles, to both of them the past two, three weeks. They’ve just been minor but when you’re that big and he goes into a game, it’s been bothering him a little bit. He wasn’t at full strength. He couldn’t play anymore. Tymere and Marquan did some good things. Marquan played well. He took a few reps off of Tymere and did a solid job while he was in there.”

On if he expects Bohanna back this week: “I hope so. It’s been day-to-day. He’s on the depth chart just because we’ll see how he practices this week. It’s been the type of ankle injury where he’s been able to practice after a day or two rest. I’ll see how it goes throughout this week.”

On what it says about the depth on the defensive line to be productive without Paschal or Bohanna: “Yeah, it’s been really good. With Josh already being down and Quinton going down, two of our best defensive linemen, but the rest of the guys really played good. We played eight guys inside this past week and they all did their job and did a good job. We’re more disruptive than we’ve been in the past.”

On if it shows progress that UK can win without playing a perfect game: “It does. As I’ve mentioned many times, you’ve sat here and listened to me talk for years, you have to have a physicality about you. Of course you have to create big plays and do good things at skill positions, but you have to be physical to win consistently in this league. I thought that was a great example of it. Again, it gets boring, but we just talked about — I don’t want to use process, but for us, just constantly putting ourselves in a position to do good things and eventually you’re going to breakthrough and win those games. It was a good example of that this week.”

On building physicality: “I think it’s just the constant process since I’ve gotten here. Coach Edmond and Mark Hill, our strength guys, do a wonderful job. It’s just about having that mentality and it takes time. It takes recruitment and development. I’ve said that from Day 1. You recruit big, athletic looking guys and you develop them into SEC offense and defensive linemen. You’re starting to see that. It just comes from a mentality and the development process to handle it in the weight room and conditioning and to play with a strong mentality.”

On depending on the maturity of his team after halftime to come out and get things done: “At halftime, again, it was a great example of the guys just going in there and talking amongst their group. The staff making some adjustments and just coming out and worrying about ourselves. That’s what we concentrated on of just us doing our job and doing the little things. And again, taking it one play at a time. The offense taking it and scoring there to start the second half was a big drive. It shows the attitude of our football team.”

On if there’s been an interaction with a fan or former coach, colleague since the game that’s stood out: “Well, a lot of people. It meant a lot to myself and our team to see that. I think people recognize the work that these players put in and the staff has put in to put them in a position to win a game like that. It’s all gratifying and greatly appreciated. I did get back to all like 250 people. But then it’s time to put it behind you and worry about the present and what we’re going to do today to put ourselves in a position to win this week and improve our football team. It was a fun 24 hours but it’s time to move on.”

On if he said he did get back to all 250 people: “I did. I think I got back to all of them.”

On if it was all text messages: “Yeah. And again you appreciate the people you’ve known for years and them recognizing them what it took.”

On if he heard from someone he wasn’t expecting: “Well, there were. There’s nobody I want to mention but it was good. I think a lot of people recognize the work that went into that to put yourself in the position and play the way we did. What I’m most proud of this game was just the way we did it. Just being methodical, being tough, being hard nose and handling adversity and taking care of the game one play at a time. When opportunities came we made big plays.”

On giving the game ball to John Schlarman and how Josh Paschal responded when he got his ball: “Yeah, Josh will get his today. We have a team meeting this afternoon. You know it was, it was a special moment because as I was talking to the team, there were a lot of people to single out, or a lot of different groups whether it was the defensive line, the offensive line, Benny, Terry, a lot of guys played a good football game. But the tone was set by the offensive line and you always include the tight ends in that. What John’s going through and the way he’s handling this, the way he’s handling adversity in his life, is something we all respect. For his players to perform the way they did and the way they care about him says a lot. So I thought it was fitting to recognize John and I think all of our players really felt good about doing that. So John’s a special guy, very talented, but also is a great example of how you handle the adversity in your life.”

