UK Football

UK football: Poor practice angers Stoops

UK head coach Mark Stoops yells instruction from the sideline in the first half. The University of Kentucky football team hosted  the University of Louisville to play for the Governor's Cup, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Photo by Jonathan Palmer
UK head coach Mark Stoops yells instruction from the sideline in the first half. The University of Kentucky football team hosted the University of Louisville to play for the Governor's Cup, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013 at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. Photo by Jonathan Palmer Herald-Leader

If Mark Stoops had been drawn as a cartoon character after Wednesday's practice, the Kentucky coach would've been sketched with a face as red as a fire truck with steam shooting from both ears.

Stoops was not happy.

It was probably the most angry the first-year head coach has been since he arrived on campus to coach a UK team still reeling from a 2-10 season last year.

"Very unacceptable practice today," Stoops said afterward. "Just very frustrating. Preparation wasn't good enough, effort wasn't good enough, attitude wasn't good enough. Not good. Very frustrated.

"Some guys looking for a rock to hide under. It's going to be a very difficult and tough game, and I don't know if we're ready for it."

The coach knows that Kentucky is midway through the most difficult stretch of games that any team in the country is going to face this season, with losses to No. 7 Louisville and No. 17 Florida behind the Cats and a game at No. 13 South Carolina and then a home game with top-ranked Alabama ahead of them.

But being in the middle of that grueling gauntlet is no excuse for the practice the team had on Wednesday.

"This is a brutal game, brutal schedule," Stoops said. "We're right in the middle of it. Can't run from it. If we go give it everything we got, prepare every day to win and prepare to play, then I can live with the results. But this was not part of our journey today. This was not a good day. You're not getting any better today."

After practice, the players echoed their coach, calling it a wasted day.

"We have a great team that we're about to play Saturday," freshman wide receiver Ryan Timmons said. "Can't have any wasted practice like we did today."

Senior Raymond Sanders agreed. This fiery Stoops has only come out once or twice since he took over the team, but he had good reason on Wednesday, Sanders said.

"He sees it as a regression when we're supposed to be progressing and getting better," Sanders said. "He didn't want us taking a step backward. He definitely wasn't pleased with us wasting the day we had today."

Often Thursday practices are delegated as lighter, less physical ones as the team gets closer to game time. Stoops said he hadn't yet made a plan for UK's Thursday practice.

He just knows this one was unacceptable.

"We'll coach 'em hard and see if we can get more out of them tomorrow and see if we can get this turned around, because whatever it was, 21-point spread (versus South Carolina), ain't enough," he said. "We ain't even close to that right now."

This Kentucky team, the one that's lost three of its first four to start the season, has to learn what it takes to perform at a high level, the coach said.

"They don't know what it takes," Stoops said. "They don't. South Carolina's been doing things right for about, what, 14 years now? ... Those are some grown men. And they play the game the way it's supposed to be played, 'cause they've been doing things right for 14 years. ...

"I'll tell you like it is. There's no games with me. There's no, 'This day I'm gonna get upset.' It's not like that. I'm frustrated and the bottom line is, like I told you, we're gonna get it out of them. When? I don't know. But it's not OK. It's not all right."

QB quandary continues

In hopes of narrowing to one quarterback, UK gave an unnamed quarterback a majority of the repetitions in practice on Tuesday.

On his weekly Southeastern Conference teleconference, Stoops said that one guy didn't perform well when given his shot.

"To be honest with you, I'm a little bit disappointed," Stoops said, hours before his post-practice tirade. "It's very frustrating. We've got to make a decision, but like I said before, I'm not going to panic and just name one just because we're all frustrated and we're not getting consistent play out of the quarterbacks."

Stoops stressed that Kentucky needs to find the right quarterback. He didn't seem especially pleased with the process.

"It's been odd," Stoops said. "Last week, one of our quarterbacks looked lights-out (in practice), threw the ball as good as he has since we've been here, and goes in the game and doesn't play as well as he should. Now, we planned on going with one guy yesterday and he goes out and just has a very average to below-average practice."

That same player — neither Stoops nor offensive coordinator Neal Brown would name Jalen Whitlow or Maxwell Smith as that player — got a high number of repetitions again in Wednesday's practice and showed improvement.

"The one that got a majority of the reps did perform much better today," Brown said, noting that Tuesdays are hard on the quarterbacks because they have so much thrown at them on that day.

Brown's plan is to play that unnamed quarterback on Saturday, but have the other prepared if things go poorly for the starter.

Both coaches said they want to get to a one-quarterback system, not just this week, but in the future as well.

"Here, we just haven't had the separation that we needed to and neither one of them have taken the job, gone out and earned it," Brown said. "It's frustrating. I think we've got to play better at that position. If we play better at that position, the whole unit plays better."

Kentucky at No. 13 South Carolina

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

TV: FS South

Records: Kentucky 1-3 (0-1 SEC); South Carolina 3-1 (1-1 SEC)