UK Football

‘Our team just found a way.’ Everything Mark Stoops said after UK’s stunning win.

Everything University of Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops had to say after Kentucky’s game at Missouri on Saturday:

Opening statement:

“Just an amazing victory for our team. Could not be more proud of this group. The way we just stuck together, played as a complete team, offense, defense, special teams. When the offense needed a boost, Lynn wanted the ball in his hands. He told me ‘I’m going in on punt return.’ I said ‘go do your thing.’ He went in on the punt return, got an unbelievable block and scored. The defense kept us in the game the entire game. If I’m not mistaken, they did not have a first down in the second half. Not a first down. Amazing. Absolutely amazing. With that quarterback and that team, just the guts and the determination of our defense, out of this world good. Just so proud of them and the way they played. The offense just hanging in there, plugging away.

“I have a lot of respect for Missouri and Barry (Odom) and what they do. Believe me. You saw that tonight, the pride that they have, how hard they play, how physical they are. They remind me a lot of our team. They’re tough. They’re physical. They’re tough to beat and they were hungry. Our team just found a way and made plays and won the football game. Just very, very proud of our group.”

On if the defense did anything differently in the second half:

“No. No. just kinda did what we did and the guys made plays. A few little things they were doing to us in the first half and tightened down some things. They hit some of the RPOs that I talked about all week on the over routes on the pinch sets. They were getting in behind us. One of them they drained us out and ran by the back. A few things we just got corrected. Did what we did, just did it more effectively and efficiently and guys made plays.”

On how the staff decided on the last play call:

“Well, we felt like they were going to bring the house. We felt like they had to. Just like we did a lot much of the second half. We had to get the ball out of the quarterbacks’ hands. Take the run game away, make them throw. A lot of that four-minute defense we were in. We felt like they were going to do that. We did put C.J. in at the end to get a bigger body on that stick route there. Had to create some space. Had Tavin working in behind him. Terry just hung in there and made a really good throw.”

On being on the winning side:

“Man, I felt like I was going to have a heart attack (laughter). I don’t know. I just felt good there. We felt like we were going to find a way. Once we got the punt return, how good the defense was playing, I felt like we’d have an opportunity and put it together. I thought we did some good things in the first half. The third downs hurt us and obviously the fourth down stops. I went for it early. I just felt like with that team, how explosive they are and the ball at midfield, we’d get a yard and we didn’t do it. That kinda backfired. I put our team in bad position and our defense. Still we had opportunities on both touchdown drives to get off the field and we had penalties on both of those drives or we have an opportunity to hold them there. Certainly on the third and 10 when we got the pass interference. Then the other one was fourth down when we jumped.”

On playing for the SEC East next week:

“Yeah, we are playing for the East next week. It’s a really big deal for our fan base and for our team. These guys have worked hard and you have to find a way if you’re going to be a championship team. You have to find a way to win games like this. I’m just very proud of our team for doing that.”

On what it says about Terry to come back and lead the game-winning TD drive:

“It says a lot about him. I’m glad it worked out that way. I felt I had to get Gunnar in the game. I’d just been feeling that way. I still will do that. Terry responded and maybe it’s good for Terry to get out for a minute and calm down for a second, get a change of pace and let Gunnar get in there, get a couple of series, take a little pressure off Terry. We’ll continue to explore and put our offense in the best position. But it said an awful lot about him. That doesn’t surprise me, the way he responds and the way he bounces back. I expect all of our guys to do that.”

On Bowden’s performance:

“When you’re coaching all these years and they say ‘give me the rock’ like, sometimes it’s lip service and they all want that. Then there’s sometimes there’s just a sheer desire in that guy’s eyes that he’s going to do it. That’s what he had today. He’s just an unbelievable competitor and made tough plays all night. No environment is too big for him. He’s not afraid of anything. He’s not perfect but he’s going to go play. What he did was special.”

On if he was surprised how well the defense did in the second half:

“I was. I was proud of them. I didn’t even realize it in the moment. When things were getting bad, when things were getting tough, we were out there fighting in a good way. The guys were pissed. That’s when I like, I went off on a couple of them. I’m like ‘I don’t care. I don’t care what it’s like. Bow up and go make a play. Go find a way.’ And that’s what we did. I’m really proud of this group and the maturity that they have that you can get in there face, you can challenge them when things look absolutely desperate and they respond.”

On when he challenged them:

“Nah, it was in the second half during the game.”

On where this defense stacks up against some of the best he’s coached:

“I don’t know. Not ready to respond to that until we go the season. Could not be more proud of them tonight, that’s for sure. They’ve been like that all year. Again, we can be better. We had a pass interference on third and 10. They kick a field goal there and we jump offsides on fourth and one. That’s the good news.”

On Benny’s unsportsmanlike call:

“I’m not exactly sure. I’ll get clarification on that from the official later.”

On how much winning a game in that way represents a culture change:

“If you were in that locker room, that’s one hundred percent changed. I can’t speak for before, just since I’ve been here. But that group up there, what we did and the way we did, they’re special. I even felt us evolve tonight and just really come together and find a way to get that victory for each other. And it was really nice that all three sides had to do it. That makes it really gratifying.”

On Josh Allen’s effect on the opposing offense:

“He’s a game changer. It changes things even for them because they’re a free release team. They like to get that back out all the time and they can’t with him. He changes things with protections every game.”

On how bad the offense needed that last drive:

“I think that’s fair to say. It was important for them and their confidence. I really felt like we had some opportunities in the first half and we just missed them again. We missed some shots that we hit in the second half. We missed a couple that we had set up. We dropped a pass on third down. We didn’t convert the fourth and short. We just gotta do a better job and get more opportunities.”

On not kicking a field goal on fourth-and-short down 14-3:

“Not long. I knew it would’ve put it at a one-possession game, but I just felt like we needed to get -- I felt like we needed a touchdown. They were backed up enough. The way the defense was playing, get the ball back. What did we end up doing? That’s the punt return.”