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‘Tough pill to swallow.’ Stoops addresses fourth-down call, ‘one-dimensional’ offense.

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Game day: Kentucky vs. Tennessee

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

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Everything University of Kentucky football coach Mark Stoops had to say during his press conference after the Wildcats’ 17-13 loss to Tennessee at Kroger Field on Saturday night:

Opening statement:

This is an extremely difficult loss for our team. I really appreciate our team’s effort and their attitude and their preparation and their fight. A very good football game. The two teams playing extremely hard. Very hungry for a victory and comes down to a goal-line stand. And our players fought extremely hard. You come up a yard short and it’s very, very difficult, tough pill to swallow, but again I appreciate our team, I love their fight and their desire and their competitiveness to win. We all got to find a way to make up those yards and do a better job. Defensively I felt like they played, we played extremely good the majority of the night. It comes down to some 50/50 balls. We know that going into it. We talked about that being their strength and that hurt us tonight. You take away some of those 50/50 catches, with some very, very talented receivers, and you play a pretty solid game. Offensively, again, they did some really good things, ripped off some big runs and big chunks and just getting into the end zone is obviously, we got to find a way to get the ball in the end zone and that’s the bottom line. Again, you make that yard, you make a couple plays, you get the ball in the end zone and it’s a much different situation, much different locker room. But it didn’t happen and we’ve got to regroup and get back to work and I’m sure this team will.

Q. In short yardage it’s been a problem off and on at times throughout the year. Is there anything you can do the rest of the way to correct those things?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it has been from time to time. We’re looking at all options. We have gone to the perimeter, we have gone right at them, so tried a bit of everything. When you get one dimensional it gets hard. Tennessee, their strength defensively has been up front and they have been covering well. Their secondary is playing well. So it makes it tough and we did miss some short-yardage plays today, certainly the one at the end there.

Q. It looked like you were going to call a timeout right before that last play, why didn’t you?

MARK STOOPS: Because I was listening to our guys in the box and what the look was and whether we liked it or not. And also looking at the play clock. So once we felt like we had a look, I let it go. I prefer to keep the three timeouts in desperation there at the end if we get the stop on third-and-5 you have a chance to try to block the punt or get a return and get the ball back and in desperation mode there at the end. So preferred to keep the timeout, but it was more based on the look we were getting defensively and whether we had a chance to get that ball to the perimeter. I thought Lynn (Bowden) played a really good play, I’ll never argue with Lynn with the taking it right there and he stretched it to the perimeter. We’ll probably look at it and feel like if he would have pitched it would have been a foot race to the pylon and probably had a chance. But I’m not going to argue with that kid and the way he has a chance to pull the ball down and try to drive it in there and get the 1 yard. Credit them for a nice stop.

Q. Looked like he came off limping there, how is he?

MARK STOOPS: I think he’ll be all right. He’s rolled that ankle a little bit two games in a row.

Q. (Wide receiver) Ahmad (Wagner) has been a big target for him just in those desperate situations. Was he unable to play?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, he wasn’t able to play. And the same with Bryce Oliver, Bryce got hurt late in the week, that hurt us as well, two big guys, big targets. But they weren’t able to play.

Q. Was (quarterback) Sawyer (Smith) available and was there any thought of maybe making the switch

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, he was available. So, I mean, we always think about it, we discuss it, but we were riding with Lynn and we got the ball down there with a heck of a drive there at the end and it really wasn’t intentional it’s just who we are being very methodical.

Q. You could have had a field goal (to tie) at the end there (because of the blocked extra point earlier in the game).

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, it’s, it bothers me. We got to continue to look at it and look at options and get better.

Q. In the second half it seemed like (Tennessee quarterback Jarrett) Guarantano looked like he had time to throw, you had trouble getting the pass rush on him. Did they make an adjustment there besides Guarantano?

