UK Football

Stoops expresses pride in players, coaches and Kentucky’s inventive game plan

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Game day: Kentucky vs. Arkansas

Click below for more of Kentucky.com’s coverage of Saturday’s Kentucky-Arkansas football game at Kroger Field in Lexington.

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Everything University of Kentucky head football coach Mark Stoops said after UK’s 24-20 Southeastern Conference victory over Arkansas at Kroger Field on Saturday night:

Opening statement:

Guys were very unselfish, did what they had to do. Blocking, doing tough things on the perimeter, just doing whatever we had to do to move the football. Defensively, really put them in a tough situation a lot of the night. They ripped off the first run early and one guy cut out and created the long run. And after that the defense really settled in and played good. We put them in a tough situation when I went for it and didn’t get it. And then off the punt return. Both times they responded with holding them to a field goal. I thought that was huge. So just proud of the team. Just across the board. Just overcoming and doing the things necessary to win and so it’s a big step.

Question about Lynn Bowden starting at quarterback. (No microphone.)

MARK STOOPS: We felt like we were going to have to start him for a week or two. But Sawyer (Smith) was getting better, he did practice this week. And so it was getting close but we invested a lot of time in that game plan with Lynn.

Q. It had been a rough couple weeks for you guys. How bad did you need tonight or this team need tonight?

MARK STOOPS: Well, you know, it’s always important. Tell me what game we play that isn’t. So we always look at it that way. But there’s no doubt, when you go on a losing skid that we hadn’t been on for awhile that that’s not a good feeling. And I was really proud of our team, because I think that, they just, something clicked, the switch went off and really gelled the past couple weeks and we worked hard at that. And it felt, we felt good tonight.

Q. How much more patient were the running backs today and I guess, is that part of the switch-flipping like you mentioned?

MARK STOOPS: I thought they obviously did some really good things, hit some good runs. We, there was one or two, I always remember the negative, because that’s what we just do. There was one lead that we could have been more patient and hit it but we were backed up, so you can understand why he was thinking about just getting some yards. But overall they did a really nice job. The backs were very unselfish, they blocked hard on the perimeter, they ran the ball hard. Really proud of our coaches, across the board. Both sides did an exceptional job, just really proud of Eddie (Gran), Coach (Darin) Hinshaw and the offensive coaches really had some good things in there and some unique plays and it really stood out tonight, and it put our guys in a good situation defensively. Brad (White) did an exceptional job. All those guys they did a nice job tonight.

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Kentucky quarterback Lynn Bowden hugged offensive coordinator Eddie Gran after Saturday night’s win at Kroger Field. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Q. Keeping the defense honest but also putting him in a position to succeed, talk about that.

MARK STOOPS: Well that’s part of it. That was part of it as we’re going through the night. Getting off to that start wasn’t good for us, again. And we have got to get that fixed and try to start better. I think my decision to go for it there certainly backfired on us as well. It put us in a tough situation, gave them the three. I was proud of our defense for limiting them to the three. But I felt like I was going to have to steal a possession or two tonight and I felt like that was as good an opportunity as any, whether a fake field goal, fake punt, just whatever, going for it on fourth. It obviously backed up, in hindsight, yeah, dumb decision. But I felt like fourth and a half-yard we were going to have to steal one tonight. I felt like a possession or two, we needed to be aggressive and it didn’t work and that put us in a bad situation. So with calling the plays, it gets tough because we had to stay ahead of the chains all night. But Lynn is dynamic and there were some shots, there were some plays that we had called. But also I thought the coaches did a nice job because we talked to ourselves all week about staying patient. So I thought Eddie did a really nice job and had some really good plays. We stalled one on the missed field goal, we stalled out on second-and-2, and third-and-2, that drive was a nice drive, we came up with nothing, that kind of hurt.

Q. It seems like that offensive game plan worked better tonight. Were there any thoughts on the sideline of changing things on how to keep that in mind to do what I know or stick to the plan?

MARK STOOPS: I thought Eddie was really good in being firm on that. I talked about it. And they were confident in their game plan and we were confident in the game plan and Eddie and them were committed.

Q. What was different on the sidelines with the players getting down early this time?

MARK STOOPS: Well, I think we learned from it, number one. We’re at home, at home helps, our guys are rested a little bit and I think mentally and physically we talked a lot about that but there’s a lot to be said about that. Look around our league and look around college football. When you play teams in the state of your team it makes a difference. Just, these guys get beat up and they get beat down and it’s a tough grind. And the more mature you are, the more you can overcome some of those things. And I just think that we learned from it. And the guys, and do I think it was the difference, as I mentioned. I don’t want to beat a dead horse but I just think the guys really responded well the past two weeks.

Q. Mark, you guys have talked about Clevan (Thomas) coming on and making a push in practice. He had a big play for you tonight.

MARK STOOPS: It was really big. I talked to the team about that because it’s easy to be proud of Lynn for doing what he’s done and sacrificing and stepping up and playing quarterback and doing anything necessary. But that’s, I talked a lot about that because Clevan has been working for years and doesn’t always get the opportunity. And it’s too easy in this day and age for guys just to chuck it in and throw in the towel or pout and all those type of things. And it’s really good to see guys grind their way through and when they get their opportunity make the most of it.

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Kentucky defensive end T.J. Carter (90) tackled Arkansas quarterback Ben Hicks (6) during Saturday night’s UK win. Alex Slitz aslitz@herald-leader.com

Q. (Question regarding the confidence of the defense to get a fourth-down stop)

MARK STOOPS: I thought that was a really big thing for us to get that stop. Because it did go back to me, unfortunately, a few years, because we busted a coverage again late there that gave up the chunk play on their sideline. And we did that once before in a very similar call and I had to get that back out of my mind real quick. But we just can’t give up that kind of chunk, a big play, by giving it to them and just didn’t execute a call and so to then come back and bow up and get the stop was real big.

Q. (Question regarding the game being in honor of Jared Lorenzen)

MARK STOOPS: Well, really proud that we got win for in Jared’s memory and for his family. And proud of our team by the way they played and hopefully they kept him in the back of their mind because that’s how Jared played. He really laid it on the line for his team each and every week and I was proud of our group tonight in his memory.

Q. When you got a young team, how much can a win like this, the way you won the game help them build?

MARK STOOPS: Well, I think it can help a lot because it just, I think the guys grew up the past couple weeks and the way their approach was really good and their unity was really good and I mean I thought guys were very selfless the past couple weeks and just doing things necessary for the benefit of the team and that showed up tonight.

Q. It looked like Sawyer was warming up most of the night on the sidelines, do you anticipate having him back at 100 percent in another week or so?

MARK STOOPS: We hope so. We wanted to keep him warm most of the night. There was some talk of using him possibly on third downs as well and so we were just trying to keep him loose.

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