On Kash Daniel taking up for Stoops and the picture of the linebacker picking up his coach: “Whether it’s good or bad, I never want them to every worry about handling anything for me. I’ve been through thick and thin. That’s what I get paid for, but the moment itself, the authenticity of that feeling of all of us together is something that you can’t measure what that means to you. That’s what you do it for, for them. That’s why we work hard for our whole football family. That’s special and authentic. I appreciate Kash and our whole team, but I never ever flinch so they don’t have to worry about me.”

On Bunchy Stallings’ third-down pancake block and if it’s something they discuss as a team: “Bunchy did a heck of a job. … He just played — the inside in particular with Drake and him — they really played good inside. Same with Logan. He was really physical. They set the tone right up front. They got movement and that always starts everything with the movement inside. But yeah, there are some plays we’ll get pointed out from the group, but it starts with a mentality and a physicality about you. I felt like they were that way from the first snap to the last.”

On breaking in a new quarterback when he doesn’t have to worry about getting hit: “Big deal. You heard me talk last week about the opportunity to hit big plays should we get a bit more protection and third-and-16 conversion for a touchdown is a great example of that. That was a clean pocket; he had time to sit in there and be patient and step up and make a great throw and that starts with the protection. That’s a big deal.”

On how coaches didn’t notice David Bouvier before the season (laughter): “That’s a good question. Because Charles was a lot the same way. Chuck was a tough guy to replace in that he’s just reliable and tough and you’ve got to have a craft about that inside position and so David, we did recognize him before, but the opportunity to play. And as I’ve mentioned also before, the ability to spread people out and play with 3-4 wide receivers comes from being better across the board with the football and protecting and throwing and creating things. So with that, you’ll get more opportunity, same with getting C.J. the ball and Lynn and David and all of the above.”

On the turnovers and Terry Wilson: “We will continue to work on that and you never want him to play with any fear. You want him confident and making throws and things of that nature, but securing the football. Fumbles is something we cannot tolerate, won’t tolerate. Have to continue to harp on that and get better.”

On not being rattled by the turnovers and a similarity to Stephen Johnson: “Very much so. There was a absolutely no worry in his eyes at halftime. He knew he’d made a mistake. He was frustrated, but he’s got a very calm demeanor about him just like Stephen, and a lot of confidence in himself that he was going to play well in the second half.”

On Max Duffy as a weapon: “Yeah, he’s a guy that is very talented and he’s been very, very helpful for us. He’s a confident player. He’s talented, can punt the ball a lot of different ways. And he has a good feel for it for not playing much football.”

On Florida’s touchdown pass and if there was a communications breakdown on that: “No. We were in zero coverage and so we got rubbed and didn’t — we definitely could play it better, there’s different ways we can play that in space and traffic and pass those off — we didn’t play it very good. That’s for sure. No, there’s no communication (issue). We constantly talk about urgency and being urgent and getting lined up and communicating how you’re going to play things and we harped on that all week in a hostile environment, how you’re going to handle the communication offensively and defensively and really we were very good in that kind of environment because it got very loud and I thought we handled it very well. There’s obviously a lot of plays where we can do better.”

On avoiding a letdown after big win: “Yeah, I think it’s about talking to them about what our standards are and every team is different. Every year is different. I really love this group and the way they handle things and I expect them to handle it that way. Going back to worrying about us and creating our own standards and living up to them. We’ll have a good discussion about that.”

On importance of getting reps for younger guys: “It is important to develop our younger players, and you see them when they go in there they make the mistakes of inexperienced players. So, there’s no replacing game reps. It’s always good for building our program to play some guys that are backups or younger players.”

On if veteran o-linemen have carried young left tackles or if Naasir Watkins and E.J. Price have been that good: “A little bit of both. It helps that the offense line has such great experience other than left tackle. That helps a great deal. Again, I think helps with the standards that we have at offensive line and how we play and having a physicality about you. The communication has been very good in that group. That comes from experience. So, when you’re breaking in a young guy it does help, and the other two guys have stepped in and done a really nice job. It’s nice to have two guys there to unload a little bit of pressure on them and to alternate series and get some rest. It speaks to the depth of our team, and, again, Coach Schlarman of doing such a good job of teaching those guys and putting them in a position to be successful.”