MARK STOOPS: Well, no, he had some time on mixed downs because of the way we were playing and what we were playing up front, trying to put some doubles on these guys on the receivers. Doesn’t let our guys play on an edge as much, so it’s a little bit scheme there and then later we finally did and got the ball on the ground and didn’t get that bounce, either. When we got the sack strip fumble, but they got it back, I think that led to a punt, but it still killed us on field position there, not getting that fumble.

Q. Aside from Guarantano, how hard was it to go against all those receivers like (Jauan) Jennings and everyone else that they have out there?

MARK STOOPS: Yeah, (Marquez) Callaway and Jennings, they’re really good players, they’re big, strong guys and it seemed like they came down with about every one of the 50/50 balls. You take that out and, again, I mean you can’t, but I felt like the defense was really playing hard and we had a good plan and we got to win some one-on-ones.

Q. (No microphone.)

MARK STOOPS: Didn’t happen tonight. Nope. That stat didn’t come through tonight, right.

Q. Is that one of the odder cases?

MARK STOOPS: It is, but it is what it is. Bottom line is we’re trying to win games, you know that, that’s all I’m interested in is trying to win games. So it didn’t come through and a lot of it had to do with us losing the 50/50 balls, too. Again, we played pretty solid, when you run 71 plays compared to 45 and rush for 300 yards, it’s, you know, you generally you like your chances. Came up a yard short.

Q. Seemed like at the end of the first half you guys kind of had a chance to put some distance and then for whatever reason with the drive — I mean it just didn’t seem like there was a lot of sense of urgency to try to get points in that?

MARK STOOPS: I’m sorry, tell me this again.

Q. At the end of the first half.

MARK STOOPS: Um-hum.

Q. You guys did seem like you were driving, but you were kind of comfortable letting the clock kind of dwindle down.

MARK STOOPS: The clock really had nothing to do with it, we just stalled the drive. So I don’t recall — you know, we stalled. I mean we’re not built right now, I mean, you know, to get in a great two-minute situation and throw the ball all over the yard. So you saw the Missouri game, right? Yeah, so just had to pick our spots and try the best we can. We’re not built, we’re not overly explosive right now, we’re pretty one dimensional, I think everybody knows that and we’re trying the best we can and in certain situations in games it’s a weakness for us, not so much a strength. So you got to make sure you play to your strengths and give yourself an opportunity to win the game. And I realize we’re not perfect and can do a lot of things better and different and you know in hindsight would I change some things, certain calls? Of course. But it was frustrating, our guys did, again, they moved the ball very well, controlled the clock, had some explosive runs, puts a lot of pressure on them. The way we were running the ball and controlling the game, we just got to get the ball in the end zone. We came up a little bit short in just, just outside of the red zone area as well, seems like a lot of drives stalled, went for it quite a few times on fourth, the ball, we stalled on whatever, 30, 33, 34, 40, a lot of drives stalled in there. Got to get the confidence back in the kicking game where we can make some long field goals and have an opportunity to win that way too. So that’s not helping us.

Q. With Chris Rodriguez, did you looking to the running game?

MARK STOOPS: I think all those guys had some good explosive runs. All of them have an opportunity to create some big plays. Chris had obviously 6.8 per carry, he was the guy today, but Kavosiey (Smoke) was averaging 7.2, so each week you can see whoever gets some explosives. But A.J. (Rose) had some explosive runs as well, so the mixture there has been good and we got into some 21 personnel sets there today where we were using a couple of them at a time and had some new wrinkles in there that created some explosive runs for us as well.

Q. Three games left, how do you make sure those 1 or 2 yards at the goal line doesn’t deflate you?

MARK STOOPS: I can’t. It can’t. That’s what I talked to the team about. I appreciate their effort and preparation and there’s going to be frustration and they got to control that, because it’s hard, these guys invest a lot. When you invest what we invest it’s going to hurt. So we got to handle that as best you can and try to keep the frustration to yourself and regroup and then go look at the film and go look at the things and the areas where we all can do things better. And that’s the only way can you handle it.

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