UK Football

Auburn-UK notes: Stoops deflects second-guessing after another close one

Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops wanted an explanation from the officials on a pass interference non call in the second quarter as Kentucky played Auburn on Thursday October 15, 2015 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff
Kentucky Wildcats head coach Mark Stoops wanted an explanation from the officials on a pass interference non call in the second quarter as Kentucky played Auburn on Thursday October 15, 2015 in Lexington, KY. Photo by Mark Cornelison | Staff Herald-Leader

All six Kentucky football games this season have been decided by eight points or fewer.

And while the Cats were able to come back from a big deficit in the final minutes against Eastern Kentucky, they weren't so fortunate against Auburn, falling 30-27 on Thursday night.

Coach Mark Stoops didn't want to hear second-guessing about play-calling, especially the called run on second down with no timeouts left and little time remaining.

His only regret was that "it didn't work," Stoops said.

Overall, there were plenty of other problems between kickoff and the final drive.

"We had plenty of opportunities to get the game tied or go up and we didn't," he said. "We know we can make those plays. It comes down to a few plays here and there."

The visibly frustrated coach said there were "a lot of things we can do better and we will do better."

But he didn't fault his team's energy and effort.

He encouraged them — and probably the fans — to decide if the glass is half full or half empty.

"I'm proud of this team," Stoops said. "They worked hard and played hard. ... We're excited to go back to work on Monday."

Lewis breaks leg

Nose guard Melvin Lewis, a senior leader on the defensive line, went out late in the second quarter with a left leg injury and wasn't able to return.

After the game, Stoops said the Cats will be without Lewis for a significant amount of time with a fractured fibula

He had three tackles when he departed. Going into the game, the Compton, Calif., native had 17 tackles, including two for a loss.

Sophomore Matt Elam came in to replace Lewis and tied his career high with six tackles on Thursday night. He finished with 10 tackles all of last season.

"Matt will step up and play well" in Lewis' absence, Stoops said.

Bad field position

Kentucky found itself in bad field position several times thanks to short kickoffs without Austin MacGinnis, who has an injured groin. He was able to do extra points and kick field goals of 28 and 31 yards, but kickoff duties were left to backup Miles Butler.

Kentucky punter Landon Foster had four punts for an average of 35.8 yards. Auburn's average field position was its own 33-yard line. UK's average starting spot was its own 24-yard line.

Stoops said UK was often "behind the eight ball" because of that bad field position.

Recruiting updates

UK commitment Davonte Robinson told the Herald-Leader on Thursday that he will not take a previously planned official visit to Notre Dame this weekend.

Robinson — a senior at Henry Clay — had planned to be in South Bend for the Irish's home game against Southern Cal. He was also supposed to visit Notre Dame in July and ended up cancelling that trip. Robinson said Thursday that he is not sure if he'll reschedule the visit to South Bend.

The 6-foot-2 cornerback was at Commonwealth Stadium for Thursday's game, which was also attended by local commitments Kash Daniel, Drake Jackson and Landon Young.

Lafayette offensive lineman Jedrick Wills — a five-star player and UK's top target in the class of 2017 — was back at Commonwealth for his fifth game this season. He was joined by class of 2017 teammate Walker Wood, who committed to the Wildcats before the game.

Notes

There were 13 NFL scouts from 10 teams credentialed for the game on Thursday night. Those included representatives from the Bengals, Cardinals, Patriots, Bills, Vikings, Jets, Panthers, Chargers, Dolphins and Titans. A few bowl reps also were at the game, including from the Belk Bowl, the Citrus Bowl and the NFLPA Bowl Game.

As if the weekend of Oct. 31 won't be zany enough in Lexington, "SEC Nation" announced Wednesday that it will join the fray with its live show before the Kentucky game against Tennessee on Halloween. It is the same day as the Breeders' Cup at Keeneland. The show will air live from the stadium's purple lot using the renovated Commonwealth Stadium as the backdrop.

Jason Hatcher tied his career high with seven tackles and had his first sack of the season. ... Marcus McWilson tied his career best with 10 tackles.

Auburn has now won nine straight over Kentucky in Lexington. The Cats haven't topped the Tigers at home since 1966.

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