On penalties: “Yeah, our team is playing aggressive. You can handle some. Some of the pre-snap ones are not acceptable, and we really worked that hard last week. So, we’ve got to do a better job, but some penalties are going to happen. Aggressive penalties are going to happen. I don’t think the facemask was malicious. He got on him so quick that happened. A couple touch fouls in the secondary, that’s going to happen. We can’t create space or they’re going to beat us all day with catching the ball. Those are some talented wideouts, so you have to be tight coverage and be aggressive and if you get a flag, you get a flag. But we’ve got to tighten down and play as clean as we can there, but with competing and contesting every thrown. But the pre-snap ones are the ones we’ve got to get cleaned up.”

On how Chris Westry responded to targeting ejection in the opener: “Yeah, he did a better job. He did a good job. Yeah, he had another one this week. That comes from the position on the football on the facemask that he had. That was avoidable. Just the urgency and feel for body position and structure of the defense where he should be position, it should have been a cleaner tackle.”

On if he knew ball was live on the last play: “Yeah. I thought it was live, because I didn’t hear a whistle. Now, the PA guy came on. So that confused some of the players. I don’t know if they hear or not. It’s hard to understand, but that’s going to go on my football IQ tape this week. Because he was an inch from going in the first time. Just run across and then come back and hand him the ball. So, I got to get on my man Davonte on that one. He’s gonna stop. I mean, he couldn’t go that extra six inches to put the ball across? But, no, Davonte is a great kid, getting some quality reps in that game. Yeah, we’ve got to finish that play and hand it to the official and then go from there, because you have to play through the whistle.”

On if they’ve had the run-pass balance on offense he wants: “Yeah, without a doubt. I think we’ve had great balance. We were more effective in the pass game, but we’re going to continue to work on that, continue to get better. That’s what will help us to continue to have success: Having great balance. When you’re as physical as we can (be) and with the talent Benny has and, again, A.J. (Rose) did a good job – we’ve got to get him more reps and get him and Si (King) brings a little something different to the table as well. We’ve got to get A.J. and Sihiem involved in the run game, because A.J. is really playing at a high level as well. But when you can run the ball like that, it creates opportunities and we’ve got to continue to work on that.”

On hitting a big play in the passing game: “It was really important, because you know we’ve been talking about that and stressing that and working on that. That created – there’s never one play. You don’t know what one play changes a game, but that was certainly a big play and something we need to do. So to hit a 54-yarder on 3rd-and-16 over the top is a big part of it. Then we had opportunity on an early down, first or second down, with a clean pocket, with a protection that we had in giving a little vision to the quarterback. That was the one we threw down the field and had an incomplete. But, we need to hit that as well. We were real close on that one as well. So, I thought protection, changing it up, finding ways to get a clean pocket and receivers ran better, just running, just sprinting, just playing fast was helpful. I thought those guys really played unselfish. They played really tough on the perimeter, very physical. We’ll continue to work on the pass game and getting opportunities.”

On defense not giving up chunk plays often: “I think it’s just been the structure and the guys being in position, second-level support, playing with vision. They got some big plays late in that game. We could do a better job there. I don’t know what exactly I was going to look that up, but the actual running back runs in predictable or mixed downs we were very stout. Late, they got some when we were playing coverages that you had to play. Not so much backed up prevent – so don’t everybody get on my case about that – but you have to be smart, you have to be smart. You can’t give up a chunk play. So, there’s things we can do better when you have a lead and not giving up big chunks in the run game. If you just look at the running back yards in mixed downs I thought we were very stout, and it comes from just everybody doing their job and everybody playing hard.”

On the receivers being tough on the perimeter because of the need for them to block against spread offenses: They’ve gotten much better. And again, it starts with a unselfish mentality of really playing in a team concept and playing hard on the perimeter. On the bubble screens where Lynn caught one and made a big play out of it. It was set up to have a 5-6 yard gain and he made one guy miss and got whatever it was, 15 or so. So that started with a great block on the perimeter with his man and then making another one miss. But those plays are there when you are running the ball good, there’s going to be some of that opportunity. And if you watch football, that’s everywhere. The quick bubble and being able to get some cheap yards. That way is something that needs to be second nature to us in our offense. But also the running back plays with the way we are creating big plays in that run game. That’s down the field blocking and that comes with a strong mentality and a work ethic and being unselfish. So you appreciate that from those guys.”

On Murray State: Murray is doing some good things. They spread the ball out and they spread you some with their splits and create some different looks. They are doing a good job. They got off to a tough start but they are a good football team. Well coached. We have to play well. As always, no matter if we are playing Florida or Murray, it’s about us and they way we prepare and the way we play. That’s what we are looking for this week.”

On opposing players casting doubt on Benny Snell for the second week:

“Well, Benny is going to play that way no matter what. Again, if it gives him a bit extra motivation, good. But I don’t think he really needs that because he’s going to play with that mentality no matter who we’re playing. And that’s a great quality about him. So whatever it is, it is. I want our team to worry about us. Not anybody we’re playing. It’s about us and our standards and the way we play and how we function. So that’s what we concentrate on.”

On how important the win against Florida is for recruiting out of the state: I think it definitely helps us in recruiting in Florida. But I think it helps us in recruiting in general because it was big opportunity for us against a ranked opponent on the road. And it shows where this program is headed and what we are doing. Most importantly, kind of the mentality of this football team as you get to know it like I know it. It’s a special group and you want to be a part of that type of environment.”

On the fans greeting the team at the airport: I wanted to mention that. I appreciated that. Our players really did. That meant a lot to our players, to meet us at, what was it, 3:00 or 3:30, whatever it was. To have people there and I certainly made it a point to walk out and say hello to them. And the team did as well. That meant a lot to us. Again, with that streak, I’ve always addressed you guys head on saying it is important, without a doubt, to our fan base and to our team. But that wasn’t our full concentration. Our concentration was about us, our preparation, the way we play and continuing to build this team and continuing to play. You do that and you’re going to put yourself in a position. And that’s what I’m most concerned about, us. And the way that we prepared and the way that we build our program. Put ourselves in a position to beat Florida and beat anybody we play. So that’s what I meant by that. I’ve always said that it’s important. I said it at the beginning of the year to one of y’all. Is it important to beat Florida? Yeah. But that’s not just our sole concentration. Our sole concentration is on us and the way we play and the way we prepare. And if you do that. Good things are going to happen.”

On what would be the next big thing to accomplish here at UK, with the streak behind the team: Just like I said with that. It is important, but it’s about how we play and how we build. And so if we are a better football team, a stronger football team, if we play good we’ll beat them and then it’s on to the next game. And this week it’s Murray. So it’s about us and the way we prepare. We respect all of our opponents. We don’t fear any. We just worry about the way we play. You gotta have respect for the game, but it comes from preparation and respect for your opponents.”

On Kash Daniel growing into his role: I think it does, it comes from him having a great example of Courtney (Love) playing in front of him for years. And the leadership qualities of Courtney. But with Kash, first it comes from a want to. A desire. A passion to play good for his team. It’s not so much his worry about how Kash plays. It’s a matter of how much our team plays when Kash is in there. If we have that mentality with all of our players, then good things are going to happen. Because it’s a mentality, very unselfish. And it’s important for him, for us to be successful. For the team to be successful. And that’s what you’re looking for.”

On growth at QB position: “Terry certainly has a great mentality as far as being a team player. I really thank all of our quarterbacks for that because that’s tough in that position because so much attention is given to it and first you have to be great around him for the quarterback to be successful. You have to be balanced and I can say that about all of our quarterbacks. Just like Gunnar, preparing and being ready to step in like he did a week ago and continuing to worry about the team’s success. Danny is like that, has a contagious winning attitude and same with Walker. He’s down there on scout team giving us a great look, developing himself and getting better. I appreciate that from all of our quarterbacks. They all have a winning passion about them and a desire to play well for the team. They all have a calmness, a confidence about them.”

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